Music of Star Wars
The music of the Star Wars franchise is composed and produced in conjunction with the development of the feature films, television series, and other merchandise within the epic space opera franchise created by George Lucas. The music for the primary feature films (which serves as the basis for the rest of the related media) was written by John Williams. Williams' scores for the nine saga films (and a suite for a spin-off film) count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music, and utilize a symphony orchestra and features an assortment of about fifty recurring musical themes to represent characters and other plot elements: one of the largest caches of themes in the history of film music.
Released between 1977 and 2019, the music for the primary feature films was, in the case of the first two trilogies, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and, in select passages, by the London Voices chorus. The sequel trilogy was largely conducted by Williams and William Ross, and performed by the Hollywood Freelance Studio Symphony and (in a few passages) by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Additional composers have since contributed music to other movies and media within the Star Wars universe. The music for several animated and live-action television series spin-offs has been written by Kevin Kiner, Ludwig Göransson and Ryan Shore. Music for the spin-off films, other television programs, and video games, as well as the trailers of the various installments, were created by various other composers, with this material occasionally revisiting some of Williams' principal themes (and, with one spin-off film, with Williams actually writing a new theme for the composer to use).
The scores are primarily performed by a symphony orchestra of varying size joined, in several sections, by a choir of varying size. They each make extensive use of the leitmotif, or a series of musical themes that represents the various characters, objects and events in the films. Throughout all of the franchise, which consists of a total of over 18 hours of music, Williams has written approximately fifty themes in one of the largest, richest collection of themes in the history of film music.
|1977||Star Wars||John Williams||John Williams||Herbert W. Spencer||London Symphony Orchestra|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||London Voices (women)|
|1983||Return of the Jedi||London Voices (men)|
|1999||The Phantom Menace||Conrad Pope
|London Voices (SATB)
New London Children's Choir
|2002||Attack of the Clones||Conrad Pope
|London Voices (SATB)
Boy choir (synth)
|2005||Revenge of the Sith||London Voices (SATB)
Boy choir (synth)
|2015||The Force Awakens||John Williams
|Hollywood Freelance Studio Symphony||Hollywood Film Chorale (bass)|
|2017||The Last Jedi||John Williams
|Los Angeles Master Chorale (SATB, bass)|
|2019||The Rise of Skywalker||John Williams|
|2008||The Clone Wars||Kevin Kiner
John Williams (Original Themes)
|City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra|
|2016||Rogue One||Michael Giacchino
John Williams (Original Themes)
|Tim Simonec||William Ross
Herbert W. Spencer
|Hollywood Freelance Studio Symphony||Los Angeles Master Chorale|
John Williams (Han Solo Theme, Original Themes)
|Gavin Greenaway||(additional music and arrangements)
|London Session Orchestra
Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles (Han Solo Theme)
Kevin Kiner composed the score to the film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), the predecessor to the animated TV series of the same name. Both properties loosely use some of the original themes and music by John Williams. Kiner's own material for the film includes a theme for Anakin Skywalker's Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano, as well as a theme for Jabba the Hutt's uncle Ziro. Kiner went on to score the TV series' entire seven seasons, which concluded in 2020. A soundtrack album was released in 2014 by Walt Disney Records.
|2008–2020||Star Wars: The Clone Wars||Kevin Kiner||Takeshi Furukawa|
David G. Russell
Matthew St. Laurent
Russ Howard III
|2014–2018||Star Wars Rebels||David G. Russell|
Matthew St. Laurent
|2017–2018||Star Wars: Forces of Destiny||Ryan Shore|
|2018–2020||Star Wars Resistance||Michael Tavera|
|2019–present||The Mandalorian||Ludwig Göransson|
|1998||Star Wars: Rogue Squadron||Chris Huelsbeck|
|2001||Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader||Chris Huelsbeck|
|2002||Star Wars: Bounty Hunter||Jeremy Soule|
|2003||Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic||Jeremy Soule|
|2003||Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike||Chris Huelsbeck|
|2003||Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords||Mark Griskey|
|2005||Star Wars: Republic Commando||Jesse Harlin|
|2006||Star Wars: Empire at War||Frank Klepacki|
|2008||Star Wars: The Force Unleashed||Mark Griskey|
|2010||Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II||Mark Griskey|
|2015||Star Wars: Battlefront||Gordy Haab|
|2017||Star Wars: Battlefront II||Gordy Haab|
|2019||Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order||Stephen Barton|
|1996||Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire||Joel McNeely|
|2019||Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge||John Williams|
The scores utilize an eclectic variety of musical styles, many culled from the Late Romantic idiom of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries that itself was incorporated into the Golden Age Hollywood scores of Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. The reasons for this are known to involve George Lucas's desire to allude to the underlying fantasy element of the narrative rather than the science-fiction setting, as well as to ground the otherwise strange and fantastic setting in well-known, audience-accessible music. Indeed, Lucas maintains that much of the films' success relies not on advanced visual effects, but on the simple, direct emotional appeal of its plot, characters and, importantly, music.
Lucas originally wanted to use tracked orchestral and film music in a similar manner to 2001: A Space Odyssey, itself a major inspiration for Star Wars. Williams, however, advised to form a soundtrack with recurring musical themes to augment the story, while Lucas's choice of music could be used as a temporary track for Williams to base his musical choices on. This resulted in several nods or homages to the music of Gustav Holst, William Walton, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky in the score to Star Wars. Williams relied less and less on references to existing music in the latter eight scores, incorporating more strains of modernist orchestral writing with each progressive score, although occasional nods continue to permeate the music. The love theme from Empire Strikes Back is closely related to Williams' composition for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The score to Revenge of the Sith has clear resemblances to the successful scores of other contemporary composers of the time, namely Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings, Hans Zimmer's Gladiator and Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with which the movie was most likely scored contemporarily.[a] Otherwise, however, his later scores were mostly tracked with music of his own composition, mainly from previous Star Wars films. Yet, In Williams' score to The Last Jedi he, for the first time in the series, went so as far as to incorporate direct quotes of other compositions, namely "Aquarela Do Brasil" by Ary Barroso (in a nod to the 1985 Terry Gilliam film Brazil) and from his own theme for The Long Goodbye (co-composed by Johnny Mercer). Nevertheless, Williams also started to develop his style throughout the various films, incorporating other instruments, unusual orchestral set-ups (as well as various choral ensembles) and even electronic or electronically attenuated music as the films progressed. Williams often composed the music in a heroic but tongue-in-cheek style, and has described the scored film as a "musical".
