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Incanus

Sorting out the themes of Star Wars

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As far as I know Star Wars has the most comprehensible body of interweaved music in the moviemusic history and Williams himself is pleased about the organic growth of the musical world of SW. Comparison has been made by some to the four part opera saga Der Ring des Niebelung by Richard Wagner, though not in content or their similarity musicwise but in length. I think these two should not be compared as every person has his/her opinion about them. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Certainly Wagner's leitmotif style of leading themes or motifs is employed in SW to a great effect and that must be one of the reasons SW has become one of the most popular music phenomena as well as cinematic. These musical cells make events, people and place's recognisable through music and have familiarity that affects even the unconscious part of our minds. I have decided to list all the themes and motifs of Star Wars saga just jog my memory and yours. Don't hesitate to remind me (which i know you won't) if I forget something.Also there is the question what can be called a theme or specific motif? Does it have to be used multiple times and continually or can it be a brief and very specific and used only once? Some that I am about to mention are dubious to be included but I make comments on themes very briefly as need arises:

Episode IV A New Hope:

1) Star Wars main Title theme (Luke Skywalker's theme): If I really need explain this to a John Williams fan he/she has missed something very important.

2)Princess Leia's theme

3)THe Rebel Fanfare

4)Jawa theme: Used only in this movie so can it be called a theme, though jawas don't appear prominently on any other SW film this could be excused.

5)Tusken Raider motif: tuned logs and percussion; used briefly when Tusken attack Luke. Not used since.

6)The Death Star motif

7)The Early Imperial theme: doubles as the music for Darth Vader. As Williams composed Imperial March for ESB this theme is not used consecutively.

8)The Force Theme/Obi Wan Kenobi theme:This is the one theme that has been used throuhout the saga.

9)Throneroom motif: The end celebration music of ANH is used also one more time in ROTJ when Lando leads the Rebel fleet into hyperspace.

Episode V Empire Strikes Back:

10)Imperial March

11)Yoda's theme

12)Han Solo and the Princess Love theme

13)The Droids motif: Used in ESB but wasn't used in ROTJ where Williams composed an new motif for R2 an C-3PO.

14) Lando's Palace/Cloud City March

15)Boba Fett motif: Not used after ESB though one motif in AOTC bears some resemblance to it.

Episode VI Return of the Jedi

16)Luke and Leia (Brother and sister theme)

17)Parade of the Ewoks (You'll never guess, this must be...the Ewok theme :music: )

18)Jabba the Hutt

19)Emperor's theme

20)Droids motif II

Episode I The Phantom Menace:

21)Anakin's theme

22)Duel of the Fates

23)Darth Maul's theme(Aka the Sith Chant): Short ominous brass theme with percussion and whispered Sanskrit chant.

24)The Trade Federation March

25)Shmi Skywalker's theme: The thematic material for Shmi is hard to discern from the movie. It could be olaced inthe scenes when they are talking about Podracing and when Anakin leaves.This small motif for her is heard in AOTC when she dies and when Anakin mentions her in the beginning of the movie.

26) Qui gon Jinn's theme

27)Jar Jar Binks' theme: Comedic and mickey mousy as it accompanies his clumsy movements.

28)The Flag Parade: Fanfare for the Podrace celebration

29)Queen Amidala's theme/motif: Williams has said he composed some material for the queen but it was ultimately dropped and never used fully. Maybe some music in the scenes Queen warns the Federation or Anakin and Group to Coruscant belongs to her.

30)Coruscant fanfare: Used when the Queen arrives at Coruscant. I hoped it would have been used in subsequent Episode but alas it wasn't.

31)Under water motif: Williams uses choir quite often to portray water and underwater scenes and so he does in Episode I. This "motif " is used inthe underwater scenes when Obi Wan and Qui gon travel in Bongo through the planetcore.

Episode II Attack of the Clones:

32)Across the Stars (Love theme)

33)Secondary love theme/Naboo theme

34)Mystery motif

35)The Conflict motif: some recemblance to Boba Fett motif in ESB

36)Kamino/ storm motif

37)Longing for mother/Grief motif

38)Zam the Assassin's motif

Here it be for you all. The most accessible and apparent motifs and themes of SW in chronological order from 1977 to 2002.Some of the motif are, as I said in above, dubious as I don't have any confirmation of them.I 'll wait for more additions to the thematic gallery next year and the completion of the saga.

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The most accessible and apparent motifs and themes of SW in chronological order from 1977 to 2002.

Why do you have "Parade of the Ewoks" and "Luke and Leia" before "Jabba the Hutt"?

Neil

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I will have to disagree with you on some points here. The list is thorough, for sure. However, I think that a motif should not really be considered a motif unless restated. Without restatement, the association is lost on the audience, making iteration a necessary factor in composing successfully with leitmotifs....

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First of all I would just like to say hi.

I think a motif can be considered a motif without it being restated. For a motif to be considered to have any sort of leitmotivic indentification it would need to be restated and reshaped but other than that there are too many other abstract thoughts, ideas, emotions, etc. that the single use of a motif can represent that never need to be expressed again in a piece of music or art after it's initial use but that does not take anything away from the motif being able to stand alone and represent itself there and only then.

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Yes, but can you cite examples from the classical literature of such motivic use? Only in Webern and music post-Webern can one find a principal of non-repetition of motivic ideas to be valid. Even so, most modern music retains elements of motivic repetition. To a composer, if the motif if is good enough, then it needs repeating.

