Obi-Wan Kenobi

‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ composer Natalie Holt was instructed to use ‘Star Wars’ classic themes sparingly

Screen Rant has published a new interview with Obi-Wan Kenobi main composer Natalie Holt, where she explains why director Deborah Chow asked her to use Star Wars classic themes sparingly:

Screen Rant: You have these iconic characters who have been scored by John Williams before, but then you’re scoring them when they’re at a different place in their lives. How do you reconcile the music that came before with this new story that’s being told? 

Natalie Holt: When I started up on this project, we weren’t sure that we were going to be allowed to use the John Williams themes. Deborah [Chow] was saying to me, “I think we need to score the show as if we’re not going to be able to use them.” She was like, “I don’t want to find out that we can’t, so let’s make it work without. Let’s do our own thing.” And she was saying, “Actually, if we were going to use the Vader theme, I don’t think we should use it until episode six, because he’s still half Anakin, half Vader at this point. When his mask cracks open at the end, and he says ‘You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did,’ you realize now he’s Vader, now he’s earned his ‘Imperial March’.” Now when you hear it, it’s so powerful. Deborah didn’t want that theme playing every time you see Darth Vader, she wanted to explore his journey to get there.

And I did use the rhythm from “The Imperial March” underneath the sound design. I had a hunting horn, and slowed-down double bass, the low end of the orchestra playing this really gnarly, angry theme with these war sticks and stuff. Deborah wanted to have really visceral sense, when he’s walking down the street kind of killing people, she’s like “We’ve never really seen this side of Vader. He’s in his prime. He’s super angry, he’s just full of rage.” And actually, the Vader that we kind of see in A New Hope and onwards is much more measured, and we never see him lose control, or randomly kill people in such an evil way. He’s more thoughtful and centered. So, yeah. That was a very deliberate decision.”

Here are some other interesting excerpts from the interview:

Screen Rant: When you found out you were scoring Obi-Wan Kenobi, did you do homework? How did you prepare for this?

Natalie Holt: During the lockdown, I’ve got a – she’s just turned eight last weekend, but she was a seven-year-old during the lockdown. And we’d have a cinema night – or a couple of nights, if I’m honest – and we’d watch through Star Wars in order. We watched the prequels and then A New Hope, and… And so I’d just, even before I knew that I was going to do that [Obi-Wan Kenobi], I’d literally just watched the whole thing through with my daughter.

What was interesting was the prequels. I was slightly the wrong age for them when they came out, and then I think with the Jar Jar Binks character, I was kind of like, “Oh, I’m not sure. I think I’ll stick with the original trilogy. I don’t think I want to see those.” I never even watched them. I watched the J.J. Abrams stuff, and Rogue One, and the Han Solo movie, but I hadn’t seen them. So, it was really interesting to watch them with my daughter and appreciate them. Anakin Skywalker is her favorite character, because you see him from a little boy, pod racing. Annie just thought it was the coolest thing. It was great to also just be a fan of those as well.

And when you see George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars, it was a family movie. It was a movie for kids. It makes more sense to have the Jar Jar Binks character, actually. And Annie just thought it was hilarious. […]

Screen Rant: I personally really love the music you wrote for Alderaan. It just feels so royal, obviously, but optimistic and gleeful. What’s your process for creating these new tones for the Star Wars universe?

Natalie Holt: Every planet has its grounding in Earthly things. And we went about maybe having some South American flavors to Alderaan, because of the casting, and Jimmy Smits, so I did an experiment with some more rhythmic elements – which stuck in for the party scene, really quiet in the background. Deborah was kind of like, “It’s like a really socialist country, green, modern, tech…” She felt like it was a very sleek but very ethical place. ?odern synths felt like they would work. And obviously they’re a royal family, so we wanted to have some kind of gravitas but not be too pompous. Like, kind of everyman. She was like “It’s sort of like the Obamas or something.”

So, that was kind of the M.O. for Alderaan in the end. And it was a balance between orchestral and synths. And when the ship lands, and we first show the planet – it’s like another character in the series. Like the planets are their own characters as well. Like Mapuzo, and Daiyu. Daiyu felt like it had lots of flavors from Hong Kong and the night markets, and bells, and Indonesian instruments. I was using some gamelan in there, and I used this 5/4 rhythm that just never lands, it’s just constantly propelling forward. It’s like Obi’s being dragged through this – he doesn’t really want to go. […]”

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