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Back To The Future, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. What do these three movies have in common? Besides the fact that all three are epic trilogies (and more), they all have iconic themes and soundtracks. Out of all three, some would say that Star Wars is the best one. The music is thought provoking and full of emotion. In less than 10 days, The Force Awakens will be released in theaters. So it only makes sense that a music video tribute come out in honor of the latest installment to the Star Wars franchise. Take a listen as Player:Piano flies you through one epic “Ultimate Star Wars Medley.”

For those of you who don’t know, Player:Piano is made up of mainly two people – Tom Grey and Sonya Belousova. Grey is a filmmaker and Belousova is a concert pianist. The two have also done music videos to the theme of Doctor Who, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and The Walking Dead. For their latest creation, the two have come together for a 10 minute Star Wars medley with music spanning from all six current titles.

Before you go running off, some of you may be happy to know that only one song is from the first three episodes while the rest is from episodes four, five, and six. Take a listen and see if you can figure out which iconic tracks made the medley.

Not only are Player:Piano known for their great covers, but they’re also known for some of their amazing custom pianos made specifically for their videos. First, though, were you able to figure out what tracks were played? If you didn’t know or couldn’t remember the names, the tracks that were played in the medley (from beginning to end) were the Main Title theme, followed by Duel of The Fates, then Princess Leia’s Theme, The Imperial March, and finally the end credit fanfare.

NerdBastards was lucky enough to catch a moment with Player:Piano and ask them a few questions regarding their Star Wars music video. Some of the things we talked about were what goes into choosing the songs for the medley, what songs didn’t make the cut, and where they got those custom pianos.

NerdBastards: The Star Wars franchise is huge. How did you go about choosing the songs to arrange?

Belousova: Star Wars is such an iconic franchise with a legendary soundtrack by John Williams. Composing an arrangement of the Star Wars soundtrack was an incredible pleasure and honor for me. We decided to go back to the very beginning and start our musical adventure with the most recognizable original themes, which later were developed in the further episodes. Yes, Star Wars is indeed a huge universe, however, the film scoring process is always highly thematic. Star Wars is no exception. If you think of huge franchises such as ‘Star Wars,’ or ‘James Bond,’ or ‘Mission Impossible,’ there are certain themes that are always there and are engraved in your mind. That’s how the film scoring process works. With Star Wars, in particular, the idea was to write the arrangement as technically challenging as possible. I started with the ‘Main Title’ first, however then we felt like instead of going with the ‘Main Title’ only we should include various thematic elements. I then started working on ‘Duel of the Fates,’ which I jokingly call “Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand” as that part with the left hand is quite tricky. Then we have ‘Princess Leia’s Theme,’ which has a beautiful center in the overall composition slowly developing towards the passionate climax at the end of it. Finally there’s ‘The Imperial March’ representing the dark force in its full glory. The arrangement finishes with the end title fanfare that concludes the 10-minute composition.

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NerdBastards: Were there any songs that you wanted to cover, but that didn’t make the cut?

Belousova: [The] composing process should be very organic. When I compose or arrange a piece of music, at a certain point it starts guiding me and telling me the right direction. With any elaborate arrangement like the one I wrote for Star Wars, there are always endless possibilities, it’s basically like a puzzle. But once you start putting it together, it tells you which piece is next. We wanted to include ‘The Force Theme’ as well, however it wasn’t really blending quite right with the rest of the arrangement, and therefore we used it for our teaser instead.

Grey: Oh boy, I really wanted to cram the force theme in there, but yeah I agree with Sonya that it just didn’t seem to fit. That’s okay, we can always return to the galaxy far far away.

Nerdbastards: Can you tell us about the custom pianos used for the shoot?

Grey: As the crazy person who comes up with the idea to makes these custom pianos, I can answer this one. It started with our very first video, the ‘Walking Dead.’ We didn’t really customize that piano like we do now, but for that video we had a heavy upright that we bought off of craigslist that was the biggest pain in our side. It was incredibly difficult to transport, I cut my hand on it at one point, and it even broke the ratchet strap holding it to the truck and fell over onto a bunch of our equipment. Naturally when we finally got it on set I asked my production designer, Megan Burns, to go to town on it and rip it to shreds. We hadn’t planned on actually doing that, but I really hated that stupid piano. But ultimately it looked really cool and part of the scene we were creating. After that, it evolved and Megan at this point has become a wizard at modifying pianos.

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For this video we built an R2-D2 Piano and a Millennium Falcon piano. I originally really wanted to do the falcon piano, but time and money forced me to abandon it and instead we went with R2 as it was an easier build for Megan in the time that she had (about a week and a half). But the falcon kept popping up in my mind and I just could not let it go. I ultimately worked with Megan’s design and brought it to a local prop shop, Fonco, who had done work with Lucasfilm before. They loved the idea and took it on even though we were only a week out from shooting. Both pianos are spectacular and I’m glad I found a way to make it happen.

NerdBastards: The light saber set looks stunning. How did you come up with that concept?

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Grey: That came out of a conversation between me and my Director of Photography, Stephen Paar. We knew we didn’t have the resources to build a set worthy of Star Wars, so we started to chat about alternative ways to get that same feel. We had previously done a video for Bohemian Rhapsody where we used kino lights attached to the wall to sort of build a set out of light. We both loved how that video turned out, and naturally since kino tubes are long shafts of light, that evolved our thinking to use colored gels to mimic the feelings of light sabers. Then that somehow turned into 30 lights entirely surrounding the piano. It was a lot of lights.

NerdBastards: Were you lucky enough to get tickets when they went on sale?

Grey: No…did you?

NerdBastards: What’s next for Player Piano?

Belousova: We have a few videos that we shot quite some time ago, however, they still have to be released, like ‘Happy,’ which is my arrangement of Pharrell Williams’ song, and ‘I Am The Doctor’ Theme by Murray Gold. Both of these arrangements are quite different from the other once I’ve done, they’re much more complex and elaborate in terms of orchestration, and not just solo piano. I’m also currently recording a solo piano album with a legendary multi Grammy Award winning and Academy Award nominated producer and arranger Jorge Calandrelli. And I’m currently in talks regarding writing the music for a big interactive theater show, which will premiere in Moscow, Russia.

Grey: In addition to the videos Sonya mentioned, we also managed to shoot a couple of other videos while we were making Star Wars. We’ll soon release a Christmas Video, and then after that we have some more video game themes from our 8-bit album that Sonya performed on our Nintendo Piano. More long term though, I am currently writing a script for a musical feature that I would love to make with Sonya and the Player Piano team.

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For more on Player:Piano, check out their YouTube channel where you can watch more of their covers. And for those of you who are musically talented, sheet music of Sonya’s arrangements are also available.

Category: Cool Stuff

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