The Imperial March
|"The Imperial March"|
|Single by Boston Pops Orchestra|
|from the album Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (soundtrack)|
|Released||April 29, 1980|
"The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)", also known as the "Imperial Death March", is a musical theme present in the Star Wars franchise. It was composed by John Williams for the film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Together with "Yoda's Theme", "The Imperial March" was premiered on April 29, 1980, "three weeks before the opening of the film, on the occasion of John Williams' first concert as official conductor-in-residence of the Boston Pops Orchestra." One of the best known symphonic movie themes, it is a classic example of a leitmotif, a recurrent theme associated with characters or events in a drama.
This musical theme draws many elements from Mars, the Bringer of War by Gustav Holst and Piano Sonata No. 2, also known as The Funeral March, by Chopin and exhibits noticeable similarities as a result.
Use in Star Wars
"The Imperial March" is sometimes referred to simply as "Darth Vader's Theme." In the movies (except for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), the march is often played when Darth Vader appears. It is also played for the arrival of Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, though it does segue into the Emperor's own theme as he appears.
"The Imperial March" is first heard in The Empire Strikes Back in low piccolos as the Galactic Empire sends probe droids across the galaxy in search of Luke Skywalker. Its major opening occurs as Star Destroyers amass and Darth Vader is first presented in the film, 18 minutes into the movie. The theme and related motifs are also incorporated into tracks such as "The Battle of Hoth" and "The Asteroid Field". Return of the Jedi makes similar use of the theme, though its final statement is significantly different, making quiet use of a harp as a redeemed Anakin Skywalker dies in his son's arms.
"The Imperial March" appears on a few occasions in the prequel trilogy, most often used to hint at Anakin Skywalker's future as Darth Vader. An innocent theme for the nine-year-old Anakin in The Phantom Menace, is thematically based on "The Imperial March". "The Imperial March" is also heard towards the end, as Yoda acknowledges Anakin as Obi-Wan's apprentice in saying "The chosen One, the boy may be. Nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training". It is also heard softly in the end credits. In the second prequel, Attack of the Clones, "The Imperial March" is sometimes played subtly when an event foreshadows Anakin's future: It is first played when Yoda senses Anakin slaughtering a tribe of Tusken Raiders to avenge his mother's death and later with more force when Anakin tells Padmé Amidala what he did. It is played most prominently and recognizably during the final sequence when clone troopers assemble and depart Coruscant, foreshadowing that they will become the Imperial stormtroopers. Although "Across the Stars" is featured most prominently in the film's end credits, several notes from "The Imperial March" are heard beneath it near the end. In Revenge of the Sith the piece can be heard for a few seconds in "Battle of the Heroes" during the scene when Obi Wan and Anakin clash with their force powers.
Star Wars The Clone Wars
"The Imperial March" has influence in short but dark moments revolving around Anakin. For example, in episode 62 Citadel Rescue, Anakin and Captain Wilhuff Tarkin both mentioned during their escape their good relationship with the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Anakin shakes hands with Tarkin at the end of the episode, while Tarkin said he would inform the Chancellor of Anakin's good performance. During that handshake, a hint is to be heard in the music referring to "The Imperial March". Other episodes that feature the theme include "Brain Invaders" (when Anakin strangles Poggle), "Voyage of Temptation" (when Anakin kills Merrik), "Overlords" (multiple times), "Ghosts of Mortis" (multiple times), "Kidnapped" (when Obi-Wan talks with Anakin then Ashoka), "Deception" (multiple times) and "Friends and Enemies" (multiple times), "Crisis on Naboo" (when Anakin argues with Obi-Wan), "The Lawless" (during Darth Sidious scenes), "The Jedi Who Knew Too Much" (multiple times).
Uses outside Star Wars
||This article may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples. (October 2010)|
Uses in sport
The music has been used as emblematic of sporting rivalries. Numerous high school and college marching bands have taken to playing the march during football games, particularly when a home team's defense is on the field or has made a big play. The first regular use of "The Imperial March" was in the 1980s, when John Thompson led the Georgetown Hoyas men's basketball team onto the floor with "The Imperial March" being played by the Georgetown band, perpetuating the sullen, intimidating persona of the Hoyas. In January 2003, during Super Bowl XXXVII, ABC Sports took to using "The Imperial March" as a leitmotif for the Oakland Raiders. Three-time and current World Professional Darts Champion John Part uses the theme as entrance for his matches.
