Shadows of the Empire

On May 24, 2016 I listened to the Star Wars Shadows of the Empire soundtrack while at work.

shadows of the empire soundtrack artwork

A few thoughts:

  • Feels like the original trilogy, and I do feel like I’m following a story as I follow the song titles
  • Reminds me Indiana Jones music as well, especially the beginning of “Xizor’s theme”
  • Made me think of the video game, Dash Rendar and the different worlds of that game, etc.
  • The chorus singing was a surprise, but I loved it
  • “Imperial March” during “Night Skies” was great, and the choral around it, then the Force theme as well towards the end of the same track. Great stuff
  • Joel McNeely also does several of the Tinkerbell soundtracks. Small world!
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Composing the Dawn

Earlier this month Waypoint released an interview with the composer of the original score for Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, Nathan Lanier.

If I enjoy the content, I’m always happy to get more context on how it came together – and this interview does just that.

So let’s take a closer look at some of the words I particularly enjoyed that came out of Mr. Lanier’s face, shall we?

The most important element of my preparation is getting inspired – reading the script, discussions about the characters, the drama of the story, and seeing the early visual sketches and edits

This has to be one of the best part of any project, before the real work starts. You take it all in, get pumped, and attempt to plan out how you’re going to be a part of making something that’s going to entertain people.

Nathan also mentioned how he’s “… spent many hours playing the Halo games over the years”, so as a fellow fan it’s great to see someone who’s spent time in the universe get a chance to put their own stamp on it.

… but what really got me excited was the emotional honesty and gritty reality of what is basically a coming of age drama. The core of a great sci-fi story has to be rooted in the profundity of the human condition and the universal struggles therein

One of the strengths of Forward Unto Dawn is how real it feels – you get a sense of it being lived in, that the environments in the live-action web series have been around for a while. I think that is part of the “emotional honesty and gritty reality” of the series Lanier spoke of.

It was interesting that while he was thrilled about the project being Halo, it was the human condition that “really got him excited.”

In most sci-fi franchises the futuristic setting is fantastic – but the relatable struggles the characters go through are what really keep us invested, and that seems to be the case for the composer as well.

After reading the script, one of the first challenges was to come up with a theme for the main character, UNSC Cadet Lasky … The first thing that came to mind was Tchaikovsky’s “Fantasy Overture” from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. There is something so foreboding and haunting about the opening woodwind chord progression in this piece that really spoke to me

This was one of several specific musical influences Nathan mentioned, another being Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”.

I love hearing the influence and inspiration of where music comes from, and the classical roots made it all the more powerful for me (click on the song titles to listen).

Much like the rich universe that supported the storytelling of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, melodies and movements emerge from the past to enhance the score and bring the viewer that much more into the fictional world.

Pretty wild to think about two 19th century composers having an influence on how I experience Halo.

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