Star Wars was one of the film scores that heralded the revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique that particularly influenced these scores is Williams' use of the leitmotif, which was most famously associated with the operas of Richard Wagner and, in early film scores, with Steiner. A leitmotif is a phrase or melodic cell that signifies a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It is commonly used in modern film scoring as a device for mentally anchoring certain parts of a film to the soundtrack. Of chief importance for a leitmotif is that it must be strong enough for a listener to latch onto while being flexible enough to undergo variation and development along the progression of the story. The more varied and nuanced the use of leitmotif is, the more memorable it typically becomes. A good example of this is the way in which Williams subtly conceals the intervals of "The Imperial March" within "Anakin's Theme" in The Phantom Menace, implying his dark future to come.
Also important is the density in which leitmotifs are used: the more leitmotifs are used in a piece of a given length, the more thematically rich it is considered to be. Film music, however, typically needs to strike a balance between the number of leitmotives used, so as to not become too dense for the audience (being preoccupied with the visuals) to follow. Williams' music of Star Wars is unique in that it is relatively dense for film scoring, with approximately 11 themes used in each two-hour film, of which about 90% is scored.
Williams re-recorded some of his suites from the first trilogy with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra as an album. Several of his later themes were released as singles and music videos, and were later released a collection of suites from the six films as a compilation that played to a series of clips from the films, with sparse dialogue and sound effects. These became the basis for a series of hour-long concerts which featured Star Wars music to images from the films, Star Wars: In Concert, which took place in 2009 and 2010. First performed in London, it went on to tour across the United States and Canada, last playing in London, Ontario, Canada on July 25, 2010.
The scores of the first trilogy (in the form of its Blu-Ray release) and The Force Awakens are performed as Live to Projection concerts, but with greatly reduced forces. The performances follow the music of the finished film, with some of the music looped, tracked or omitted entirely, and do not feature any of the diegetic pieces and often omit the choral parts.
John Williams sketched the score for his various orchestrations and wrote the music for a full symphony orchestra (ranging from 79 to 113 players overall) and, in several passages, chorus (ranging from 12 to 120 singers overall) and a few non-orchestral instruments. The orchestration is not consistent throughout the different films, but generally, the score makes use of a considerable brass section over a comparatively smaller string section, giving the series its heraldic, brassy sound.
Several of the scores require larger forces, including a large (over 100-piece) romantic-period orchestra, a mixed choir and even a boy choir, although none of the scores call for particularly immense forces compared to larger film or theater works. Nevertheless, due to added high woodwinds and percussion parts, scores such as Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones call for 106 and 110 players, respectively. The former called for a third harp and fourth bassoon, while the latter (and all prequel scores) utilized a fuller string section. Revenge of the Sith also utilized a second set of timpani. Comparatively, the original Star Wars trilogy and the sequel trilogy films call for much smaller forces of as little as 82 players, and small choral accompaniment in select cues. The first spin-off film, Rogue One, followed the prequel trilogy's instrumentation, using a 110-piece orchestra and 90-piece mixed choir.
In live performances, the forces are usually greatly reduced: Official Star Wars Concerts were held with as little as 60-piece orchestras and 50-piece mixed choral ensembles or with the choir omitted altogether. However, to recreate the nine scores as they were originally recorded, the following instrumentation is required:
- Woodwinds: 3 flutes (doubling on piccolos and an alto flute), 2 oboes (doubling on a cor anglais), 3 clarinets (doubling on a bass clarinet and an E-flat clarinet), 2 bassoons (doubling on a contrabassoon).
- Brass: 6 horns (doubling on Wagner Tubas), 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba.
- Keyboards: Piano, celesta, synthesizer.
- Timpani: 4–6 kettledrums.
- Percussion: at least three percussionists playing bass drums, tenor drums, snare drums (including guillotine drums, side drums, military drums), timbales, toms (floor tom and hanging toms), triangle, tambourine, cymbals (suspended, sizzle, crash and finger cymbals), tam-tam, xylophones, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, and anvil on all episodes. Also required are temple blocks (I), claves (II, V, VI), ratchet (V–VIII), marimba (I, IV, VII–VIII), bongos (I, IV, VII–VIII), congas (I–III, VI–VII), log drums (I, IV, VI–VII), low wood block (IV), bell plates, clappers (IV), steel drum (IV, VIII), boobams (I, IV, VII), medium gong (VI–VII), kendhang, rattle, sistrum, shekere, guiro, bamboo sticks, cowbells, hyoshigi (VI), bell tree (III), one medium Thai gong (VI), three medium chu-daiko drums (II–III, one for VII–VIII), washboard, goblet drum, caxixi (VIII).
- Strings: 2 harps, 14 first violins, 12 second violins, 10 violas, 10 violoncellos, 6 double basses.
- Additional instruments: 1 piccolo, 1 flute, 1–2 recorders, 2 oboes, 1 clarinet, 3 saxophones, 1–2 bassoons, 2 horns, trumpet, bass trombone, tuba, set of timpani, five percussionists, 89-piece SATB choir, 10 basso profundo singers, 30 boys, 1 Tibetan throat singer, narrator, 4 violins divided, 2 violas, 2 contrabasses, 1 harp.
- Non-orchestral instruments: Cretan Lyra and cümbüş (I), electric guitar (II), toy piano (VI), kazzo, highland bagpipes, didgeridoo (VIII).
Musical themes in the scores
John Williams wrote a series of themes and motifs for certain characters and ideas in each of the Star Wars films. The multiple installments allowed Williams to compose some fifty themes (and counting) and reprise some of them extensively, continually developing them over a long period of screen time.
Williams introduced a few themes in each episode (six themes on average) and focused on making each of his principal themes long-lined and melodically distinct from the others so as to increase their memorability. Williams occasionally forges small connections between some of these themes, sometimes for a narrative purpose and sometimes in the more general favor of cohesion. This technique allowed him (especially in his scores to the first trilogy) to have each theme play out for a large number of occasions (the Force Theme plays over one hundred times in the series) and over long periods of time.
