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Return of the Jedi Orchestrations

So, would you like to know about the other two original Trilogy films?

Star Wars

Star Wars (1977) was almost entirely orchestrated by Herbert Spencer, who was Williams’ primary orchestrator for many years. I’m not going to list each and every cue, though you can find that here.

The only exceptions are:

R3 Pt 2 New (the revised film version of what became known as “Binary Sunset”)—this is unsigned and I can’t immediately identify whose hand it is.

R4 P2 Obi-Wan Kenobi (“Land of the Sand People”), Arthur Morton

R5 P1 A Hive of Villainy, Al Woodbury (dated 2/11/77)

R6 P5, The Destruction of Alderaan, Al Woodbury (dated 2/11/77)

R7 P1, Is It a Bird?, Arthur Morton

R7 P2, The Mouse Robot, Arthur Morton

R8 Pt 2 New, More Rescue, Al Woodbury (dated 2/10/77)

R9 P2, The Swashbucklers (“The Rescue of the Princess”), Arthur Morton

R11 P2, Approaching the Target (“The Last Battle, Part II”), Arthur Morton

Return of the Jedi

Jedi is again orchestrated principally by Herb Spencer, with help from Alexander Courage, English composer Gordon Langford...and none other than young Thomas Newman (!).

Newman revealed this in a 2015 NPR piece by Tim Greiving (about scoring Bridge of Spies for Spielberg).

And just as Alfred Newman gave John Williams some of his first big breaks, Williams, in turn, gave Thomas Newman one of his first plum assignments as a Hollywood musician.

“He threw me a bone. I mean, he would not put it that way. But he let me orchestrate a cue from Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader dies,” Newman says, then laughs: “It was an amazing thing to do.”

None of Newman’s orchestrations have his name on them. But the same hand that did “Darth Vader’s Death” also did “Vader Contacts Luke,” “After the Bike Chase” and “The Emperor Confronts Luke.”

Here’s the complete list:

NOTE: There are no 1–1 and 1–2 scores. 1–1 might have been the Fox fanfare (what else?) while 1–2 was the Main Title, re-recorded from Star Wars. There is also no score for the space-battle music late in the film that is reprised from the “Here They Come” and “Last Battle” sequences from Star Wars.

R1 Part 3, Approaching the Death Star, Herb Spencer, 25 pp

R1 Pt 3X (new bar 23), no credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

Reel 1 Part 4, Vadar [sic] Contacts Luke, no credit but Thomas Newman penmanship, 11 pp

R1 Pt 5, The Iron Door, Herb Spencer, 2 pp

R1 Pt 6/R2 Pt 1, To Jabba’s Throne, Herb Spencer, 3 pp

R2 Pt 2, Jabba Source No. 1, Herb Spencer, 21 pp

R2 Pt 3, My Favorite Decoration, Herb Spencer, 6 pp

R2 Pt 5, Jabba’s Prisoners, Herb Spencer, 15 pp

R3 Pt 2, The Big Thaw, Herbert Spencer, 21 pp

R3 Pt2X (1), no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

R3 Pt2X (2), no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 3 pp

R3 Pt 3, no title, Gordon Langford, 10 pp

R3 Pt 4/R4 Pt 1, Fight in the Dungeon, Herb Spencer, 34 pp

R3 Pt4X, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

R4 Pt 1A, no title, Gordon Langford, 8 pp

R4 Pt 3, The Sarlaac Pit, Herb Spencer, 4 pp

Reel 4, Pt. 4, Revised Jabba’s End, Herb Spencer, 43 pp [this indicates to use bars from the original Jabba’s End—the alternate Sail Barge fight music—which there is no orchestration for, but one presumes it was also by Spencer]

R4 Pt 5, The Emperor, Alexander Courage, 10 pp

R4 Pt 5X, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

R4 Pt 5X II, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

R5 Pt 1/R6 Pt 1, Yoda’s Scene, Herbert Spencer, 24 pp

R5 Pt 1/R6 Pt 1, Part II, Luke and Ben, 13 pp

R6 Pt 2, Battle Plans, Herb Spencer, 12 pp

R6 Pt 3, Faking the Code, Herb Spencer, 21 pp

R6 Pt 3X, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 1 pg

R6 Pt 4, Jungle Encounter, Herb Spencer, 10 pp

Reel 7 Part 1, After the Bike Chase, no credit but Thomas Newman penmanship, 6 pp

