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Orchestration Devices in the Star Wars scores: Solo Instruments and Sections

As some of you know, Chandler Hatch and I are teaching a class at Tufts now called “Star Wars: How Long Ago? How Far Away?” The idea is to use Star Wars as a gateway to learning how to research in the humanities. (You can read the more highfalutin’ description on the ExCollege website, course EXP-0054-VS, Spring 2017.)

To support the music conversations we’ll be having later in the semester, the first several weeks we’ve been doing music fundamentals — naturally using Star Wars music as the examples.

Yesterday we talked about the orchestra. John Williams’s scores work great for that purpose because he orchestrates as if he were trying to create a 2-hour long “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.”

In fact, I was able to draw most of the examples below from just A New Hope (unless noted). The only instruments for I couldn’t find clean examples were the cellos and the double basses, though I’m sure passages exist for the former. Also, some of the timings below may be slightly off since I was drawing them from my own recordings, not the YouTube videos.

I’d love to add to this list and maintain it as a resource for composers and orchestrators. If you find other passages, comment below or tweet @josephsowa using #starwarsorchestration.

I’d also be interesting in compiling a doubling index, too, along the lines of Rimsky-Korsakov’sGardner Read’s, or Peter Alexander’s thesaurus approaches. If enough people want it, I’ll get that one started, too.

Flutes

Princess Leia’s theme, 0’00. Solo flute

The Hologram. 1’27. Flute section

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 4’02. Solo piccolo

Oboes

Princess Leia’s theme, 0’08. Solo oboe

The Hologram – Binary Sunset, 0’31. Solo oboe

Princess Leia’s Theme, 1’10. Solo oboe then English Horn

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 1’40. Solo English horn

Clarinets

The Hologram – Binary Sunset, 1’36. Solo, just after the flute section solo

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 2’04. Section

Bassoons

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 2’00. High register solo

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 4’10. Section

French Horn

The Hologram – Binary Sunset, 2’21. Solo

Princess Leia’s theme, 0’14. Solo

Trumpets

Burning Homstead, 0’00. Solo

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 2’45. Muted section

Trombones

Burning Homestead, 0’54. Trombone section

Tuba

The Dune Sea of Tatooine – Jawa Sandcrawler, 3’15. Solo

Percussion

The Battle of Yavin, 7’37. Timpani

Harp

Across the Stars, 4’37

Violins

Princess Leia’s Theme, 2’22. Section

Princess Leia’s Theme, 3’57. Solo

Violas

Han Solo and the Princess, 2’33. Section (The Empire Strikes Back)

Cellos

Burning Homestead, 1’28. Doubled by French horn

Double Basses

The Hologram – Binary Sunset, 0’00. Doubled with low cellos