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The Thematic Material of the Star Wars Saga (Possible Community Project?)


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The music I'm referring to has nothing to do with escaping from Cloud City. It is scored for three scenes: stormtroopers marching down the hallway with Han, Boba Fett putting Han onto Slave 1, and Luke and Vader beginning their duel. Call me crazy, but all three of those scenes deal with the emotion of doom and gloom brought upon by the Empire. The only thing silly in this discussion is saying that four scenes in the same film that clearly deal with the Empire and their might have the same level of dramatic connection as a punch in Indiana Jones and wand flick in Harry Potter. 

 

The possibility of the similarity to the walker motif being total coincidence is massive. I would not doubt that being the case, and if I had to put money on it, I would indeed say coincidence. But the similarity is an interesting one and I don't see anything wrong with speculating what ifs. 

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The "fateful" Cloud City motif is the same, just with slightly different renditions. What I'm saying is that it has no thematic connection whatsoever to the music for the AT-ATs. That's the silly part. 

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There's something wrong if fans can't present their ideas or interpretations here of all places, I think it's a little disingenuous to start bringing out the 'silly season' nonsense.

I think the Cloud City Doom motif and the Cloud City escape motif are absolutely not the same and represent two completely different ideas. Two sides of the same coin perhaps but representing two completely different sides/goals and the emotional stakes at hand for each of those sides.

No-one (or I'm not) is saying that the motif literally represents the AT-ATs (the orchestration is no doubt for that) but rather what the whole purpose of the battle is about and Vader's continuing obsession in finding Luke, which does have a thematic connection to what happens on Cloud City.

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1 hour ago, artguy360 said:

The "fateful" Cloud City motif is the same, just with slightly different renditions. What I'm saying is that it has no thematic connection whatsoever to the music for the AT-ATs. That's the silly part. 

 

Perhaps I haven't made myself clear. I don't think anyone here is doubting that the motif playing on Cloud City is the same, that's undeniable. What I'm saying is that it's silly to say that the scenes in which it plays have no similarity whatsoever to the scene with the AT-ATs.

 

Once again, here are the scenes for the Cloud City motif: stormtroopers marching down the hallway with Han, Boba Fett putting Han onto Slave 1, and Luke and Vader beginning their duel. And then, of course, the Hoth motif is for appearance of the walkers. What I was trying to say before is that all four of these scenes have something in common in that they deal with the emotion of doom and gloom brought upon by the Empire. Saying that Imperial walkers nearing the base and threatening the safety of our heroes has nothing to do with Han being taken away or Luke literally falling on his ass is what I'm calling silly. Obviously the scenes on Cloud City have more in common because they happen in the same place and same section of the film. But if the main plot of the film is the Empire striking back, then the walkers signify the beginning of their strike, and Cloud City represents the culmination of their strike. If we're talking silly season, it's saying there's no thematic connection whatsoever between them. Am I saying definitively that JW was making a connection? No. But I do believe there is certainly a possibility of such a connection.

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There's a musical similarity, a slight one that results from both pieces of music being written by the same composer for the same film. There is no thematic connection. As a fan you can speculate about a connection all you want. I'm saying your speculation is silly. 

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13 hours ago, steb74 said:

Yeah I wasn't trying to imply that you meant that regarding Ben's death sorry, it was more a comment in how most people react to it.

Leia is fundamental in how we should be reacting to Ben leaving us. We're first introduced to Leia via Ben's theme and then her own theme as she gives R2 his mission.

Little do we know at that point it's actually for Ben (the theme) or even that there is a mission. R2 however inherits that music and from there will pass it on, first to Luke, then Luke to Ben until eventually back to Leia who will be taking the place of the man whose help she sought, musically ending the idea as we were first introduced to it.

From that point when Leia is part of the gang and has replaced Ben her theme is no longer needed and is not used from that point on. That's a massive over simplification as I find it to be much more layered than that, not mentioning the other themes and motifs needed to get us there but that's more or less how it plays out for me.

 

 

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@TownerFan I can't play that clip at the minute but I'm guessing it's the audio snippet from the Rinzler SW book?

It was great to finally hear Williams talking about it and expanding his thoughts a little beyond what he wrote in the original liner notes. :up:

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  • 2 months later...
  • 4 months later...

I was just reading this thread!

Wow, that is great work and very time consuming.

 

I'm checking each soundtrack now so please bare with me as I will be posting from now on with some questions/observations:

 

The Phantom Menace ( 2 cd)

- the Force theme fragment in Inside the Bubble City, seems to me a distinct complete theme unrelated to the force theme (of course all themes are related in essence having common motifs, rhythmic values etc. but this seems like a new theme). But I'm not sure how I would call it. In the sheet music Williams describes it as "noble".