Use in music
- Ska punk group No Doubt did a live cover of the song for their Live in the Tragic Kingdom DVD.
- Remixed eurodance versions of the song have appeared on the Dancemania series albums, including the 1999 sub-series compilation Dancemania Speed 3.
- The progressive metal band Bigelf use it in introduction of their concerts. In addition, their singer, Damon Fox, has a Yoda decal on his keyboard.
- The ragga-punk band Skindred uses "The Imperial March" alongside a basic drum beat as entrance music at their live performances.
- The black metal band Immortal's song "Pure Holocaust" from the album of the same name is said to have been inspired by "The Imperial March".
- The Argentinian band Jauría recorded a version of the song in its self-titled debut album. The song, called "Marcha Imperial", serves as an introduction to the next song, "Guerra de las galaxias" ("Star Wars").
- Canadian band Barenaked Ladies performed a version of the Imperial March on their Maroon tour, with multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn singing a set of parody lyrics based on Britney Spears' hit song Oops! ...I Did It Again.
- The nerdcore rap rock band 2 Skinnee J's uses the march as a backing track for their song "Irresistible Force". The band also uses parts of the piece to form the beat of "Friends Don't Let Friends Listen to Rap Metal".
- Rapper Ya Boy sampled the song in "16's with me".
- The Dutch symphonic metal band Epica did a live cover of the song which is found on The Classical Conspiracy live album.
- In the first movie the Imperial March is not used. However in the Family Guy Spoof of Star Wars Blue Harvest, the Imperial March is turned into an Elevator Muzak version and is heard as Chris (as Luke), Peter (as Han) and Brian (as Chewie) travel up the lift in the Death Star.
- In 2007, the Band of the Welsh Guards notoriously played the Imperial March to greet Saudi Arabian King Abdullah when he visited the UK on a controversial state visit.
- In a scene in the 2012 movie Ted, when the character John Bennett loses his phone he has his girlfriend ring it when the ringtone for her number goes off and it turns out to be The Imperial March, which disturbs her because it "sounds negative" so he tells her it is from The Notebook instead.
- The song is used by Raj Koothrapalli in the episode "The Excelsior Acquisition" and Sheldon Cooper in "The Cooper/Kripke Inversion", both in The Big Bang Theory, to demonstrate dramatic circumstances. Raj plays the song while entering the local comic book store in order to announce his entrance, and Sheldon uses it as his "I'm unhappy and about to destroy the planet" music, because he has to collaborate with his rival physicist, Barry Kripke.
- Larsen & Irons (2007), p.171.
- Michael Matessino, booklet for original soundtrack recording for Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition, page 17. RCA ASIN B000003G8G. "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) is the now famous signature theme for Darth Vader."
- "Welsh Guard plays Imperial Death March for Saudi King". dayinthe.net. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- Michael Matessino, booklet for original soundtrack recording for Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition, page 6. RCA ASIN B000003G8G.
- Irena Paulus, "Williams versus Wagner or an Attempt at Linking Musical Epics" International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 31 2 (2000): 153. "John Williams used leitmotifs in the genuine sense of the word. He has come very close to the practice of Wagner in the various procedures in which he varies and transforms his themes, and in using the idea of the thematic image (the arch-theme that is the unifying element of the musical material). However, the similarity of Williams's and Wagner's leitmotifs is greatest in the area of kinship of themes (a series of new themes or motifs derive from a single motif or theme) on the basis of which both of them create a web of mutually related leitmotifs. The closeness of the procedures of the two can also be found in the area of melody, rhythm, form, harmony, instrumentation, and even in the domain of the ratio of the old and the new in their music. The ultimate objective of Richard Wagner was to create the music drama, music for the stage based on the old roots of opera, in which all the musical elements were subordinated to the drama. The ultimate aim of John Williams was to take part in the creation of a film in which his music would serve to define the film's substance and help all the other elements of it to function property."
- Wiley, Ralph, Darth Vader of G'Town
- Urbanski, Heather (2007). Plagues, Apocalypses and Bug-Eyed Monsters: How Speculative Fiction Shapes Our Nightmares. New York: McFarland. pp. 132–133.
- "Professional Dart Players Walk on Music...". Darts501.com. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- "Or Does It Explode?: King Abdullah Greeted in England with Darth Vader Theme Music (and Protests)". Ordoesitexplode.com. 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- Wong, David (2011-06-09). "7 Legendary Acts of Petty Revenge". Cracked.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05.