Each score can be said to have a "main theme", which is developed and repeated frequently throughout the film, often to unusual extents (such as the frequency in which The Imperial March is revisited during Empire Strikes Back). Besides the main theme and a handful of other principal themes, Williams forged several smaller motifs for each episode, which are generally not as memorable and at times interchangeable. A main theme for the franchise exists as well (which is the music of the main titles), but a main theme does not exist to represent a particular trilogy. Instead, each trilogy (and to a lesser extent, each film) has its own style or soundscape.
Williams' Star Wars catalog remains one of the largest collections of leitmotifs in the history of cinema,[b] although – for comparison – it still falls short of Wagner's use of leitmotifs in the Ring Cycle or even Howard Shore's work on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. Both works feature many more themes for a similar or shorter running time; and use the themes more clearly and with more nuance, where Williams prefers to write fewer themes (to allow him to focus on them better) and use them in a more straightforward manner and sometimes, solely for their romantic effect. Shore and Wagner's themes are also inter-related and arranged into sets of subsets of related themes through various melodic or harmonic connections, whereas Williams prefers greater distinction between his themes.
Romantic application of Leitmotifs in the score
Williams' use of his themes in Star Wars is at times romantic rather than strictly thematic, the themes sometimes being used randomly because their mood fits a certain scene, rather than for a narrative purpose. For instance, the Force Theme is commonly associated with Luke Skywalker, while Star Wars' main theme is used as a generic "heroic theme" in conjunction with various characters without any connection to its namesake. Princess Leia's Theme is used for the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars, which has little to do with her character even though she is present in the scene. Yoda's Theme appears several times during the Cloud City sequences in The Empire Strikes Back. The concert piece Duel of the Fates is used several times throughout the prequel trilogy, appearing over the entire final battle in The Phantom Menace (as opposed to just the lightsaber duel for which it was written); Anakin Skywalker's search for his mother in Attack of the Clones; and the unrelated Yoda and Darth Sidious's duel in Revenge of the Sith. Williams' original composition for the Geonosis Battle Arena in Attack of the Clones, a variation on the Droid Army March, was used for the Utapau assault in Revenge of the Sith. Multiple uses of the Force Theme are also non-thematic.
The Rebel Fanfare is applied to the Millennium Falcon throughout the original Star Wars, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi. It is also used for R2-D2's heroics during the opening action scene in Revenge of the Sith. Kylo Ren's secondary theme, meant to evoke his more conflicted side, but since he quickly makes his allegiances clear, its generally used in tandem with his fanfare to evoke his menace, instead. The Emperor's theme is used in The Last Jedi when Supreme Leader Snoke tortures Rey, subtly lending credence to the revelation in The Rise of Skywalker that Snoke was the creation of Emperor Palpatine. Even the melodic connections between some of the themes sometimes do not represent a straightforward dramatic purpose, such as the connection of "Across the Stars" to Count Dooku's motif and the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. In fact, some of Williams' themes are written from the outset purely to convey a certain mood rather than evoke a character or setting, such as the Throne Room music of the original Star Wars or the Pursuit motif from The Force Awakens.
Some of this music was re-tracked into other parts of the film, or even another film in the series, by the filmmakers. Attack of the Clones, the first film to be shot digitally, had major edits made after the scoring process, leading to the inclusion of tracked music over many of the digitally created sequences such as the Droid Factory on Geonosis or the Clone Army's arrival to the battle. These scenes used music such as Yoda's theme or incidental music from The Phantom Menace with little dramatic connection to what is occurring on screen. In the original Star Wars, some of the music for the Death Star's Trash Compactor scene was used over an extended shot of the arrival into Mos Eisley inserted in the film's Special Edition. Musical similarities exist between the final scenes of The Phantom Menace with Finn's confession to Rey in The Force Awakens, probably a result of temp-track choice. In other cases, the material was not tracked but rather lifted from the original composition and re-recorded, such as in the big action scenes of Return of the Jedi, both of which lift material from the Battle of Yavin and Ben's death.
Other composers for the franchise used Williams' principal themes in their own compositions, whether it be for the trailers to the main films, spin-off films, television series, or video games. More often than not, these composers also use the principal themes more for their emotional effect for their respective projects. Michael Giacchino, for instance, uses the Force Theme in some of the scenes where Rogue One's Starship takes off.
Thematic inconsistencies between installments
Because Williams scores one episode at a time and attempts to base each score on new material as much as possible, the musical material does not have a particularly cohesive structure as a whole: the themes for each score are only devised during each film's post-production, so Williams will often come up with a new theme that, in hindsight, would have been preferably introduced, at least in embryonic form, in a previous score: This can be said for the love theme "Across the Stars" (for Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala), introduced only in "Attack of the Clones" or even "The Imperial March", introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. The same can be said about some themes only composed for the prequels (such as Duel of the Fates), which would have been perfectly applicable to the films in the first trilogy, had they been produced in the narrative order. In fact, since the prequels featured both their own stock of leitmotifs and recurring themes from the previous films, they boasted a larger catalog of themes, whereas the use of the leitmotifs in a cycle of works typically involves increasing density towards the later installments in the narrative order. Also, the themes in the prequels appear in shorter, blockier statements and the motives themselves are often short, rhythmic ideas, as opposed to longer melodies used in the first trilogy. Also, in the prequels the motives are often associated with places and events, rather than with characters as they are in the rest of the scores, creating a further discrepancy in the musical narrative.
Even within each trilogy, Williams often abandons a motif after a single score or two (as he did with Anakin's theme), writes (across several films) multiple motifs that serve a similar function (e.g. the Rebel fanfare, the Throne Room March and the Triumph Fanfare in Return of the Jedi), or writes a motif that he only uses in one installment, such as the Droid motif. In other cases, a motif is supplanted by a new one, as the Imperial March replaced the original, Imperial motif – a problem only confounded when he returned to that theme with the prequels, only for it to disappear entirely for what is now supposed to be the fourth episode; sometimes, the existing motif simply changes its thematic meaning: Ben Kenobi's theme turned into a theme for the Force by The Empire Strikes Back, and Luke's theme – into the "Star Wars theme".
