"Star Wars" characters, Darth Vader, left, and Chewbacca, right, pose with Boston Pops Orchestra Conductor John Williams, in July 1997.

(AP Photo/Alan Solomon)

When John Williams set out to write an epic score for the original "Star Wars" in 1977, he looked for inspiration from composers who wrote sweeping symphonic music.

The music that provided the soundtrack for adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader grew from scores by composers like Erich Korngold and Gustav Holst. 

CPR Classical's Karla Walker spoke with Colorado Matters about the classical music that helped create the "Star Wars" sound. Highlights:

  • Korngold's music for the 1942 film "Kings Row" inspired the main Star Wars theme. Lucas asked Williams to write a score that drew from films like "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Sea Hawk," which Korngold scored in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Holst's "The Planets" shows up in Williams' theme for archvillian Darth Vader. Appropriately, the Holst movement it titled "Mars, the Bringer of War."
  • Frederic Chopin's "Funeral March" also turns up in Williams' music for Darth Vader.
  • Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto influenced the score for some of the tender moments in the latest Star Wars film, "The Force Awakens."

Click the audio player above to hear how Williams' compositions compared to the pieces that inspired him.