Not everyone is familiar with the installment of the Star Wars franchise titled Shadows of the Empire, but that’s mostly because it was a media event that never made it to the big screen. Nonetheless, the video game it spawned deserves some recognition among video games for its use of a fully orchestrated, studio recorded, original soundtrack composed by film and TV composer Joel McNeely.
The other day, I listened to a Naxos recording of Ravel’s entire Daphnis et Chloé ballet for the first time (Ravel also arranged two smaller orchestral suites of the work) and realized that McNeely derived parts of his own score from this piece. The one passage that caught my attention opens Part II of the ballet—a scene that depicts a camp of pirates cavorting at night in a savage, sabbath-like dance.
The familiarity was enough to make me immediately drop whatever it was that I was doing and fire off a Google search for “joel mcneely daphnis”, which turned up a forum thread in which one user points out that McNeely derived his music for Shadows of the Empire from two works: Ravel’s ballet and another, The Quest, by British composer William Walton.
I’m going to explore the Walton suggestion a little bit more, but I’m more curious to know whether there exists any verbal or written acknowledgment from McNeely (EDIT: some does exist in an interview). I mean, presumably, this kind of creative “borrowing” happens all the time, but artists don’t always call attention to their sources of inspiration unless prompted. In fact, the aforementioned forum user speaks to the matter as if McNeely stole the material from Ravel. I’d have to give this Walton ballet a listen to verify that claim.
EDIT (March 2017): updated to refer to SOTE as a “media event.” Thanks Espen!