April 18, 2005
Imagine being in the movie theaters, and staring at the black empty screen. The 20th Century Fox Logo appears followed by the words " A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." Then, BANG! The blasts of the roaring trumpets echo throughout the entire theater as the words "STAR WARS" fill up the whole screen, forming the perfect way to start the ground-breaking space opera.
Now, imagine again being in the movie theaters and staring at a black empty screen. The 20th Century Fox Logo appears, along with the words "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." Then the words " STAR WARS" fill the screen, but this time, something is missing. Soon there is realization that there is no sound. No music. Music is often taken for granted in a film and viewers never notice it until it is missing. Music brings a scene to life and gives it emotion. That is why the music is so important, especially to a chronicle like Star Wars. The music of the Star Wars saga greatly enhances the films by creating thematic motifs and intertwining them to help bring to life the magic of Star Wars.
In Star Wars, each major character, plot event, or plot article is assigned a thematic motif ("John Williams- Star Wars Trilogy" 1). A motif, according to Webster.com, is "a usually recurring salient thematic element" (Webster.com 1). In the words of Anthony Titus, a college professor at the University of St. Thomas who teaches a film and music course, a motif is "[A] technique that composers use in which there is a theme that sticks with a certain character or thing [in the film] (4)." Considering the extent of the Star Wars universe, the films include many themes, motifs, and main compositions.
There are four main compositions in Star Wars that portray four key plot characteristics from the films (Hidalgo "Recording Revenge" 1). Probably the most recognized of these themes is Luke Skywalker's theme, or the "Main Theme". It is this theme that starts and ends each movie with a "BANG!" from the blasting trumpets. It sets the tone for the epic adventure that is about to take place; the epic adventure that follows Luke Skywalker and his encounters of light and dark (Joy "Star Wars IV A New Hope"1). "It's heroic" says Anthony Titus (3). Heroic because the piece follows Luke as he delivers the final shot to blow up the Death Star. It follows him as he goes to save his companions from the sinister Darth Vader. Heroic in which it is played as Luke strikes down the evil Lord Vader, while at the same time not giving in to the hatred of the Emperor.
The next major composition is "The Imperial March", also known by many as Darth Vader's Theme, and is probably the second most recognized theme from Star Wars. The heavily accented notes from the low brass symbolize the evil Empire and its leaders like Darth Vader, as they continually crush the freedom fighters of the Rebellion. In the views of Nick Joy, a soundtrack reviewer from musicfromthemovies.com, the piece is "Militaristic and bombastic with intensive use of brass and percussion" ("Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back" 1-2).
In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, there is a new piece named "The Duel of Fates". It is a fast moving piece that occurs during the duel between the two Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, and the Sith Lord, Darth Maul. George Lucas, director and writer of the Star Wars saga says, "The fact that this piece was choral gave it some sort of religious ritual feeling to it; sort of like they were fighting in a temple. And that's what I was aiming for," ("Movie Music"). It is also the only up-tempo action piece of music from the Star Wars saga that contains a chorus, making it truly unique (China 1).
Following The Phantom Menace is Episode II: Attack of the Clones. This film introduces the love story- the love story between Anakin and Padme. And to accompany it, John Williams writes a beautiful theme named "Across the Stars". Reviewer Ray Donga describes the piece as ".a soaring bittersweet love theme that goes beyond anything implied in the film" (1). The piece is played throughout the entire film, but often times in different tone colors and styles. It symbolizes the love that the two characters are having, and reaches a dark climax during the unbearable pain in the film--the pain of forbidden love ("Star Wars Attack of the Clones" 3).
Aside from all these main compositions, there are many themes and musical accompaniments that are also in Star Wars. These themes direct people to a certain scene or character when they hear it. The most important of these themes are the ones that bring out the main characters or ideas. For example, there is "The Force" theme that represents the idea of "the force" in the Star Wars universe. The idea which, in the words of the character Obi-Wan Kenobi from A New Hope, is ".an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." Along with that theme, there's also the light, yet lyrical "Leia's Theme" which, in the opinion of Pablo Hidalgo, Internet Content Developer and writer of starwars.com, is "perhaps the most passionate and emotional cue in all of the Star Wars saga," ("Recording Revenge" 1). To add on, there is the "Han & the Princess" theme, which takes "Leia's Theme", and evolves it into one of the most romantic pieces in the series, showing the building love between Han Solo and Princess Leia (Joy "Star Wars V" 2). A counterpart to this theme is the "Luke & Leia" theme- a mature piece that shows the two grown-up siblings during the final film and helps to build the relationship between twin brother and sister (Joy "Star Wars VI" 2).
Another major theme is "Yoda's Theme", a noble theme for the master Jedi that symbolizes the fact that even though the Empire is dominating the galaxy, there is still hope left (Joy "Star Wars V" 2). And to contrast the theme of the master Jedi is the theme for the master Sith- "The Emperor's Theme", which is a dark wordless vocal chant, over a strong brass section, and is used whenever Emperor Palpatine is on screen. Lastly, probably the most unrecognized, but one of the most important themes in the saga is "Anakin's Theme." It is the "Imperial March" reconstructed into a melodic piece that fits young Anakin Skywalker. "If you listen to it very carefully, you can hear the intervals of the Imperial March of Darth Vader - an evil imperial power piece transformed into a very sweet lyrical and youthful piece" says John Williams, composer and conductor of the Star Wars scores ("Movie Music").
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