R7 Pt 2, Enter the Ewok, Herb Spencer, 14 pp

R7 Pt 3/R8 Pt 1, More Trouble, Herb Spencer, 25 pp

R8 Pt 2, More Ewoks Appear, Alexander Courage, 3 pp

R8 Pt 4, Using the Force, Herb Spencer, 6 pp

R8 Pt 5, Bedtime Stories, Herb Spencer, 6 pp

R9 Pt 2, Brother and Sister, Herb Spencer, 13 pp

R9 Pt 3, title is clipped off the scan, Herb Spencer, 18 pp

R9 Pt 4, Finding an Entrance, Herb Spencer, 14 pp

R9 Pt 6/R10 Pt 1, Heroic Ewok, Herb Spencer, 15 pp

Reel 10 Part 2, The Emperor Confronts Luke, no credit but Thomas Newman penmanship, 14 pp

R10 Pt 3, Into the Trap, Alexander Courage, 23 pp

R10 Pt 4, Rebel Forces Captured, Alexander Courage, 11 pp

R10 Pt 5/R11 Pt 1, First Ewok Battle, Herb Spencer, 33 pp

R10 Pt 5/R11 Pt 1X, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 1 pp

R11 Pt 2, Fight With Tie Fighters, Herb Spencer, 22 pp

R11 Pt 3, title is clipped off of the scan, Gordon Langford, 25 pp

R11 Pt 4, The Emperor Provokes Luke, Herb Spencer, 4 pp

R11 Pt 5, The Ewok Battle, Alexander Courage, 28 pp

R11 Pt 5X, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 2 pp

R11 Pt 6/R12 Pt 1, no title or credit but Gordon Langford penmanship, 1 pp

R11 Pt 6/R12 Pt 1, Leia Is Wounded, Herb Spencer, 17 pp

R12 Pt 2, The Battle Rages, Alexander Courage, 8 pp

R12 Pt 3, More Duel, Herb Spencer, 13 pp

R12 Pt 4, The Explosion, Herb Spencer, 6 pp

R12 Pt 5/R13 Pt 1, The Emperor’s Death, Herb Spencer, 12 pp

R13 Pt 2, Vadar’s [sic] Death, no credit but Thomas Newman said he did it, 11 pp

R13 Pt 3, Through the Flames, Herb Spencer, 23 pp

R13 Pt 4 (new fix), Leia Breaks the News, Gordon Langford, 5 pp

R13 Pt 4 (new), Leia Breaks the News, Gordon Langford, 13 pp

R13 Pt 4, Leia Breaks the News, Alexander Courage, 9 pp

R13 Pt 5A, no title but Ewok Celebration orch accompaniment, Gordon Langford, 6 pp

End Credits, Herb Spencer, 28 pp (new material only; beginning and ends reprised from Star Wars)

Album versions

Brother and Sister, Herb Spencer, 25 pp

Jabba the Hutt, Herb Spencer, 14 pp

Parade of the Ewoks, this appears to be in Williams’ hand, with some bars copied from the End Credits, 24 pp

The Battle in the Woods, Herb Spencer, 40 pp


New Finale (from Special Edition), John Neufeld, 16 pp

One other thing about Star Wars. Just got this email—

Hi Lukas. I read an article you wrote about the Star Wars Arista anthology box set and I left a comment with a question, but for some reason it didn’t get published, so I thought I’d send an email.

I’ve read that some of the tracks on the Star Wars disc in the Arista box set used takes that were different from the original release because the breakdown for the original album couldn’t be located. I was wondering if you knew which tracks were affected by this. I believe the main title track on the Arista set used one take whereas the original album had three different takes edited together. Do you know which of the other tracks were effected by “wrong” takes? Or is there some resource online that goes into detail about this?


So it is true that on the Anthology for Star Wars, it is true that some passages of some cues use different takes than in the film and on all other albums. And yeah, this was a mistake, and you can hear some performance errors.

The issue isn’t that the wrong take was selected as much as that many tracks (in the film and on the original album) were carefully made by “intercutting” from the good/clean parts of different takes.

So if most of the track is supposed to be take 4, but dropping in a few bars from take 3—well, on the Arista release, most of it is correct, except for those few bars that were supposed to use take 3. It’s still take 4, so you might hear a “clam” (wrote note).

I don’t know of an online source for the “road map” of all the takes, I wasn’t involved in that work. But I highly recommend this piece from my friend Chris Malone about the Original Trilogy recordings.

And while it is a mistake on the Anthology, that release was produced under a lot of time pressure, and it was almost 30 years ago—so, I hope, the statute of limitations applies?

Have a good holiday weekend, everybody!

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Neil Bulk
Neil Bulk
May 29, 2022

Regarding the performances in "Star Wars" a good place to start would be with the list found in the RCA "Special Edition" release. There's a breakdown on page 29 of the cues and takes used. If there's more than one take, then the intercut probably wasn't done on the "Anthology" album. If you want to hear a "clam" on the Anthology release listen to "Ben's Death and TIE Fighter Attack" at 3:30. If you want to hear a section with a noticeably different performance, check out the anvil hit in "Rescue of the Princess" at 1:41.

Lukas Kendall
Lukas Kendall
May 29, 2022
Replying to

Neil to the rescue, thanks!

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