4 – The Main Theme

MONDAY, January 13, 2020

The Main Theme is one of two themes linked to Luke…

This appears in the very first movie and is also sometimes called the Luke Theme. I thought this would be a good time to talk about Star Wars again because the final film came out at the end of last year. It turns out that I wrote about these themes exactly a year ago, and I think at that time people were interested. But I put in a whole bunch of themes, and this year it might be fun to look at them one by one.

If you love Star Wars, you’ll love the music. But even if you hate the movies, it is likely you will at least like some of the music. It is iconic. John Williams, the composer, has won more awards than anyone except Disney, and he started the Star War Music many years ago.

It started in 1977, and no one expected it to go viral…

I went to see the first film by myself, on a whim. At that time the whole concept was unexpected, and I don’t think a sci-fi film has ever had such world-wide success. I was 28 at the time. If someone had told me the story would officially end in 2019, I would not have believed it.

42 years later…

The last episode came out in December of 2020. That means three generations of kids have seen all the movies. I’m disappointed in the last movie, but not in the music. Williams is the man who has united all these episodes.

Leitmotiv, a guiding motif:

A Leitmotiv (German for “guiding motif”) is a theme that announces characters. Wagner was famous for using this idea, although he did not use the word “Leitmotiv”, but perhaps the most famous use of the Leitmotiv is by John Williams in Star Wars. And the most famous theme of all is the main theme to the movie, which is sometimes called Luke’s Theme.

The main theme…

This starts the music and is in every Star Wars movie. It is probably the most well known theme. I remember that every one of my brass players wanted to play it. In 1977 I had only been teaching a few years, and I worked with many exceptional teens who played trumpet, trombone, French horn, euphonium and tuba. They were very similar to some of the amazing teens I show here, playing in so many elite organizations for highly talented music students.

I encourage people to listen to both versions, because they are not the same.

First the iconic version from the first movie.

John Williams usually presents something about five minutes long, and it always has more than one theme, so you will also hear the Darth Vader theme, sometimes called the Imperial March and the Force theme, also linked to Luke as wall as to Obi Wan Kenobi. But mainly it is the big, heroic theme.

The same thing, 42 years later, but is it the same?

Not exactly. First of all, it starts a bit differently, and it’s longer. There are more themes. The orchestration is a bit different here and there. Obviously Williams is using his own music, and he is free to change, alter or expand anything he chooses. The middle is very different. It’s darker and more menacing. Over the years the whole story got darker. Obviously there are a lot more themes in 10 minutes of music, but the main theme is still recognizable. It ends the music. The whole story is something like 20 hours long. This means the complete saga is actually longer than the Wagner Ring Cycle, and in more than 40 years Williams wrote a huge amount of music, more than what is in the movies.


3 thoughts on “4 – The Main Theme

  1. I love Star Wars ever since I was younger and in the middle of both pieces you can clearly tell the difference. The newer one has a more of a calmer and cleaner sound compared to the original.

  2. This theme is one of the most easily recognizable pieces ever put to film and I love how triumphant it is and how many instruments clash together in very beautiful ways and how the new version is much calmer and feels more resolute which makes sense because the movie is the resolution of the star wars saga thus far.

Leave a Reply