Tag Archives: The Imperial March

Star Wars: A New Hope “The Empire motif” (1977)

Since it’s introduction in 1980, the “Imperial March” has become so closely associated with Darth Vader and the Empire that it is occasionally forgotten that this theme was written for The Empire Strikes Back and not the original Star Wars film. With that revelation, several people have asked me “Well, what theme did the Empire have before the Imperial March?”

 

The short answer is…it really didn’t. It must be remembered that at the time the original film was made, none of that glorious backstory existed yet.. We’d never met the Empire before, and nobody knew who Darth Vader was. In short, John Williams needed a way to make it clear the Empire was the overall bad guy in the film, a musical starting point as it were that could be built upon in future films (clearly he went in another direction entirely but that’s a conversation for another day).

The “Empire” motif that stands in for the Empire in A New Hope is very simple, consisting of three upward moving chords that sound rather ominous in the way they’re played, usually in sync with a shot of the Death Star or an Imperial Star Destroyer (or both). It’s admittedly a far cry from the “Imperial March” that will come in just a few years, but it does do an admirable job of letting you know when the story is shifting back to the Empire.

Incidentally, this motif does appear in a blink and you’ll miss it moment in Rogue One (when Director Krennic is meeting Tarkin, right before that meeting begins, listen carefully as the Death Star’s dish is being slid into place).

And that’s all I’ve got on the original “Empire” motif in Star Wars: A New Hope. I know it’s hard to imagine a world where the “Imperial March” didn’t represent the Empire, but for a few years that’s what we had.

Let me know what you think of the original “Empire” motif in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: A New Hope “The Throne Room” (1977)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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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:

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 4.55.27 PM

Now, look at Kylo Ren’s Theme:

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 4.59.35 PM

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)

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