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    New Star Wars trailers

    Hey, check out this great blog post Frank Lehman has published in Musicology Now, entitled "Trailers, Tonality, and the Force of Nostalgia"


    Frank gives an astute nutshell characterization of "trailer-ese"-- the musical idiolect employed in movie trailers.  And his discussion of the forthcoming Star Wars Episode VII will cause giddiness in the hearts of Star Wars fans.

    Bonus points:  see if you can spot the sentence that sounds like it should have been read aloud by Don LaFontaine (the iconic and ubiquitous voice of movie trailers lo these many decades)! 

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    • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Thanks, Frank. This is great! I was also struck by the ways music coordinated with image to heighten nostalgia, (i.e., the first time in this trailer we see the Millennium Falcon, a ship we haven't seen since the original trilogy, syncs with the love theme associated with its pilot, a theme (as you say) we also haven't heard since the original trilogy).

      Ending this last trailer with the theme that begins each film is like an invitation. As if to say, "it's not the end, but a return, a new beginning."

      Sorry to digress from your main point. I get very excited when thinking about this movie.

    • Brilliant post! Funny for me especially was that when hearing the last of the trailers the first time, I had zero clue that it was "in a key." Then the second time, just listening (not watching), it was absolutely clear that that was the case. I guess it's funny to me how "invisible" music can be on a first watch of just about anything.

    • Tahirih, thanks for sharing my post. It was written for a general musicological audience, so I refrained from delving too deeply into the analytical questions the music poses. But, given this forum, I'd be interested to learn how music theorists interpret the coordination of tonal and audiovisual design in these trailers. I'm particularly curious if my reading of the conclusion of the teaser #1 -- a half-cadential dominant morphing into a rhetorical tonic -- accords with or strongly differs from anyone else's. 

      Enoch -- I fully agree. It's heartening to hear that 34-year old love theme theme now in 2015, because Williams at one point forgot he wrote it in the first place. This is apparent from the way he discusses the role of romance music in Star Wars in interviews from the early 2000s. (Can you imagine Wagner forgetting such a thing?!) The love theme's revival suggests to me that the marketing team, even more than the composer himself, is aware of and interested in capitalizing on a very specific sort of musical nostalgia. 

      David -- I know, right? It seems unlikely that filmmakers would want the consumers of their texts--even music theorists--to be so occupied by attending to musical details that immersion is lost. But then again, modern trailers also encourage all sorts of post-initial viewing engagement--things like frame-by-frame analysis, plot speculation, reaction videos, and so on. So perhaps intensive music analysis was part of Disney's plan all along too. Nevertheless, I think it is important to consider the ramifications that "invis/audibility" has on multimedia musical analysis in general. It all makes you wonder what other sorts of things things we aren't actively noticing to be "in a key" either...





    • Frank, I totally agree with you about the "half-cadential dominant morphing into a rhetorical tonic."  When I first read your take on this (before having watched the trailer), my reaction was skepticism; I could easily imagine a big, bold half-cadence being used to end the trailer, to create a cliffhanger and signal "more to come."  What a perfect way to end the first of many teasers for this much-anticipated film!  However, after watching this trailer, it was perfectly obvious to me that this V chord is forced to function as tonic at the trailer's end-- tonic by brute force.  The dynamic swell on scale degree 2, leading up to the big sforzando punch on scale degree 5 is clearly referencing a 5-->1 rhetoric.  If you stop the (above-linked) video at minute 1:17, the V chord acts as a question mark or an ellipsis-- a true half-cadence.  But when you let the video play out through the swell and the sforzando, the V chord becomes an exclamation point-- and we're forced to hear it as an authentic cadence.  I propose a new cadence type, specific to the editing whims of trailer-ese:  the FAC (Forced Authentic Cadence).  :D