-Frank Lehman has written a complete catalogue of leitmotifs  in Star wars available here: http://tufts.academia.edu/FrankLehman

but of course yours is much more detailed.

There he mentions a Landing motif that first appears in Phantom Menace at 0.35.09 of latest video release (i never succeeded in matching the timestamps he's giving for various themes) and also appears in episodes 2, and 4.

could this be the "unknown 1" in Arrivat al Tattooine? (don't remember now if it appears in II & IV, and haven't checked the other films from your list).

-He also mentions a conversation motif at 0.48.58 (first appearnce in Episode I) and also appearing in VII.

Is this your conversation theme?

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Was listening to Return of the Jedi now.

 

The grandiose theme we hear in  cd2track7 of the 1997 release at 5.02 - 5.36  seems like a very distinct one to me, and i consider it one of the highlights of the entire score and film.

The fact that we hear it only once, increases its impact.

I'm not sure how I'd call it though..

 

One thing that bugs me about the recording is that it always seemed to me the choir is out of sync in this spot.

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On 7/29/2017 at 10:22 AM, filmmusic said:

The Phantom Menace ( 2 cd)

- the Force theme fragment in Inside the Bubble City, seems to me a distinct complete theme unrelated to the force theme (of course all themes are related in essence having common motifs, rhythmic values etc. but this seems like a new theme). But I'm not sure how I would call it. In the sheet music Williams describes it as "noble".

 

I agree that this is a different theme.

 

On 7/29/2017 at 10:22 AM, filmmusic said:

There he mentions a Landing motif that first appears in Phantom Menace at 0.35.09 of latest video release (i never succeeded in matching the timestamps he's giving for various themes) and also appears in episodes 2, and 4.

 

I call this the Tatooine motif because it is first heard as we see the planet and as the crew mentions its name. It then reappears as the crew is first making its way onto the surface.

 

On 7/29/2017 at 10:22 AM, filmmusic said:

could this be the "unknown 1" in Arrivat al Tattooine? (don't remember now if it appears in II & IV, and haven't checked the other films from your list).

 

Yes, it's the same as unknown 1 in Arrival at Tatooine, but all of the other citations I would say are definitely not the same. Most of them are uses of what Sharky has long identified in Williams' writing as the Hungarian minor scale, particularly outlining its most characteristic notes - scale degrees 1, b6, and #4. He uses it all over the place in his scores to denote evil or mystery. Other citations in the list have a similar short-long-long rhythm but are very different in intervals and harmony.

 

On 7/29/2017 at 10:22 AM, filmmusic said:

-He also mentions a conversation motif at 0.48.58 (first appearnce in Episode I) and also appearing in VII.

Is this your conversation theme?

 

You mean Fal's "Discussion and Confrontation motif". Yes, this is the theme that was discussed earlier in the thread that doesn't seem to have a strong association.

 

On 8/11/2017 at 0:01 PM, filmmusic said:

Was listening to Return of the Jedi now.

 

The grandiose theme we hear in  cd2track7 of the 1997 release at 5.02 - 5.36  seems like a very distinct one to me, and i consider it one of the highlights of the entire score and film.

The fact that we hear it only once, increases its impact.

I'm not sure how I'd call it though..

 

I call this the "Rebel Victory" theme because it first appears as Han shoots the sarlaac's arm off of Lando, turning the tide there, and reappears near the end of the film as the Death Star explodes, but in a shorter and faster guise. Compare:

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Ludwig said:

 

 

 

I call this the "Rebel Victory" theme because it first appears as Han shoots the sarlaac's arm off of Lando, turning the tide there, and reappears near the end of the film as the Death Star explodes, but in a shorter and faster guise. Compare:

 

 

 

 

Hello Ludwig.

I meant another theme, not the Victory theme..

Track 7 on 2nd cd, 5.02-5.36 (I see by a strange coincidence the Victory theme was also exactly at 5.02 of track 7, but on first cd)

The religioso theme. This could have easily been composed for a biblical film of the 50s-60s by Alfred Newman or someone.

Inside the movie, it was a highlight for me. Very dramatic!

 

In this theme i meant, the recording seems a bit problematic to me like the choir is out of sync or something.

 

 

 

thank you for your comments on the other things.

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On 8/11/2017 at 6:01 PM, filmmusic said:

Was listening to Return of the Jedi now.