The Last Jedi, specifically, departs from Williams' method of relying primarily on new thematic material, and instead relies heavily on pre-existing themes, in keeping with Johnson's temp-track choices. As a result, a number of themes and motifs from the previous films are constantly repeated, often in very familiar settings, such as statements of Yoda's and Leia's theme that are lifted from the concert arrangements, a reprise of the Binary Sunset rendition of the Force theme, and recurring statements of Rey's and Kylo's themes. There are some incidental phrases similar to existing themes such as Battle of the Heroes, The Immolation scene, et cetera, and some deliberate, tongue-in-cheek references, such as a quote of the Death Star motif for a scene with a clothes iron that is shot to look like a landing Star Destroyer.
Listed below are as 61 recurring themes or leitmotifs, of which about 59 leitmotifs are clearly identified in Williams' scores;[c] as well as two leitmotifs written by Williams for John Powell's score to Solo (see Themes in the Anthology films: Solo).
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Star Wars (A New Hope)
- "Luke's Theme (Star Wars Theme)"
- "The Rebel Fanfare"
- "Ben Kenobi's Theme (The Force Theme)"[d]
- "Princess Leia's Theme"[e]
- "Imperial Motif"
- "Death Star Motif"
- "Stormtroopers Motif"
- "Planet Fanfare"
- "Jawa's Theme"
- "Sandpeople Motif"
- "Spaceship Battle Motif"
- "The Trash Compactor Motif"
- "The Battle of Yavin Motif"
- "The Throne Room Theme (Victory March)"
The Empire Strikes Back
Returning: Throne Room Victory March (First re-statement); Luke's Theme; Luke's Secondary Theme; The Rebel Fanfare; The Force Theme (Ben Kenobi's theme); Leia's Theme
- First re-statement: "Throne Room Victory March"[f]
- "The Imperial March" (Darth Vader's Theme)
- "Han Solo and the Princess" (help·info)[g]
- "Yoda's Theme" (help·info):[h]
- "Droids Motif"[i]
- "Cloud City March (Lando's Theme)"
- "Boba Fett Motif"
- "The Battle of Hoth Motif"
- "The Asteroid Field Motif"
- "Mynock Cave Motif"
- "Millennium Falcon Escaping Motif"
Return of the Jedi
Returning: Spaceship Battle Motif; Luke's Theme; Luke's Secondary Theme; The Rebel Fanfare; The Force Theme; Leia's Theme; The Imperial March; Han Solo and the Princess; Yoda's Theme
- First re-statement: "Spaceship Battle motif"
- "Parade of the Ewoks" (help·info)[j]
- "Jabba The Hutt Theme"[k]
- "The Emperor's Theme"
- "Brother and Sister Motif"
- "Triumph Fanfare"
- "Luke and Leia Theme"
- "Speeder Bike Chase Motif"
- "Forest Battle Motif"
- "The Battle of Endor A Motif"
- "The Battle of Endor B Motif"
- "The Battle of Endor C Motif"
The Phantom Menace
Returning: Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, The Rebel Fanfare, The Force Theme, The Imperial March, Yoda's Theme, Jabba's Theme, The Emperor's Theme
- "Duel of the Fates"
- "Anakin's Theme"
- "Trade Federation Droid March"
- "Qui-Gon's Motif"
- "Darth Maul Motif"[l]
- "Jar Jar's Theme"
- "The Queen's Protectors Theme (Panaka's Theme)
- "The Escape from Naboo Motif"
- "Shmi's Motif"
- "The Flag Parade Theme"
- "Coruscant Fanfare"
- "Funeral Theme"
Attack of the Clones
Returning: Shmi's Theme; Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, The Rebel Fanfare, The Force Theme, The Imperial March, The Emperor's Theme, Anakin's Theme, Trade Federation March, Duel of the Fates
- First re-statement: "Shmi's Theme"
- "Across the Stars"
- "Across the Stars secondary theme"[m]
- "Separatist Motif"[n][o]
- "Kamino Motif"
- "Corusant Chase Motif"
- "Jedi Business Motif"
- "Courting on Naboo Motif"
- "Shmi's Death Motif"
- "The Republic March"
Revenge of the Sith
Returning: Jedi Funeral Theme, Coruscant Fanfare; Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, Leia's theme, The Rebel Fanfare, The Force Theme, The Imperial March, The Emperor's Theme, Anakin's Theme, Trade Federation March, Duel of the Fates, Across the Stars, Across the Stars Secondary Theme.
- First re-statement: "Funeral Theme"
- First re-statement: "Coruscant Fanfare"
- "Battle of the Heroes"
- "General Grievous' Motif"
- "Landing Motif"
- "Lament for Anakin Theme"
The Force Awakens
Returning: Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, The Rebel Fanfare (Millennium Falcon Motif), The Force theme, Leia's Theme, The Imperial March, Han Solo and the Princess
- "Rey's Theme"
- "Kylo Ren's Fanfare"
- Map's Motif"
- "March of the Resistance"
- "Pursuit Ostinato"
- "Poe Dameron's Motif"
- "Snoke's Theme"[p]
- "First Order's Motif"
- "Starkiller's Motif/Tragedy Theme"
- "Jedi Steps"
- "Tense Pacing Strings"
The Last Jedi
Returning: Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, The Rebel Fanfare (Millennium Falcon motif), The Force Theme, Leia's Theme, Yoda's Theme, Luke and Leia, Han Solo and the Princess, The Imperial March, Spaceship Battle Motif, Death Star motif, The Emperor's Theme, Poe's Theme, Rey's Theme, Kylo Ren's themes, Snoke's Theme, Battle of the Heroes, Jedi Steps
- "Rose Tico's Theme"
- "Luke's Island Motif"
- "Rebel Desperation Motif"
- "The Battle of Crait Motif"
- "Resistance Deployed Motif"
- "Resistance in Trouble Motif"
- "Catastrophe Motif"
- "Luke's Last Stand"
- "Rey's Power"
The Rise of Skywalker
Returning: Luke's Theme, Luke's Secondary Theme, The Rebel Fanfare (Millennium Falcon motif), The Force Theme, Leia's Theme, Han Solo and the Princess, The Imperial March, The Emperor's Theme, Poe's Theme, Rey's Theme, Kylo Ren's themes, March of the Resistance, Luke and Leia, Yoda's Theme, The Pit of Carkoon, The Battle of Yavin, Yoda and the Force, Return to Tatooine
- First re-statement: “Return to Tatooine"
- First re-statement: “Finn’s Confession"
- First re-statement: “Yoda and the Force"
- First re-statement: "Seduction Motif"
- "The Trio/Fellowship Theme"
- "The Rise of Skywalker (Victory) Theme"
- "Anthem of Evil (Psalm of the Sith) "
- "Poe's Heroics Theme"
- "Dagger Motif"
- "Ben Solo's Theme"
- "Kylo Ren's Redemption Motif"
- "Wayfinder/Exegol Motif"
- "Knights of Ren Motif"
- "Speeder Chase Fanfare"
- "Action Ostinato"
- "A New Home"
- "Journey to Exegol Motif"
- "Master Leia’s Motif"
- "Really Bad Feeling Motif"
- "Across the Seas Motif"
Since neither Williams nor his office ever provided a full list of the leitmotifs used in every Star Wars film, there is some controversy around the exact number of themes, with some taking an inclusive approach that identifies various leitmotifs, even where the composer probably never intended for, and others taking an exclusive approach.
