John Williams: Duel of the Fates


The musical theme Duel of the Fates was first composed by John Williams for the first of the prequel trilogy – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. First recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices, this legendary recording can be heard all throughout the trilogy, often occurring during battle scenes. This symphonic piece was originally intended to be played in full during the end credits of the film, however the iconic theme was rearranged by Williams and used throughout many other Star Wars films. 


The Music

The lyrics that the powerful choir sings are based on fragments from an archaic Welsh poem called Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees). Williams loosely translated the lyrics into Sanskrit, with the syllables being rearranged so as to not cloud the meaning of the words during the piece. Duel of the Fates opens with an epic chorus statement which Williams has described as religious and giving a temple-like feel to the epic lightsaber duels. After the vocal statement, the orchestra enters with the ostinato theme that appears time and time again across the franchise. 

The woodwind takes the first lead of the melody, followed by the horns, which shows the impending nature of the music. The drive within those orchestral voices who play the ostinato theme keep this piece driving and the intensity high. The chorus returns with various interjections which creates a huge swell of sound across the ensembles. Williams’ powerful orchestrations highlight so many different orchestral voices across themes, which pushes the energy through the music even more. As this epic piece comes to its end, a chorus break stops the driving orchestra in their tracks. As they join back in the mix the music slowly builds up until the final epic chords. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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