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:
Now, look at Kylo Ren’s Theme:
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!
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