Incredible Star Wars rarity—an original post-production music manuscript from composer John Williams, containing the iconic ‘Star Wars (Main Title)’ theme
Spectacular original handwritten music manuscript by Oscar-winning composer John Williams, used during the post-production stage of George Lucas’ 1977 science fiction classic Star Wars and containing a partial musical score from the film’s famous opening ‘crawl’ sequence. The manuscript, which includes Williams’ arrangement for the film’s iconic ‘Star Wars (Main Title)’ theme, is annotated in pencil on an off-white 12 x 15.5 sheet of Pacific music paper, which Williams has signed and inscribed in black ink to Len Engel, his music supervisor, “To Len — In appreciation for a treasured friendship — John.”
The sheet, which is headed and signed in the upper margin, “Star Wars,” “Reel 1 Part 2, ‘Star Wars,’” and “J. Williams,” is identified as “Reel 18,” with an arrow pointing down to the word “Crawl,” indicating the score as belonging to the film’s signature opening ‘crawl’ sequence, a device memorably employed by Lucas in every numbered film of the Star Wars series. The score is numbered in the upper margin as “19” and “18,” and contains what appears to be a total of 13 different arrangements, with the main theme starting in the fourth measure of the first system and continuing below. The sheet contains over 30 bars of original handwritten Star Wars music, with Williams adding instruments to the left border, “6 tpts,” “4 troms,” and “Stg,” and emphasizing “Maestoso” in the upper right, a suitable directive for the film’s soaring introduction. The toned tape to the vertical edges strongly suggests that this sheet was used as a rehearsal example and taped accordion-style within its completed score. In fine condition.
George Lucas hired John Williams as his Star Wars composer in early 1977, a decision backed by Steven Spielberg and Williams’ recent Academy Award for Jaws. He was allotted six weeks to craft his score, which, at nearly 88 minutes in length, resulted in his annotated multi-stave manuscripts being converted into some 800 pages of sheet music. The recording sessions were held at the Anvil Film and Recording Group in Denham, England, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra over eight days in March 1977. Once scoring was completed, the best takes were edited and mixed at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood. Overseeing this process with Williams and Lucas was music supervisor, Len Engel, to whom Williams presented this manuscript, and the Head of the Music Department, Lionel Newman.
This remarkable musical manuscript of the opening ‘Main Title’ theme from Star Wars brought to vivid life the film’s iconic opening ‘crawl’ sequence. Inspired by greats like Richard Wagner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Williams employed his love of heroism and swashbuckling adventures to create a defining cinematic moment: the phrase ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....’ segueing into an explosion of sight and sound never before experienced by the moviegoing public. When Star Wars was released in the summer of 1977, the movie became a massive worldwide sensation and a pop-culture phenomenon. The film's score earned Williams numerous accolades, including his third Oscar, and the resulting soundtrack went platinum and became the best-selling symphonic album of all time. In 2005, celebrating the centenary of American film production, Williams’ score topped AFI’s list of ‘The 25 Greatest American Film Scores of All Time.’
Accompanied by a letter of provenance from the stepgrandson of the original recipient: “Len Engel was Head of Music Supervising, working under the Head of the Music Department, Lionel Newman, for over 33 years until he died in 1988. Len built his home in the Bel Air hills in the 1960s and turned it into a state-of-the-art music studio complete with recording, re-recording, and mixing abilities. He was an ‘analog’ man, saying there is no purer sound, and he refused to go digital, to which John Williams (along with the likes of Jerry Goldsmith) heartily agreed. Len became a working partner with Williams on all of his movies, taking them from the composer sheets to the finished product ready for distribution. Len worked alongside Ken Wannberg, the music editor for John Williams, who followed him from 20th Century Fox to Dreamworks. After studio recording, every bit of Star Wars was mixed and perfected at Len's ‘home,’ then given over to Wannberg for final movie editing. This sheet music was gifted in appreciation of their working together on the Star Wars films.”
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