The grandiose theme we hear in  cd2track7 of the 1997 release at 5.02 - 5.36  seems like a very distinct one to me, and i consider it one of the highlights of the entire score and film.

The fact that we hear it only once, increases its impact.

I'm not sure how I'd call it though..


Hi man, I've always found this to be an earlier presentation of it when Luke surrenders to Vader and acknowledges him as his father during their conversation.
 

 

and then of course later, the glorious biblical version.
 


There are probably more references throughout the score but I've never made much of a search or study on it to be honest.
The 'Father & Son' version always popped out to me though.

There's a similar figure after Yoda dies and Luke makes his way back to the X-Wing contemplating his new revelations.
 

 

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  • 1 month later...

The presentations in Father & Son and Death of a Jedi Master remind me of Kylo's mournful theme, in the repeated notes and the fall at the end. Might just be how Williams tends to portray the tragedy of the dark side?

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I don't know if anyone has seen this.

It was posted by Frank Lehman at facebook, and it contains all the themes/motifs (well I'm sure each person will find a different number of these) from the Star Wars Saga.

They will be included in his chapter of the new John Williams book Emilio Audissino talked about in another thread here.

 

 

22339710_10101571210573221_775433098549827753_o.jpg

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There are over ninty motives in there! I think its something of a case of over-analysis, if you will. It probably includes the motives that Williams uses to portray individual set-pieces (think about the music of the Battle in the Snow, the prison scenes in Cloud City or even the ostinato in Chase Through Curoscant), which don't quite count as leitmotives because they don't recur.

 

Also, Williams often repeats certain gestures that you'd be hard pressed to assign any clear-cut thematic significance: the aforementioned music of the prison scenes in Empire returns when Boba had escaped with Han's effigy, for instance. But is it a leitmotif, though?

 

Williams also uses certain orchestral colors to represent things: "bouncing" horn for Luke's landspeeder; women choir for the underwater scenes in The Phantom Menace. Neither is really a leitmotif when you really think about it.

 

All those things lend themselves to over-analysis. There's also the issue of long-lined themes. Is Luke's theme one leitmotif, or could the B-section be considered a separate one? what about the end-cap of Across the Stars? the ostinato accompaniment of Duel of the Fates?

 

I myself much prefer the less inclusive approach taken by Doug Adams et al. It doesn't cover all episodes, but if it did, it would probably amount to about half of the number of themes.

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I know. He also said in an interview, just before Empire Strikes Back was released, that he wrote thematic material for the Battle in the Snow. In both cases it's more the application of a certain orchestral color than any fixed melodic or even rhythmic idea. There's a reason neither appears in Adams' analysis. Hell, The so-called thematic material for Hoth isn't even mentioned by Matessino, either!

 

I guess what I'm saying is don't over-analyze. Williams refrains from writing so many themes, and he does so intentionally! As he so often says, he doesn't have the audience's full attention during the film. So writing a very dense score, in his eyes, would only create confusion.

 

 

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Hi guys,

 

Frank Lehman here--permanent lurker, semi-regular poster a long, long time ago. Just chiming in to offer some hype for Emilio's upcoming edited volume on John Williams, of which my chapter is just one of 20 by a huge range of international scholars.

 

The title of my particular contribution is "Thematic Material of Star Wars: Catalog and Commentary," and its basic goal is to give a rigorous framework for identifying recurrent musical materials in this series. My criteria for what is and is not a leitmotif are fairly strict, but perhaps more importantly, completely explicit, since different people can have honest disagreements over what counts as what; you can disagree on the criteria, but hopefully you'll find I'm at least consistent in applying them. 

 

The picture above is just a silly little collage I made of most of the I transcribed (with some missing and some duplicates!). They're not all leitmotifs. Actually, by my criteria I hold there are just over 30 leitmotifs across all 7 movies, and of them, only ten or so principal leitmotifs that approach the developmental standards of, say, the mature Wagner operas. The vast majority of the rest are either thematic B-sections, incidental motifs, recurrent style topics, or themes limited to set-pieces. So for example, while there is a repeated little melodic/rhythmic idea in ESB (an ascending and immediately descending major second) that eagle-eared listeners might pick out, it lacks the consistent symbolic content or clear musical identity for me to feel like it's a leitmotif. So, into the much looser and more welcoming category "Incidental Motif" it goes. I'll be going through all this much more explicitly in my chapter, but can't share it with you guys just yet because technically it's not even finished. Given the publication schedule, there might be time for me to squeeze in whatever new stuff shows up in The Last Jedi. (My hope, above all, is that "Luke & Leia" returns and ascends to the level of a principle motif -- such a glorious, underutilized theme).

