TO­TAL RE­CALL

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Richard Ed­wards, Editor

The Ed on why even the sounds of Star Wars are bril­liant.

The Star Wars movies are usu­ally cel­e­brated for their ground­break­ing vi­su­als – and rightly so. But Star Wars isn’t just about what you see. In fact, even watch­ing Star Wars with your eyes closed is an in­cred­i­bly evoca­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that in­stantly trans­ports you to a cer­tain galaxy far, far away. A big part of that is John Williams’s score, that im­mor­tal suc­ces­sion of some of the most mem­o­rable movie mu­sic ever recorded. But even more im­por­tant, I reckon, are the sound ef­fects. Has there ever been an­other film se­ries where noises have been given such a big role?

The hum of a lightsaber. The scream of a TIE fighter. Darth Vader’s me­chan­i­cal breath­ing. The stomp of an AT-AT… Just hear­ing them in iso­la­tion is enough to awaken that warm, fuzzy Star Wars part of your brain – even if they’ve sim­ply been com­man­deered to tell some­one a text mes­sage has ar­rived. And amaz­ingly, nearly 40 years on, they still feel orig­i­nal and fresh. They’ve bur­rowed their way into our col­lec­tive au­ral path­ways in a way that per­haps only the TARDIS and trans­porters from the orig­i­nal Star Trek can match. The props for that go to leg­endary sound de­signer Ben Burtt, pos­si­bly the only mem­ber of his pro­fes­sion that the av­er­age movie fan could take a shot at nam­ing. Rather than fol­low­ing the ’60s and ’70s con­ven­tion of play­ing around with bleepy, ar­ti­fi­cial sounds, he went for some­thing more or­ganic and real-worldy. That’s why those TIE fighter screeches are a blend of a car on a wet road and an ele­phant. Blaster shots are sim­ply the noise of a ham­mer hit­ting a guy-wire hold­ing up a ra­dio tower. The snow speed­ers’ drone is traf­fic on a mo­tor­way. While, for the peo­ple who live in George Lu­cas’s uni­verse, they’re prob­a­bly just as mun­dane as the whirr of a lawn­mower, for us they’re part of the Star Wars magic. Would the orig­i­nal have been such a hit if Darth Vader’s lightsaber hadn’t sounded so cool when he turned it on?

Rich is cur­rently mak­ing lightsaber noises at his desk.

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