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Star Wars Music Minute

Dec 13, 2021

This episode is about music and sound heard in minutes 36-40 of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Obi-Wan finally hears Princess Leia's message, Luke isn't ready to go to Alderaan, and Vader finds Admiral Motti's lack of faith disturbing. Today, Elizabeth Lain joins me in a discussion about oboes, Death Star sound design, sonic screen wipes, and more!


  • 00:00 - Hello there!
  • 01:53 - How sonically lean A New Hope is.
  • 06:18 - Start of chronological breakdown.
  • 07:45 - Leia's theme on oboe. Oboe vs. English horn vs. flute.
  • 15:45 - Grassroots Leia theme?
  • 17:41 - Luke and Obi-Wan reaction shots while the music fades out.
  • 20:23 - Is Obi-Wan trying to "Jedi mind trick" Luke?
  • 23:04 - Hero's call to action and refusal of the call (a la Joseph Campbell).
  • 24:49 - This cue of music is so...! Where else have we heard it? For one, it sounds a lot like Jyn's theme in Rogue One. But both of those could also be interpreted as plays on Dies Irae.
  • 27:43 - Hologram as a metaphor.
  • 28:53 - "How am I every going to explain this?" "Learn about the Force, Luke" Cue Force theme.
  • 32:18 - "I can take you as far as Anchorhead."
  • 33:11 - Death Star motif accompanying the exterior shot of space/Star Destroyer. But before that, we hear what Elizabeth calls a "sonic screen wipe."
  • 35:27 - The silent Death Star conference room.
  • 37:33 - Jk, it's totally not silent. This is Ben Burtt's time to shine.
  • 39:49 - How Ben Burtt designed the Death Star sounds.
  • 44:35 - How Ben Burtt designed the ambient electronic, telemetry sounds.
  • 46:43 - "Until this battle station is fully operational, we are vulnerable."
  • 48:09 - What if there were music in this part? What makes the Death Star feel scary.
  • 49:27 - Power dynamics between Vader and Tarkin.
  • 56:04 - What keeps Xanthe up at night with regard to Vader.
  • 1:01:40 - Back on Tatooine as Luke, Ben, and the droids discover the remains of an attack.
  • 1:01:58 - Solo trumpet leads us into the next cue, and it builds gradually. The worldbuilding that occurs in this scene.
  • 1:08:44 - Tempo picks up as Luke rushes to his landspeeder.
  • 1:13:11 - A pretty bad pun, sorry.
  • 1:13:33 - Interesting sound design thing Elizabeth noticed with the speeder on screen.
  • 1:15:38 - SWMM Questionnaire
  • 1:19:06 - Rundown of musical themes and soundtrack stuff from these minutes.
  • 1:19:49 - Where to find Elizabeth, upcoming stuff, goodbyes.

Musical Themes:

  • 4. Leia
  • 3. Force
  • 5. Death Star
  • Note: For consistency, I use the theme names and numbers established in Frank Lehman's Complete Catalogue of the Musical Themes of Star Wars. You can download it free at his website:

Where we are in the soundtrack album:

  • "Tales Of A Jedi Knight/Learn About The Force" by John Williams
  • "Burning Homestead"
  • "The Return Home"



1. In exactly 3 words, what does Star Wars sound like?

  • John Fucking Williams.

2. What's something related to Star Wars music or sound that you want to learn more about?

  • A super detailed deep dive on C-3PO's voice; like, the very, very specifics of specifics, including which effects units they put on it, what the raw recordings sound like, what microphones they use, etc.

3. What's a score or soundtrack you're fond of besides anything Star Wars?

  • Chernobyl (miniseries) composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir

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