 

Emilio's book will be amazing when it comes out, and I hope you all check it out. Besides me and Emilio, Mark Richards has an essay on thematic form and structure that, if you know anything about his work, will be amazingly insightful and rigorous. And a piece I saw previewed by Chloe Huvet on E.T. which is brilliant. We also conducted an interview with Keith Lockhart about the process of conducting Williams's scores live to picture which I think a lot of you will find eye-opening. 

 

Cheers!

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  • 1 month later...

just finished reading through this amazing topic and want to first say thanks - it's an awesome reference and discussion, and i'll be going through it more as i repeatedly listen to all 7 soundtracks and rewatch the films leading up to TLJ

 

i did notice one thing today in my listening:

on TPM (OST) The Arrival at Tatooine... 0:40 Unknown 2, i hear the first 4 notes of kylo's main theme repeating down an octave

 

i'm surprised i never noticed it before, but it really stood out all of a sudden in my mind and made me picture kylo landing on tatooine

obviously no intentional relation, although a fan theory on that connect would be amusing!

also looking forward to hearing more about the aforementioned Emilio's book

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  • 3 weeks later...
28 minutes ago, Falstaft said:

Hi everyone.

 

Chiming again to let you know I've updated my catalogue of SW leitmotifs to include TLJ, which to my ears includes 3 new "true* leitmotifs (Rose, Luke in Exile, and that very desperate phrase most memorably associated with Hondo's sacrifice). I've also included explanatory notes for my definitions, updating timings, and notation for main leitmotifs. This is based on a quick first pass through the film and soundtrack, and I imagine there'll be a lot more for us to discover as we become more acquainted with the score, especially if unreleased material shows up soon. 

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xJ0Jj-mLfOPUCtcAm_HDGIkFwvHL5gbX/view?usp=sharing

 

(alternative link: https://www.academia.edu/33487589/Complete_Catalogue_of_Star_Wars_Leitmotifs_Compiled_by_Frank_Lehman_Updated_for_Episode_8_THE_LAST_JEDI_with_new_links_and_musical_notation_ )

 

This is all but a preview of what will appear in Emilio Audissino's upcoming anthology, of course, though there are certain advantages to digital documents -- namely, hyperlinks to youtube.

 

Hope this is of some use to you guys, and let me know if I'm missing anything! 

 

Frank

Leitmotif Catalogue Online Version.pdf

 

I think what you call the Desperation motif might infact be Admiral Holdo's theme.

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14 minutes ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

I think what you call the Desperation motif might infact be Admiral Holdo's theme.

I was just going to say the same thing but I don't actually recall how that motif is used in the film. I can't remember when it was used. Did it play in the lead up to Holdo's big scene?

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17 minutes ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

I think what you call the Desperation motif might infact be Admiral Holdo's theme.

 

That was my first instinct too, but it appears before and after her big scene, notably around the beginning of the Supremacy attack in a speedy version and later in a clipped version during the Battle of Crait. My suspicion is that it was originally a more prominent theme but some versions didn't make the final cut. Seems like an outgrowth of the March of the Resistance in some ways...

 

 

 

 

and

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Falstaft said:

 

That was my first instinct too, but it appears before and after her big scene, notably around the beginning of the Supremacy attack in a speedy version and later in a clipped version during the Battle of Crait. My suspicion is that it was originally a more prominent theme but some versions didn't make the final cut. Seems like an outgrowth of the March of the Resistance in some ways...

 

 

 

 

and

 

 

 

Hmm. Interesting. Will have to see what visual it plays over. She's certainly not in final battle. So I wonder over what visual does the theme appear.

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

Hmm. Interesting. Will have to see what visual it plays over. She's certainly not in final battle. So I wonder over what visual does the theme appear.

 

Not super sure but I'm guessing the first is when The Supremacy has begun it's attack on the main Resistance ship and Poe is running toward his X-Wing. The second I think it when Rose can't get the TIE Fighters off her speeder's back.

 

In between the big Holdo scene, the motif also plays prominently when Rey and Rey are playing lightsaber tug of war.

 

You can also hear it in "The Supremacy" at :36

 

 

(and even a few seconds earlier you hear a hint of it at :23)

 

My best guess for this is when they're realizing that they've been tracked through hyperspace.

 

And again during "Chrome Dome" at :24

 

 

There's also another small motif that plays before this theme in "The Supremacy," "Chome Dome," and the "Finale" (where it also plays alongside) which, if I'm not mistaken, can be heard in "On the Inside" (FYC) and one of the unused alternates from TFA. 

