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Is the "Medallion Theme" from Raiders really about the medallion?

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31 minutes ago, Jay said:

I've always just thought of it as the B section of the Ark Theme >shrug<

But the Ark theme plays in its entirety in "The Miracle of the Ark". It gets a full ending there, and the statements are quite thunderous. It's not like the A and B parts of the Raiders March...

 

These are clearly two distinct themes. Why would Williams send two themes? 

 

Edit: It never occured to me that the theme could describe the Ark. If it was some sort of discarded prototype, then the initial thought process of Williams concerning the Ark would have to be very far removed from his ultimate plan for the film. It's just... too light and lively for an artifact of power. I cannot imagine that George Lucas did not convey during the spotting session that the Ark Theme should be mighty, ancient, or awe inspiring---things that the "Medallion theme" is not.

 

Ok, it can get powerful when played by horns in the finale, but especially with those strings above it sounds to me like a clear echo of Belloq's extatic "It's beautiful!", so something more from his, human perspective, and not something impartial, like the Ark Theme. It's a dramatic human theme straight from Dracula end credits.

 

But again, the thought that it is a theme of falling in love with the Ark itself conflicts with the use of it in the introduction scene with Marion, where it accompanies the train of thoughts that leads her to the selling of the medallion, a direct opposite. Why would Williams write music directly against what the character is drifting towards?

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What Jay is probably thinking of is the moment in Ark Trek, where the second half of the medallion theme does appear as the b section of the Ark theme, creating a single moment of unity of the two themes. Following your interpretation, this could be seen as the point in the story where the raw power of the Ark and the corrupt ambition to use it finally come together?

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The analysis is really interesting.

However, I always think music fans have a tendency to over-analyze the meaning of music themes. John Williams has always been very liberal in how he uses themes. He does spend a lot of time creating the "right" themes, but I don't think he spends a lot of time thinking deep meanings for them.

I agree that the theme seems to represent a more seductive aspect of the Ark/Medallion, and as Jay says, it always appears alongside with the main Arc theme, except for its first appearance (which is why it's usually associated with the Medallion).

Therefore, I agree that the theme is not necessarily a "Medallion theme", but rather a secondary melody associated with the Arc. (There's another hidden appearance of the theme, during the "Map Room" scene, where it's briefly quoted as well).

 

By the way, why do you say the theme is in Eb major? The theme is obviously in C minor, as is the main arc theme.

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2 hours ago, ChrisAfonso said:

What Jay is probably thinking of is the moment in Ark Trek, where the second half of the medallion theme does appear as the b section of the Ark theme, creating a single moment of unity of the two themes. Following your interpretation, this could be seen as the point in the story where the raw power of the Ark and the corrupt ambition to use it finally come together?

Oh, I missed that moment, not sure why. My answer would go like this: the theme is heard again when the main focus of the screen become the Nazi soldiers carrying the Ark and lingers on the evil major Toht. It's a stronger version of what played when Indy and Sallah were taking the Ark away.

 

 The transition between the two themes is not seamless(!) These are still two separate themes.

56 minutes ago, oierem said:

The analysis is really interesting.

(1) However, I always think music fans have a tendency to over-analyze the meaning of music themes. John Williams has always been very liberal in how he uses themes. He does spend a lot of time creating the "right" themes, but I don't think he spends a lot of time thinking deep meanings for them.

(2) I agree that the theme seems to represent a more seductive aspect of the Ark/Medallion, and as Jay says, it always appears alongside with the main Arc theme, except for its first appearance (which is why it's usually associated with the Medallion).

Therefore, I agree that the theme is not necessarily a "Medallion theme", but rather a secondary melody associated with the Arc. (There's another hidden appearance of the theme, during the "Map Room" scene, where it's briefly quoted as well).

(3) By the way, why do you say the theme is in Eb major? The theme is obviously in C minor, as is the main arc theme.

(1) I think I already adressed that. In fact, my analysis was originally very short, but then I imagined all the usual concerns (I wouldn't want to say: "accusations"), and decided to go an extra mile to adress them. I think there is a danger of a excluding anything unusual

(2) I should have made that more clear. It is a sin in the sense of using the Ark for personal gain. It's not a theme of the Ark, but of those who do something non-kosher with it. The introduction in the Washington scene of what the Ark is, the concerns Sallah raises, and the payoff in the finale are about God's wrath. It's elementary theology that in the Old Testament God's wrath is because of sin, and the moral categorization of characters in the movie is what determines who gets fried and who gets freed, so I don't understand why would Williams writing a theme about it is considered too intellectual.

(3) It's idiosyncratic. My hearing focuses on the Ebs in the three quarter part and I hear it that way. I also hear the final G chord as a III and not V. It sure can be wrong from a formal perspective, but since minor 6th chords are typical for romance as far as Williams goes, it is not weird to me to view them that way; that the theme starts with a minor 6th chord and not the root, because it is supposed to be romantic.

