The John Williams Generational Gap: What Might Happen If Williams Returns for 'Star Wars: Episode VII'

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We have to hold respect for the elders of Hollywood, even if they've been secretly dominating the voting at the Oscars for a number of years. And there's never any worse dilemma than debating over hiring an older legend for a movie franchise that needs a new shot in the arm. Such is the case of iconic composer John Williams who seems quite adamant in wanting to return to score "Star Wars: Episode VII" and face the problem of younger scrutiny, plus the issue of working with an all-new director.

That isn't easy for an established composer who's already over 80 years old. So goes the same issue other legendary film composers endured when reaching their career sunsets. Movie composing legends such as Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, and Henry Mancini were sometimes unfairly overlooked for new, higher profile features once they were deemed composers from an older, classic era.

Then you have the example of Ennio Morricone who's still composing for films overseas at the age of 84. It's also a pointed remark on the American film industry and how it expects a younger composing mind to tap into the audio zeitgeist of a younger demographic. If that's a true assessment of U.S. movies, it doesn't always make sense in the "Star Wars" universe when nostalgia is a strong part of its core base.

No matter your assessment of John Williams' recent film scores, he still has vision in his musical ideas. The largest issue he faces is in the close collaboration process, something he thrives off of working with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Williams working with J.J. Abrams in "Episode VII" is the equivalent of the late Bernard Herrmann working with someone else other than Alfred Hitchcock, and that someone not being born when "Rear Window" was made.

It's unlikely statesmanlike Williams would instigate any generational clashes with Abrams. However, with Abrams already working regularly with composer Michael Giacchino, how would this age-leaping collaboration work? The compromise may come in the existing "Star Wars" themes that can easily be woven into the fabric of new plot ideas.

Audiences have already seen how Williams managed to take existing "Star Wars" themes and build upon the harmonic structure and feel for the prequels. When "Duel of the Fates" was first heard in "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace", it sounded like a brilliant piece that was left over from the original trilogy. Most importantly, it was rousing, while also bringing a level of intense darkness and aura of action exceeding anything else out there.

Let's also not underestimate Williams possibly using new musical ideas to update his sound. He already knocked over his traditionalist streak when he used a new fingerboard instrument called a Continuum in 2008 for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." It proved his astuteness to newer sounds and how it can keep him relevant in film scoring for at least another decade.

Of course, scoring "Lincoln" might have been an unfortunate ironic path to take after utilizing Civil War era music and the standard majestic use of strings and brass. Having that score so up front and present might have made the younger set think Williams is too old school.

But anyone who finds romanticism in the "Star Wars" saga would know that acoustic strings and brass are essential orchestral elements nobody can say will ever be archaic or replaceable with synthetic sounds.

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