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  • 4 months later...

I have another question:

What Fal says Obi-Wan/Investigation/Jedi Order Motif in Yoda and the Younglings (Attack of the Clones), Frank Lehman refers to as Jedi Business theme, and that it appears in several occassions.

Can anyone point me to these other occassions in the score?

(checked the horn line in the whole written score, but can't find it. Unless it's in another instrument)

 

Also, the opening theme in that same track.

Could we say it's a distinct theme of its own? the R2D2 theme (as it is used in the film)

it seems very characteristic to me, and not just descriptive music.

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Its worth mentioning that Lehman very astutely refers to it as an "incidental" motif, i.e. not really a leitmotif, but some kind of incidentaly-recurring gesture. The same, I think, can be said for the gesture you are refering to for R2D2.

 

Its tricky with Attack of the Clones because it may be the score that Williams himself has said the least about, so there's less to go on from the point of view of authorial intent, outside of "Across the Stars".

 

That being said, I think there is something to be said for Williams using what is effectivelly the same gesture as his "Separatist motif" for Voldemort in Chamber of Secrets - its evident that it was a "villain's theme" in his mind. So that counts.

 

I would also argue that, from the point of view of arranging the album, the fact that he chose to edit the opening track so extensively such that it features the Kamino motif as heavily as it does, is evidence that he concieved that as a leitmotif, too, and intended to present it as such on the album.

 

Other than that - and maybe the returning Shmi material - we don't have much to go on, though. I don't really doubt, for example, that the "Courting on Naboo" music is intended as a secondary love theme, but beyond that? who knows? 

 

The tracking in the film sure doesn't help, because it can make you hear recurring themes all over the place, only to find out it was tracked...

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4 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

Its worth mentioning that Lehman very astutely refers to it as an "incidental" motif, i.e. not really a leitmotif, but some kind of incidentaly-recurring gesture. The same, I think, can be said for the gesture you are refering to for R2D2.

 

Its tricky with Attack of the Clones because it may be the score that Williams himself has said the least about, so there's less to go on from the point of view of authorial intent.

Yes, I saw the incidental thing.

In my dissertation I use quite a few incidental motifs/themes from each Williams scored film, and I can't decide if i could use these 2.

I think I'll use the "R2D2 incidental theme", but I can't decide for the other horn theme. If it is used more than once (although I have used themes that are used only once but are more characateristic), I'll use it too.

But i can't find any other instance of it .. :unsure:

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@Fal

Thanks.

In the first video it's certainly a close variation. (especially evident in the trumpet)

i wouldn't say the same about the second.

And I can't hear the 3rd one.

edit:  i listened the 3rd from another video. It's at 1.46 , right?

Well, both this and the second one I'd say come from Shmi's theme..

 

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Not Shmi’s theme, per se, though, but the mornful horn writing associated with her demise. If there’s a recurring “theme” in there its the result of tracking.

 

Shmi’s actual theme (sorta) is a returning oboe line from The Phantom Menace.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interestingly, John Powell states in an interview that JW told him that he always intended the Rebel Fanfare to be a theme for the Falcon itself and that's how he approached using it. Suddenly, Follow Me and The Falcon from TFA make a lot more sense.

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There's stuff like The Death Star and TIE Fighter Attack, which are major Falcon scenes and feature the fanfare heavily (and some of my favourite cues of all time), but technically you could make the argument that the Falcon is representing all of the Rebellion at those moments. There's Luke and Han, R2 with the stolen plans, and later Leia. There are however many appearances with no Falcon in sight, so it made sense to call it Rebel Fanfare. 

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33 minutes ago, Holko said:

There's stuff like The Death Star and TIE Fighter Attack, which are major Falcon scenes and feature the fanfare heavily (and some of my favourite cues of all time), but technically you could make the argument that the Falcon is representing all of the Rebellion at those moments. There's Luke and Han, R2 with the stolen plans, and later Leia. There are however many appearances with no Falcon in sight, so it made sense to call it Rebel Fanfare. 

I'm gonna listen to ANH from start to finish soon. I think that would be the best film to see how JW used the Rebel Fanfare/Falcon motif. I don't recall any major uses of it in ESB and I'm curious to revisit ROTJ later. I think at some point, JW might have just relented on the Falcon theme becoming the Rebel Fanfare. Or his memory is just spotty again.

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It starts with it immediately on the Tantive IV with random rebels running around.

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