There is a failing with many scores written for action sequences in that they merely perform a perfunctory mirroring of the action onscreen. Granted, it is perhaps the intent of such scores to be this simplistic, but listening to them outside the context of the film they’re meant to accompany proves to be a deeply monotonous affair. Not so with The Battle of Yavin, the piece that accompanies the climactic encounter between the rebels and the empire in the final act of 1977’s Star Wars.
Every single movement in this piece strives to describe and beautifully extend not only the emotional tones of the action, but the story contained within the sequence as well. The dread and brutality of the empire’s counter-attack of the rebel’s approach is brought to life with shrieking brass, pounding timpani, and restlessness in the strings, which is then wonderfully juxtaposed with the uplift of the hero theme. Even this theme is modified and changed subtly at various instances to elevate feelings of hope, danger, cautiousness or joy. The two distinct threads of the composition (good vs. evil; the rebels vs. the empire) collide and collude with each other throughout before building to a fist-clenching crescendo that gives way to an unyielding feeling of sheer relief.
Even outside of the context of the film, it shines as an awe-inspiring piece of music, rich in compositional depth and beauty. It is an absolute masterclass in scoring not just for image, but for story as well.