Thematic components and variants
One of the key differences between the two approaches in the way in which Williams' main, long themes are approached: some view them as composed of several leitmotives that can appear (for the very least once) in isolation (i.e. in a separate cue) from the unabridged theme, and may even represent a different facet of the plot element or character that the theme stands for, while others see them as a single theme with multiple components, which can appear in fragmented form by use of only one of the said components to suggest the entire theme.
The featured list of themes follows what could be deduced to be Williams own approach: certain pieces are described as two separate themes when they were described as such by Williams and/or appear at least twice in isolation from each other (and usually emerge and develop separately to some extent) and serve a different dramatic purpose altogether. Other pieces such as the ostinato accompaniment and B-section of the Imperial March, the introduction figure to Kylo's secondary theme, to Rey's, or the various components of Duel of the Fates did not merit this treatment, because of lack of evidence to authorial intent on the part of Williams (especially given how seldom, in his body of work, he referred to individual sections of his themes as individual leitmotifs) and/or because they only appear in isolation once and/or lack a defined dramatic purpose distinct from the other parts of the unabridged theme. Its also, largely, the approach taken by Matessino, Adams and Lehman.
A particularly noteworthy but ultimately incidental instance is the ostinato accompaniment to the Rebel Fanfare: it is only used isolated from the fanfare in lifted material that appears in Return of the Jedi. Otherwise, it always precedes and accompanies the Rebel Fanfare, but often again it extends to underpin large sections of on-screen action and the respective material in the original Star Wars. However, since it's not really entirely detachable (on more than one instance, that is) from the Rebel Fanfare and never plays at the front of the orchestra, Adams comments that "It’s not a theme per se" and Lehman makes no note of it, even as an incidental motif.
Certain analysts will also list a single melody multiple times under various guises. For instance, the emperor's theme can also be labeled separately (in the same glossary) as the "dark side" theme, Darth Sidious' theme, etc...
The inclusive approach also tends to identify leitmotives even where they don't meet the criteria of recurrence. This is the result of Williams' propensity (in these scores and otherwise) to write material that is either melodic, rhythmic, harmonic or timbral specifically to an individual setpiece or none-recurring plot-element in the film, such as The Battle of Hoth, the Chase through Coruscant, or The Battle of Crait. These individual pieces of music – whether they consist of a full melody, ostinati, diegetic pieces or a certain timbre – have sometimes been described as having thematic significance, occasionally (in fleeting comments) even by Williams himself, but since they do not recur in a different part of the narrative, nor are transformed from or into another motif, they do not comply with the definition of a leitmotif, even if they form the highlights of their respective scores or even featured prominently in the "making of" material (e.g. Chase through Coruscant).[q] A case of particular note is the piece Williams designated as the "Jawa theme." While it is a fully realized melody, clearly evoking the "little scrap and robot collectors", as Williams called them, it does not recur across two discrete cues, rather being interrupted briefly by Imperial music (the interruption slightly extended in the film by silence) and then resuming.
Even when some of these figures do recur, it is often unclear whether they are substantial enough to be assigned with thematic significance, as these instances often includes material that is incidental in nature, such as several figures used in the finale of The Empire Strikes Back; material with overly broad (and therefore vague) association to the story such as tragic music written for the Starkiller sequence in The Force Awakens returning for Han Solo's death or "Tension" music from Episodes 7 and 8; material that is purely rhythmic or timbral like various "bouncing" horn figures for Luke's landspeeder search in the original Star Wars, the use of the synthesizer to represent Vader's menace in The Empire Strikes Back, a women's chorus for the underwater scenes of The Phantom Menace; material that is of a generic nature, such as his use of "mournful homophonic" choir in The Last Jedi for climactic moments; or material that is part of Williams' stylistic choices as a composer, more than a thematic statement unique to the series. For instance, his use of tritones often denotes mystery, a device he uses for the droids landing on Tatooine and again in the concert arrangement of "The Throne Room." He uses a related device to reflect the mystery of Luke's whereabouts in The Force Awakens. However, similar devices are also used in Indiana Jones to represent the mysteries of the Ark and the Crystal Skull. Hence, it is more of a way for Williams to evoke mystery, than a motif conceived specifically for any one of these scores.
Similarly, other gestures taken from pre-existing music (such as Williams' use of the Dies Irae melody to denote impending doom) have been falsely identified as leitmotifs, even though Williams clearly described sections of music that rely on this gesture, such as his original take of the binary sunset, as non-thematic.
In fact, sometimes the supposedly recurring material is similar, but not in fact identical. A good example would be the variety of gestures relating to the dark side, following a piece of music used in the opera-house scene. Lehamn however clarifies that those alleged following statements are "similar but inexact" to the earlier gesture. In other cases, variations on the same thematic ideas are erroneously labeled as two or more separate themes, such as a secondary droid motif or a motif for Anakin's immolation, which is in fact a variation on his lament theme. Similarly, the proposed motifs for Mustafar or Anakin's Dark Deeds are in fact variations on Grievous' material, redirected to the evil Anakin.
