Last week I watched the Star Wars movies for the first time. Yes, I am late to the party. But nonetheless, like most people I enjoyed them. What got my attention was John Williams’ beautiful music for the films. And so I immediately got myself a copy of the official soundtrack. It is at that point that I started to notice things which really got me excited about John Williams. I was already a big fan of his work for NBC News and I felt it was his best work. But now I am open to consider that his work for Star Wars may be his best work yet. When I noticed what I am about to show you, I was just plain…excited.
With his soundtrack for Star Wars, Williams brought back an old tradition that had fallen out of favor with movie directors and composers in the late seventies: the leitmotif. A leitmotif is a recurring musical phrase that is associated with a particular character. So whenever that character is doing something important plotwise, the theme in one rendition or another is played. The leitmotif is common practice today in both movies and TV dramas.
The leitmotif in Star Wars that got me so excited is one you’ll recognize: Darth Vader’s theme. It’s officially called Imperial March and is a constant throughout the various movies, usually predicating evil and gloom. It has become an iconic theme. A few chords of this theme are regularly played in episodes of The Simpsons when the evil billionaire Mr. Burns enters a scene. Here’s what it sounds like:
You know it, right?
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A couple of great themes have been added to the website. Recently This Week started using an updated version of its theme music. The new version has some electric guitar riffs that really give George Stephanopolous’s sunday morning show a great ESPN-like vibe.
Also new on the website is the theme music for ABC’s The Lookout, a new kind of news magazine produced by the Nightline team. Like the show, the theme music is different from that of other news magazines. Both these themes are composed by DreamArtists Studios.
And finally, you can now enjoy the theme song used for the GMA-spinoff Good Afternoon America. The show aired for two months last summer. The theme song is written and performed by country music band Little Big Town. It has not been commercially released so this is the only place you can listen to the full song.
America This Morning, the early morning ABC newscast that precedes the local news in most markets, just started using Good Morning America’s current theme music. DreamArtists Studios is the composer of that theme. Along with the music, the show also uses a modified version of GMA’s graphics. Previously ATM used a theme by composer Gary Anderson who for many years was a vice-president of Score Productions. That company composed the original ABC News theme in 1978 and its many variations that were used throughout the years but does not exist anymore. Its last remaining ABC News theme on the air is the current World News Now theme.
The latest changes to ATM took effect last week. In May of this year the program started using similar lower thirds to those used by GMA, including the time and temperature bug. They, however, did not have the Times Square Studios sign swerve. That swerve is now part of the current ATM open, even though the program is not broadcast from the Times Square Studios.
The look and feel of ABC’s early morning newscast has evolved in an interesting way the past few years. Back in the days that the program was called World News This Morning, the branding was in line with that of World News Tonight. It used a variation of the classic ABC News theme and had similar graphics as the evening broadcast. That changed when the program was renamed to America This Morning. The program started being anchored by two co-anchors, like GMA. Now they use the same studio set-up as GMA Weekend, the same theme music and even have some of the same segments (ATM has its own Play of the Day, a popular GMA segment at the end of the 7.00 hour). ATM is now a full-fledged extension to the GMA brand, a sort of pre-dawn GMA.
Read on for some screencaps of the new ATM graphics. Also, check out our piece from last year on how the GMA theme was composed.
Just as I was working on this update for the website, it was announced that the Chris Matthews Show would be leaving the air later this year. I was just about to post the two themes that the show has used in its eleven year history. The syndicated show uses a cue from John Williams’ masterpiece The Mission, the theme for NBC News, as its open since 2009. It was actually the music that was intended for NBC Nightly News. When the show debuted in 2002 it used music by Joel Beckerman’s company, Man Made Music. Both themes are great to listen to!
Finally, we have obtained the full version of the theme music used by one of the many short-lived NBC news magazines in the 1980′s: 1986. The show, hosted by Roger Mudd and Connie Chung, lasted for only twenty episodes. The theme certainly doesn’t sound like a traditional news theme.