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I appreciate your in-depth analysis and I enjoyed reading it. I never thought too much about this theme, so it's cool to stop and consider what its meaning might be. And I think you're right that we shouldn't consider it a theme for the medallion. You make a great point that there are too many missed opportunities to use the theme if that was really what it was for. I also think you're correct that this and the ark theme are two distinct themes, even though they may appear together (similar to the Rise of Skywalker trio/victory themes). I haven't seen the film in a while, so I'll have to give this some thought next time I see it.

 

I disagree that the theme is strictly about "sin" as you suggest, but I think you're on the right track. Williams does a fantastic job at writing themes that don't just signal when a specific character or other story element appears onscreen, but represent whatever that character or thing represents. Often, his themes even express some larger undercurrents and themes of the film itself. Notice each Star Wars film has heroic themes, romantic themes, evil themes, and they're usually associated with specific characters, but they also reflect larger requirements of the story.

 

Here's how Williams described Luke's theme in an interview:

Quote

Flourishes and upward reaching; idealistic and heroic, in a very different way than Darth Vader of course, and a very different tonality—a very uplifted kind of heraldic quality. Larger than he is. His idealism is more the subject than the character itself, I would say.

Note the last line there. Luke's theme isn't just describing Luke's character, but the specific qualities he represents or possesses that are important to a heroic story like Star Wars.

 

The themes in Raiders of the Lost Ark function the same way. The Ark theme doesn't exist only to address the physical object, or signify when it's on screen. It fills the role, musically, of expressing an important driving force of the film - the awesome power of God that is not to be trifled with. And the theme has a dark quality to it that directly foreshadows what ultimately happens when it's opened.

 

So, with all that said, I think it's possible that the "medallion" theme is also meant to represent the ark, and some of the things the ark represents. But maybe it suggests slightly different ideas about the ark (and the film). "Sin" could be one of those things, although its meaning is probably broader than that. I would guess Williams wrote both themes loosely around the ark, and then chose to deploy one theme or the other as he intuited was appropriate for each scene. Compare it to the situation with the two themes for Kylo in The Force Awakens. What was on his mind when he wrote two themes for the same character? Well, we don't really know for sure. But we can agree the two themes express different qualities of the character, so they are not completely interchangeable. But it might also be a mistake to try and pigeonhole them by assigning strict meanings beyond the idea that they're themes for Kylo. Maybe we should describe these two ark-related themes by their mood, similar to how we talk about Kylo's themes, e.g. Kylo (tragic).

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6 hours ago, The River (Fal) said:

I mean, it scores a closeup of the Medallion in "Flight To Cairo"...

 

7 hours ago, oierem said:

John Williams has always been very liberal in how he uses themes. He does spend a lot of time creating the "right" themes, but I don't think he spends a lot of time thinking deep meanings for them.

 

6 hours ago, Falstaft said:

I wouldn't overthink the label here. The initial few statements of the theme link it with the Medallion, but most subsequent usages are looser. This is not atypical for Williams, or indeed any composer who uses the leitmotif technique in a non-mechanical way.

 

I think it's an interesting consideration. I've always known the theme as the "medallion theme", because my first version of the score was the Silva Screen album, where Lukas Kendall calls it that. But nearly as long as I can think back I've been perplexed by this, because it's used so rarely, and only once in clear connection with the medallion. That happens to be the first time we hear it, so it's an obvious connection to make, but why write a very distinctive theme for a specific object and then only use it for the first time we see that object and then a bunch of other times when we don't (including its biggest statement when the medallion has long left the story)? And if it were a part of the ark theme, why prominently introduce it on its own, in a scene not (directly) related to the ark, but then not use it in most of the major statements of the ark theme?

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It's a very interesting lens through which to view this theme, but I definitely agree with those who'd say it's simply associated with the ark, providing a different emotional color than the creepy doom and gloom of the main ark theme. Imagine that theme playing for the reveal of the medallion, or for the moment before the trip to Cairo, or for the swirling ghosts. It wouldn't communicate the right emotions; this other theme does. I think we can analyze it till the cows come home and I wouldn't denigrate anyone for it, but in terms of original intent, I doubt it was much more complicated than that.

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I also hear it as the B section of the Arc theme

4 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

 

 

And if it were a part of the ark theme, why prominently introduce it on its own, in a scene not (directly) related to the ark, but then not use it in most of the major statements of the ark theme?

the medallion leads to the Ark . A  lot of Williams themes have and b sections that play in different scenes

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I love your analysis and the conclusions you make. The only thing I would question is the key: to me it looks and sounds like it's in C minor, not Eb major. Using teh G major chord at the end of the theme very much sounds like it finishes on the dominant of the key (a classic imperfect cadence), not the mediant. Thanks again. :)

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This is amazing! I have been looking for something like this for decades. Thank you. 

But I think the tempo of the Ark's theme shown here is too fast , maybe "=60" is the right number? 

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