Sometimes, the recurring material is question is not part of the original composition but is rather tracked after-the-fact, or at least lifted, from existing material into a different section of the film, or from material that is recapitulated in a concert piece or end-credits suite. This includes the Podracing fanfare and the ostinato accompaniment of the Rebel Fanfare, which otherwise does not appear isolated from the unabridged theme more than once; the mournful writing for French horn at Shmi's funeral, the Arena March from Attack of the Clones etc. Occasionally, track titles are mistaken for themes.
Williams has created themes out of non-recurring material by quoting them again in a following score: e.g. the funeral music for Qui-Gon being reused (and repurposed) as a general funeral theme in Revenge of the Sith. This, however, does not extend to such gestures being quoted in spin-off scores (e.g. the Asteroid Field in Solo, the material for Imperial Walkers in Rogue One) nor for more fleeting, non-narrative references which Williams provides in his scores.
Themes in the Anthology films
The first Star Wars Anthology score for Rogue One, written by Michael Giacchino, utilizes several themes (and recurring interstitial material) from John Williams, mostly for their Romantic sweep (such as The Force Theme and hints of the Main Theme). It has its own catalog of themes, independent from Williams' material, including a new, third theme for the Empire, although Giacchino also quotes both the original Imperial Motif and The Imperial March.
Returning: Luke's Theme; Rebel Fanfare; The Force Theme; Leia's Theme; Imperial Motif; Death Star Motif; The Imperial March
- Jyn's Theme
- Hope Theme
- Guardians of the Whills Theme
- Imperial Theme (Krennic's Theme)
For Solo, John Williams wrote and recorded a concert arrangement for a new theme for Han Solo. In the process of composing the theme, Williams ended up using two separate ideas, each conveying a different aspect of the character, and went as far as to spot the film for places to use each motif; all other leitmotifs and other material were written and adapted by John Powell, the main composer for the film.
Returning: Spaceship Battle motif; Luke's (Star Wars) Theme; Rebel Fanfare; Duel of the Fates; The Imperial March; The Imperial motif; Death Star Motif; The Asteroid Field; Imperial Cruiser Pursuit; Droids Motif
By John Williams:
By John Powell:
- Chewbacca's Theme
- Han and Qi'Ra's Love Theme
- L3'S Theme
- Crew theme
- Enfys Nest Theme
- Crime Syndicate Motif (Vos's Theme)
Instead of offering a full recording release of a particular film, Williams typically releases a condensed score on album, in which the music is arranged out of the film order and more within the veins of a concert program. These album releases typically include several concert suites, written purely for the end credits or the album itself, where a specific theme is developed continuously throughout the piece. Williams also re-edited some of his existing cues after the fact in order to "concertize" theme on the behest of conductors such as Charles Gerhardt. Five of the eight films also have unique credit suites that feature alternate concert arrangements of themes and/or a medley of the main themes of a particular film.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- "Main Title"
- "Princess Leia's Theme"
- "The Little People"
- "Cantina Band"
- "Here They Come!"
- "The Battle"
- "Throne Room and End Title"
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- "The Imperial March"
- "Yoda's Theme"
- "Han Solo and the Princess (1980)"
- "Han Solo and the Princess (2018)"
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- "Parade of the Ewoks"
- "Luke and Leia"
- "Jabba the Hutt"
- "The Forest Battle"
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- "Duel of the Fates"
- "Anakin's Theme"
- "The Adventures of Jar Jar"
- "The Flag Parade"
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- "Across the Stars"
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- "The Rebellion is Reborn"
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
- "The Rise of Skywalker"
- "The Speeder Chase"
- "Anthem of Evil"
From the spin-offs
From Rogue One
- "Jyn Erso and Hope Suite"
- "The Imperial Suite"
- "The Guardians of the Whills Suite"
- "The Adventures of Han"
Diegetic music is music "that occurs as part of the action (rather than as background), and can be heard by the film's characters". In addition to the orchestral scope that was brought on by John Williams' musical score, the Star Wars franchise also features many distinguishing diegetic songs that enrich the detail of the audio mise-en-scène. Some of this diegetic music was written by John Williams; some by his son, Joseph; and some by various other people.
From Star Wars
- "Cantina Band" and "Cantina Band #2". Written by John Williams, it is played in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine. It is written for solo trumpet, three saxophones, clarinet, Fender Rhodes piano, steel drum, synthesizer and various percussion, including boobams and toms. According to the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the diegetic title for the first Cantina band piece is "Mad About Me". The liner notes for the 1997 Special Edition release of the Star Wars soundtrack describe the concept behind these works as "several creatures in a future century finding some 1930's Benny Goodman swing band music ... and how they might attempt to interpret it". This piece also appears on an all the outtake easter eggs on the Episode I and Episode II and on the bonus disc of the 2004 original trilogy DVD set.
From Return of the Jedi
- "Jabba's Baroque Recital". Mozart-esque John Williams composition (featuring a synthesized harpsichord) played while 3PO and R2 first arrive and play Jabba the message from Luke Skywalker.
- "Lapti Nek". Written by Joseph Williams (John Williams' son) and translated into Huttese, this is played by the Max Rebo Band in Jabba the Hutt's palace (in the original cut of the movie).[r]
- "Jedi Rocks" (composed by Jerry Hey). This was composed to replace "Lapti Nek" for the 1997 Special Edition of the film.
- "Max Rebo Band Jams". Heard twice in the film, once after Jabba sends the Wookiee Chewbacca to jail, and again on Jabba's sail barge Khetanna (hence its title). A recording of the first can be found on the official Star Wars Soundboards.
- "Ewok Feast" and "Part of the Tribe". By John Williams. Heard when Luke and company were captured by the Ewoks and brought to their treehouses.
- "Ewok Celebration". The Victory Song, whose lyrics were written by Joseph Williams, can be heard at the end of the original release of Return of the Jedi.
- "Victory Celebration". By John Williams. The Victory Song at the end of the Return of the Jedi 1997 re-edition.
