This is a just a little nerd moment, but it’s a fun one. I recently heard the “The Rite of Spring” performed ‘live’. I haven’t listened to this all the way through in a looong time, so I was surprised to directly hear three clear passages that John Williams evidently copied and pasted into his score for the original Star Wars: A New Hope (1979). [Stravinsky wrote “The Rite of Spring” in 1913.]
And let me clear the air – I have no negative feelings about Williams lifting and using this material for the movie. Much has been said about this practice, and specifically even about Williams “quoting” other composers (particularly Holst’s “Planets” suite).
I was more surprised in this case that I didn’t realize what an important source Stravinsky’s piece was for the wildly popular Star Wars score.
The First Head-turner…
This passage starts at 4:05 in (at least on this YouTube recording of the London Symphony Orchestra).
The corresponding Star Wars scene is when Han Solo is running through the Death Star, pursued by Stormtroopers, trying to make his way back to the Millenium Falcon.
The Second “Wait a minute…”
This passage occurs at 16:36 in this recording of Stravinsky’s piece.
The corresponding Star Wars scene is near the beginning of the movie, when R2D2 has landed on Tatooine, split from C3PO, and is making his way toward a rocky, mountainous area.
The Third, “Wait, Again? Really?”
This passage is less of a direct ‘cut’n’paste’ job, but it’s pretty close. It happens near the end of the piece at 26:40.
The corresponding Star Wars scene is when the Jawa’s fortress-on-wheels is cruising through the desert. The theme is interwoven behind several of the connecting scenes (driving in the desert, inside the sand crawler, and getting unloaded to be sold).
Ok, ok, I get it. These moments are pretty short, and not exact matches. Maybe I’m reading a bit too much in here.
But they were close enough to snap my head towards my wife in the middle of the performance to point and excitedly whisper, “That’s Star Wars!”.