Leitmotifs, however, are different as they are governed by actions of the stage/screen rather than by the aesthetics of concert music. While musical underscore to a scene surely is a valid musical idea, it cannot be consider a leitmotif unless it is repeated because it underscores a motif of the libretto/program itself.

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Hi man,

Yes, I probably could cite many examples of non repetative motivic ideas but the purpose of this thread is not for us to show everybody else how much we each think we know about music or to end up arguing over it.

I'm sure we've both composed enough pieces of music each to have our own thoughts on what makes a motif or what doesn't.

I personally think that most of JW underscore for SW can be considered leitmotif because the majority of it for me originates in the larger themes of the films.

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I wish I had some idea what you are talking about. Please cite an example of an undeveloped motif (pre-Webern). A motif simply is not a motif unless it is repeated or developed. An "undeveloped motif" then is simply a background musical idea. This idea of repeating a motif applies to all other arts as well...

I seriously doubt you've composed as much music as me, especially any music of concert quality.

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wasnt there a whole thing about the fact that han solo and leia do NOT have a "love" theme?

Maybe, but the documentation of the Star Wars Trilogy soundtracks that I grew up with was the box set in 1993, I read that a lot, and at every mention of that beautiful theme in Empire and Jedi, it's referred to as "Han and Leia's Love Theme." I don't really give a hoot about the effort to make Anakin and Padme's Love Theme the "first" or "only" love theme in the Star Wars Saga, simply because George wants this flick to be viewed/thought of chronologically before Empire and Jedi, or he wants to downplay the love of the Alderaanian Princess and Corellian smuggler, because that's a love theme, as is that of Luke and Leia, albeit not as romantic. It seems to me that Lucas and even Williams are writing a "revisionist" history of Star Wars music, which to me is just dumb.

Personally, my fav love theme IS that of Luke and Leia, even though it's supposed to be a more platonic, brother/sister relationship. I just like that theme more than the other two love themes in the Star Wars Saga.

Or if we look at love as a phenomenon in which one person "embraces" another or an idea, and where perhaps one in the love pair is more dominant than the other, in sort of a "master and slave" relationship, could not "the Imperial March" be a love theme then, too?

LOL LOL LOL

YIPPEE!!! MY ONE HUNDREDTH POST!!!

Now I'm regular!!!

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I will have to disagree with you on some points here. The list is thorough, for sure. However, I think that a motif should not really be considered a motif unless restated. Without restatement, the association is lost on the audience, making iteration a necessary factor in composing successfully with leitmotifs....

What if it's restated throughout a single track? What if it's used once but is a strong melody that is strongly linked to something?

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In that case Morn, it is surely a motif wihtout question. As far as a leitmotif, then the following questions need to be asked:

What is the motif describing (character, location, emotion, action, etc), if anything? Sometimes there are very good motifs, especially in action sequences, which really don't describe anything. They are simply action music motifs which do not refer to anything specific. Great examples of this are the Asteroid Field in ESB and Chase Through Coruscant in AOTC. We hear motifs within those cues over and over again to convey a sense of action, yet those motif do not relate to the scene the same way motifs such as Imperial March would.

The next question to ask is does the thing it refer to appear again? If it does, then does the motif accompany it?

If the answer to the above is yes, it certainly is a leitmotif. For example, the jawas are recurring characters. We hear their motif a couple of times in ANH, and possibly again in ROTJ (?). Therefore, their motif IS a leitmotif.

Hope this clears things up for you. (Remember, this is just my opinion, but I have based my opinion on musical experience and education from studying the opera of Wagner as well as compositional techniques and opera in general. No one's opinion is necessarily wrong or right, as this is a very subjective area of study!)

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In that case Morn, it is surely a motif wihtout question.  

!)

in that case here's a few more:

-"The Walls Converge" from ANH.The Trash Compactor music

-"The Asteroid Field",the Brass Fanfare when the dodge the Asteroids. ESB

-"Escape from Cloud City"motif.It's also looped in RotJ.

-4 note mysterious motif in Yoda's Death.Also appears in Brother and Sister.But it may just be Yoda's theme in reduction.

-Ewok's Dying motif.Sort of a tragic sounding passages that recurs a few times when the At-St's trample the Ewoks(My favourite scene on Endor :) )

-Victory Celebration in RotJ S.E..

-Escape from Naboo motif in TPM.

K.M.

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Agreed. The above are, in my view, motifs but not leitmotifs, although I would have to analyse the Ewok Dying motif. That one may very well be a leitmotif, but I am not familiar with it...

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Maybe I should open a new thread for this.

I don't know if it's old news or new but when I heard Across the Stars (Love theme), I started to compare it to Star Wars main Title theme (Luke Skywalker's theme) and found...the first melody follows a structure that is really a pair of the second...

(mi) do' la re' do' si do' la do' si' la si' so la fa so mi

vs.

(so,) do so fa mi re do so fa mi re do so fa mi fa re

which should be played even together in the third episode (considering re' do' si' is just the same as fa mi re even in rythm - only in another keynote)

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Maybe I should open a new thread for this.

I don't know if it's old news or new but when I heard Across the Stars (Love theme), I started to compare it to Star Wars main Title theme (Luke Skywalker's theme) and found...the first melody follows a structure that is really a pair of the second...

(mi) do' la re' do' si do' la do' si' la si' so la fa so mi

vs.

(so,) do so fa mi re do so fa mi re do so fa mi fa re

which should be played even together in the third episode (considering re' do' si' is just the same as fa mi re even in rythm - only in another keynote)

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