From The Phantom Menace
- "Tatooine Street Music". Joseph Williams wrote four separate pieces of unusual, vaguely Eastern sounding source music for the streets of Mos Espa, featuring a player on Cretan Lyra and Cumbus, and a solo, wailing female vocal.
- "Augie's Municipal Band". By John Williams. Music played during the peace parade at the end of the film, it is a sped-up, attenuated trumpet and boy choir composition. It is closely related to the Emperor's Theme, but is not an outright quote of it.
From Attack of the Clones
- "Dex's Diner"
- "Unknown Episode II Source Cue". A second source cue is credited to Joseph Williams' name for Episode II, but is not heard in the film.
- "Arena Percussion". Originally meant to accompany the Droid Factory sequence, Ben Burtt's attempt at composition is instead shifted to the arena, replacing the predominantly unused John Williams cue "Entrance of the Monsters."
From The Force Awakens
- "Jabba Flow" and "Dobra Doompa". Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams, these songs were played at Maz Kanata's castle.
From The Last Jedi
- "Canto Bight". Written by John Williams, it appears when Finn and Rose first arrive to the casino planet of Canto Bight. It is written in the style of big-band jazz and is stylistically akin to the "Cantina Band" music from Star Wars. The track features solo alto saxophone, two baritone saxophones, solo clarinet, trombones, kazoo, muted trumpets, Fender Rhodes piano, bass, synthesizers, steel drums, and various percussion, including washboards and goblet drums. The track briefly quotes "Aquarela do Brasil" (which also features hi-hat and ride cymbals) by Ary Barroso as a reference to the 1985 Terry Gilliam film Brazil, and includes a brief piano statement of Williams' and Johnny Mercer's theme from The Long Goodbye.
- "Caretaker party music": source cue of an unknown composition (possibly by Williams), which features highland bagpipes and a didgeridoo, and accompanies a deleted scene from the film.
From The Rise of Skywalker
- "Lido Hey": Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams and performed by Shag Kava, a musical moniker for Miranda and Abrams. Plays as the main characters participate and traverse the Festival of Ancestors on the desert planet Pasaana.
- "Oma's Place": Performed by Ricky Tinez and J.J. Abrams. Plays as the main characters enter a bar owned by Oma Tres (featuring composer John Williams in a cameo role) on the planet Kijimi.
In 2005, the 1977 soundtrack for Star Wars was voted as the "most memorable film score of all time" by the American Film Institute in the list AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores, based on the assessment of a jury of over 500 artists, composers, musicians, critics and historians from the film industry.
The soundtracks to both Star Wars and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace have been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 1 million units, with the albums for The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones being certified Gold (500,000 units). The British Phonographic Industry certified Star Wars and Episode I as Gold for shipments of over 100,000 units in the UK.
- These inspirations are evident in some of the orchestration choices, including the wide use of an SATB choir and boy choir and even a soloist (including a moaning woman in "Padme's Ruminations", similar to Lisa Gerard's vocal work in Gladiator). The orchestra was augmented with a second set of timpani as was the case with Shore's Lord of the Rings scores, and with taiko drums, which have been used extensively by Shore and Zimmer. In particular, Anakin's Dark Deeds with the humming boy choir opening leading into a Gothic piece for an adult choir, is evocative of "The Treason of Isengard". Several tracks, including the music to the opening of the film, evoke the rhythmic music of the Orcs. 
- Williams themes for Star Wars have been classified based on Williams own comments on the LP release, Mike Matessino's Special Edition Liner notes, and further analyses provided by Doug Adams, John Takis et al. On FilmScoreMonthly. Ancillary sources include Frank Lehman's "Complete Catalogue of the Musical Themes of Star Wars", which includes a lot of "incidental motifs" including stylistic gestures and tracked material.
- Relative to the number of installments and length of the scores, this figure is consistent with Williams output to such series as Indiana Jones and Harry Potter. It is also consistent with the figures arrived at by Lehman (who puts the number of leitmotifs in the series at 57) and Adams (which puts the number of the first four films at as many as 33). Williams himself, as he was making Attack of the Clones, assessed the size of his glossary at "20 themes".
- This theme was composed for the character of Ben Kenobi but also used in a broader association with the concept of "The Force." With subsequent installments, the character connection was reduced and the theme became more of a theme for "The Force."
- Williams commented to having originally written this theme as a love theme for Leia and Luke.
- This music appeared in the finale of the original Star Wars, and was recapitulated over the end-credits. It first re-appears (and becomes a recurring theme) in the end-credits to Empire Strikes Back. Nevertheless, According to Adams this is "certainly not a theme in the leitmotivic sense", hence its classification remains in doubt.
- This theme is also sometimes called "Han Solo's theme" although musically it belongs more to the princess.
- Williams also composed what he described as a "playful version of Yoda's theme". Matessino refers to it as a "playful wind rendition of Yoda's theme" which Adams further describes as a "simpler spry tune in the second half of the unabridged theme."
- Definite statements of the motif appear only in this film, but a "playful wind motif" that appears in Return of the Jedi "suggest the tune" of the theme, and has been erroneously described as a new motif for the Droids.
- The bridge of the Ewok material, which recalls their diegetic horn calls, is referred to by Adams and Lehman as a separate, secondary Ewok theme. While it is different to the main Ewok material, it really only appears twice in the underscore, and only in one of these instances does it appear by itself: all other appearances are in the concert arrangement, and the concert version of the cue in which they originally appear.
- This motif was also re-tracked into the Special Edition of A New Hope from Return of the Jedi.
- Other than the introduction fanfare, this theme is the first "none-pitched theme", based on whispering voices and percussion figures. The latter have been confused for a separate, secondary motif, specifically for Darth Maul or even for his probe droids, but Adams refers to them as mere "drum patterns" that are simply part of the theme.
- This secondary phrase of Across the Stars also includes an end-cap figure of "brooding rhythms" (as Jeff Bonds calls them) based on the Dies Irae figure, looped into an ostinato. The whole section of the theme, which emerges separately to the main phrase, denotes the "angst-ridden side" (to quote John Takis) of the relationship between Anakin and Padme. This theme, and especially the ending figure, transform into the lament theme in Revenge of the Sith. While Williams never spoke of this section as a theme, another telling sign of this theme's dramatic designation in his mind is the video which accompanies it on "Star Wars: A Musical Journey", where the B-phrase and its ending figure both score images that convey the gloomy aspect of the relationship.
