The primary musical contribution in Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the epic "Duel of the Fates", the ostinato of which is likely borrowed from the third movement scherzo of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, commonly known as "The New World Symphony".
First, here's an excerpt from Star Wars. While the ostinato continues throughout the majority of the track, it is easiest to hear (despite being very quiet) from 0:15 to 0:24.
Now compare that with the Dvořák. Here, too, the ostinato is used throughout the majority of the track, but it is easiest to hear at 0:18.
While they're clearly not identical (the Dvořák is in triple meter, while the Williams is in duple, and the first half of the Dvořák ostinato has no counterpart in the Williams), the similarities are undeniable: Both are in E minor, using the notes A-G-F#-E consecutively in close but not identical rhythms (indicated in the graphic below with solid red lines). Furthermore, the first note of this pattern is comparable: F# in the Dvořák, compared to G in the Williams - a half step apart, the smallest possible interval (indicated below with the dotted red line).
Given all of that, I think it very likely that Williams' temp track for The Phantom Menace included Dvořák's Symphony No. 9.
9/24/2014 08:20:13 am
I played this (Dvorak 9) back in '08 with the SFSYO and I was immediately reminded of the Williams score. Thanks for writing this post!
Hi, I noticed another similarity on accident; I have an online music service and I streamed Dvorak, then realized how much the beginning of Symphony No. 9, Op. 95 (From The New World: IV Allegro con fuoco) sounded *just like* the famous Jaws song.
4/23/2015 02:45:55 am
I'm glad to not be the only one that noticed that, I was playing Star Wars Battlefront where the instrumental version of Duel of Fates plays and I was instantly reminded of Dvorak's 9th.
5/21/2015 01:15:06 pm
Quiet funny really, because the other day I was listening to Dvorak's 9th and then it hit me "wow, what's that!" Isn't this Harry Potter? Then I researched, it sure sounds like magic and witches and sure movies (or even Harry Potter?) borrowed from it. But it sounds JUST like Scherzo For Motorcycle and Orchestra, by John Williams (Indiana Jones 3 - The Last Crusade)... listen to the "ostinato" then listen to the Indy 3 Scherzo
7/28/2017 09:27:01 pm
I also found the similarity between them. So I googled with "duel of the fates new world synphony" as keyword and finally found this website...haha...good explanation for the webmaster.
11/21/2017 04:38:43 pm
Yes there are similarities here but I'm not convinced that this was really plagiarism. The ostinato discussed here is also just the first few notes of the force theme in retrograde with a modified rhythm. Given the general use of leitmotif and development etc in Williams' Star Wars I'd argue that this was the source.
2/5/2020 07:36:41 am
I'm here because I googled "Star Wars Dvorak 9th" when I made the very same connection upon listening to the 9th. The 9th has been borrowed on many occasions. 1st movement -> Serge Gainsbourg "Initials B.B.", 2nd movement became a hymn, 3rd movement -- Star Wars, 4th movement -- Jaws (and more recently "Baby Shark"). Quite the cultural impact...
9/8/2022 06:53:02 pm
The 2nd movement was based off of a hymn/tune, it did not become one.
3/30/2023 11:04:28 am
Thank you... I was just listening to Dvorak and I was like .. wait.... this is familiar. Then I was like why do I want to fight storm troopers?
5/23/2023 10:03:51 pm
"Duel of the Fates" also shares some similarities to Mendelssohn's "Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95, MWV P15". The beginnings of the two pieces are similar. Also, the section 1:40-1:45 of "Duel" sounds a bit like 1:39-1:47 from the Mendelssohn piece:
Leave a Reply.
The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.