Tag Archives: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Something I was really excited about when the sequel trilogy was announced was finding out all of the new music John Williams would create for the galaxy far far away. After all, this is the composer who brought us “The Imperial March” as well as the Star Wars Overture, just to name two of many, MANY examples. We’ll be arguing for years about how these themes stack up against the musical themes created for the original trilogy, but for now I’ll be satisfied in just looking at the sequel trilogy themes that interest me the most.

One such theme that I want to talk about is the theme for Kylo Ren, the primary villain for most of the sequel trilogy. Well, properly speaking this is more of a motif than a proper theme. The difference is in length: a theme, like “The Imperial March” is somewhat longer, lasting for several minutes while a motif consists of a bare handful of notes in comparison. Listen below, the motif comes around the 0:50 mark and I’ll explain after.

 

You hear that, right? Those five notes? That’s the sum total of Kylo Ren’s theme. It doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but there’s really a lot going on here. First, the sharp tone of that brass is designed to grab your attention, this is a character to pay attention to. As a result, even before we know who Kylo Ren is, we know that this is someone important. Second, and more importantly, these five notes are actually related to “The Imperial March.”

For instance, here’s the first part of “The Imperial March” below:

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Now, look at Kylo Ren’s Theme:

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To see the similarity, compare the last five notes of the “Imperial March” motif to Kylo Ren’s Theme. Notice how they move in the same way? If it helps, hum the last part of “The Imperial March” and then hum Kylo Ren’s Theme to yourself. They’re not identical by any means, but the similarity is there.

And how fitting is it that Kylo Ren’s theme be derived from “The Imperial March”?? This is Darth Vader’s grandson after all, musically speaking it makes all the sense in the world that their themes would have a connection. It’s also a great way to musically connect the original trilogy to the sequel trilogy, even if the connection isn’t that obvious at first glance.

This is yet another example of John Williams’ musical genius at work. He can go back to a theme he created decades ago and derive something completely new from it. Not all composers can do that AND do it well, and Williams handles it masterfully. This is just one example of how well the master can work.

Let me know what you think about this look at Kylo Ren’s Theme in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Empire Strikes Back: “The Imperial March” by John Williams

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “Kylo Ren’s Theme (Redeemed Version)” (2019)

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A Random Thought on “The Force Awakens”

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

Property of Disney

So considering Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out almost two months ago, I’m fairly certain we’ve all seen it at least once by now (I’ve seen it twice myself). As I eagerly began to discuss the film with my friends, I began to notice a trend in the comments people were making about John William’s score. To get to the point, a lot of the people I talked to didn’t think it was very good.

I know everyone can have their own opinion, but I feel this is something I should address, so here goes: I don’t believe that Williams’ score for The Force Awakens is any weaker than the earlier Star Wars scores. I do admit that Williams hasn’t created the equivalent of “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back…but I don’t think the film called for such a musical statement.

Here’s my take on the music (and the film in general): As we are being introduced to a new generation of Star Wars characters, The Force Awakens was very much about “passing the torch.” Rey is now flying the Falcon, Kylo Ren is the new bad guy, etc. In that vein, a good chunk of the characters and situations are echoes of what was found before: The First Order is an echo of the old Empire, the Resistance is the Rebellion, etc, and so on. Because all of these things and characters are “echoes” of the original, it makes sense that the music would not be as intense as before, not yet at any rate. Keep in mind that “The Imperial March” was not introduced until The Empire Strikes Back. I firmly believe that Williams has a few musical surprises up his sleeve (unfortunately we have to wait until the end of 2017 to find out what they are.)

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