Inspiration: the Star Wars soundtrack

This post is approximately 900 words and focuses on one of my favorite topics: Music. Ooh, and Star Wars.

Star Wars reel-to-reel 1You won’t be surprised that Star Wars has been hugely influential to this 40-something writer. It’s second only to family in that regard. I’ll probably write about that on some future date. A large part of my adoration/zeal/mania is the soundtrack. I’ll get to this in a moment, so please bear with me while I set the stage, sounding like an old man as I do so.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have streaming services that allowed us to watch any movie when we wanted. We didn’t have cable. VCRs were around $1,000 and video tapes were $100.

I grew up twenty miles from the nearest movie theater, which doesn’t sound like much these days, but when you’re on the edge of the North Dakota prairie, you don’t make a lot of trips “to town”. Back then, you saw a movie once, and you might never see it again. If you were lucky, one of your three TV channels might air it, though your rooftop antenna was at the mercy of the elements. Yes, yes, first-world problems.

Hopefully, you understand now. I’d seen this amazing, life-changing movie, and the only way to experience it again was in my mind, recreating scenes with action figures and other toys. That is, until we got the soundtrack. On reel-to-reel, no less. Here’s a picture, if you’ve never seen one before.

Akai GX-630DB reel to reel tape player

I’m not sure why my father bought the soundtrack. It might have been for me, a gift to acknowledge my wonder and delight. However, since it was on reel-to-reel, which I wasn’t allowed to touch, I suspect he also bought it as a classical music aficionado. Either way, we had the Star Wars soundtrack in our house, and I had a way to stimulate my memories.

Here’s a curious side note about this version of the soundtrack. The tracks did not follow the movie’s series of events. So, Ben’s death occurs before the Cantina Band. The Princess is rescued before we meet the Sandpeople. I suspect this had more to do with the available space on each reel (there were two), though I’ve never researched it. The full listing can be found here.

It likely influenced how I reconstructed the movie in my mind, but I don’t recall. I think it’s a testament to my affection that I bought the out-of-order version on CD after I already owned a modern, remastered album that contained the songs in the proper sequence. It’s beside me on the couch as I type this, and I think it’s one of five versions I own.

Whenever the soundtrack played, I could visualize each scene. It transported me back to the movie, allowing me to experience it again in all its glory. Everything from the attack on Leia’s blockade runner to the throne room ceremony. As I think back today, it probably changed how I thought about the movie: Not one singular story, but sixteen vignettes, and any scene without a corresponding song title made less of an impression.

Another side note: I’m suddenly curious whether the “Main Title” track contains the Fox Fanfare. That’s as much a part of my musical memories as any other song in the movies. To my disappointment, the fanfare is no longer used, now that Disney owns the franchise.

As a writing influence, it’s still with me in many ways. First, movie soundtracks are my go-to choices for background music when I write. I generally prefer songs without lyrics, which are more distracting than the visualizations of the movie that I see as I type. Additionally, the emotional connection to the scenes is a useful comparison: If my hero is victorious, do I feel as triumphant as Luke destroying the Death Star? If a character discovers a traitor, does my scene convey the same feelings as the betrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart? Finally, there’s the connection to my childhood, to happy memories, to the development of my creative mind. To times alone when I had nothing but my imagination to guide me. This is the mindset I often desire as I’m writing, and the transportation of music is a true magic indeed.

You might have noticed I haven’t yet mentioned John Williams, the composer. This isn’t an oversight. I’m planning a future post for him specifically, since his music has inspired me so many times since I saw Star Wars: Jaws, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, Superman, E.T., Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Harry Potter – I could go on and on and on. He’s added such emotion and depth to the movies I love, that I could easily write 2,000 words about him in an hour. Unfortunately, as I write this he is hospitalized, and I pray he recovers.

So, we’ve taken a trip back in time with this post, and we’ve diverted down many side paths. If there’s any advice to be taken from these words, I think it is this: We’re all inspired by our writing, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. Lord knows it’s difficult, if not impossible at times. But there are other things that can inspire us, and for me, music has done wonders.

–Mike

Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, October 2018

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