- This motif, otherwise known as the "Conspiracy" or "conflict" motif, represents all the antagonists of the film: namely, Dooku, but also the rest of the separatists, and the bounty hunters Zam Wesell and Jango Fett. It is probably the motif that Williams reportedly was intending to write for Jango when he was composing the piece. When Jango fights Obi Wan, Williams' derives an ostinato from it which underscores the fight scene. This motif, like the ostinato for "Chase through Curoscant" has been described as a leitmotif, but Takis describes those figures just as ostinati and "rhythmic patterns" and not as outright themes. Doug Adams later commented Archived October 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine that the various action ostinati of the scores are "shorter, clunkier motives seldom longer than a measure or two, and often more rhythmic than melodic" and calls those passages "episodic." Jeff Bonds adds that this writing is "ultimately fleeting."
- Williams never commented on this motif, but he tellingly used the very same gesture for Voldemort, the villain in his contemporary score to "Chamber of Secrets", reinforcing the idea that this was his intended "villain" motif.
- This theme is written for voices in the Basso Profundo range, and has drawn tenuous comparisons to Palpatine's Teachings, although the latter is based rather on overtone singing.
- One unusual case involves the revised music of the victory celebrations of Return of the Jedi, with Adams classifying it as thematic out of an expectation (ultimately to be proven false) of Williams to weave it into the prequel scores.
- Later used in the Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures episode "Jabba the Hutt – Galactic Gangster".
- "5 Highlights from Star Wars Forces of Destiny: "The Padawan Path" | StarWars.com". StarWars.com. July 6, 2017. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
- Williams generally uses the choir for texture, as humming or wordless voices. Several sections rely on repeated syllables in Sanskrit, as is the case of Duel of the Fates or Snoke's theme. While the syllables are drawn from (loosely) translated texts such as Cad Goddeu or the writing of Kipling, Williams typically arranges them by ear and without heed to their meaning, so the choral text remains repetitive and meaningless. In other instances, the choir repeats a short albeit coherent sentence, such as with the Funeral theme or Anakin's Dark Deeds.
- Including all the alternate takes of the recording, Williams has recorded about 21 hours of music for the series, although much of it remains unreleased.
- Women were used for the special edition rescoring.
- "Dudamel Conducts Some Music for New 'Star Wars' Film". The New York Times. December 15, 2015.
- This orchestra consists of a group of individually contracted freelanced musicians, rather than being an organised orchestra that plays regularly as a group.
- according to the closing credit roll
- "'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' TV Series Soundtrack Announced". Film Music Reporter. November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
- "Kevin Kiner to Score 'Star Wars Rebels'". Film Music Reporter. April 21, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
- Burlingame, Jon (February 8, 2012). "Spielberg and Lucas on Williams: Directors reminisce about collaborating with Hollywood's greatest composer". The Film Music Society. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
- That particular score was first intended to be tracked with existing music from the classical repertoire or from older film scores, as was the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which inspired George Lucas to write the film. After Williams convinced Lucas to have an original score (which would excel a tracked score in that it will have set themes for characters, Williams argued), those musical pieces were used as a temp track and Williams followed them closely, turning portions of the score into an homage to earlier film score and to romantic music in general.
- Doug Adams, Sounds of the Empire: Analysing the themes of the Star Wars Trilogy, in: Film Score Monthly (Volume 4, number 5), pp. 22–47.
- "Episode 69: Rian Johnson On The Music Of Star Wars & Other Movies". audioBoom. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
- Star Wars, liner notes.
- Using a leitmotif merely as a "stand-in" for a character would be a devolved form of using leitmotifs, compared to the operatic practice. A theme can be used symbolically, such as hinting at Darth Vader's theme when the decision to train Anakin is made in Episode I.
- Williams full score often slightly overtakes the length of the film due to the recording of concert suites and several alternate takes. However, the amount of music written for the film proper varies from 80 percent, to scoring effectively the entire film. The finished film is always subjected to tracking, looping and muting (especially Attack of the Clones), so about 85% of each finished film is scored.
- Episode III required 109 players (not including the conductor) due to expanded string and percussion sections. http://www.jw-collection.de/scores/epi3_stuff.htm http://soundtrackfest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/John-Williams-London-Symphony-Orchestra-Star-Wars.jpg The Empire Strikes Back required 104 players, not including the conductor or synthesizer (rhttp://www.jw-collection.de/scores/tesblp.htmecalls) due to the inclusion of a fourth flute, and sections that required a third harp, five oboes overall, an added piccolo and eight percussionists overall. If the Empire Strikes Back is to augmented with the string section size of Revenge of the Sith or the Skwalker Symphony Recording, it would require about 112 players and a small women choir. A Star Wars in Concert production that would follow the orchestration of the recording, would have to feature some of the expansions of the various episodes, requiring about 110 players, as well as the mixed choir and possibly the bass choir.
- Star Wars and the sequel trilogy film use an 84-piece arrangement, with the latter also incorporating a 24-piece men choir. Empire Strikes Back uses 106 pieces and about ten women vocalists, Return of the Jedi uses a 100-piece orchestra, about ten men, and a few women for the Special Edition; The Phantom Menace uses a 100-piece orchestra, 88-piece SATB choir and 30 boys; Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith use a 112-piece orchestra, 89-piece SATB choir and a synthesized boy choir.
- Star Wars Concerts were held with as few as 130 performers, and some Live to Projection Concerts can therefore be played by as few as sixty players. By comparison, each of Howard Shore's Middle Earth scores require a minimum of 230 musicians to stage (ranging to as many as 500), and several stage works such as Gurre Lieder or Mahler's Eighth Symphony can range from 300 to over a thousand musicians. Nevertheless, amateur performances (like the NJYS Playathon) of Williams score, among other film scores (including the aforementioned Howard Shore ones) have utilized orchestral forces of 450-piece or more.
- The Last Jedi used 101 instrumental players (including the diegetic band), probably a result of added percussion and high woodwind players, a 65-piece SATB choir, and a few additional pieces for the all-male choir.
- Keyes, Allison (July 24, 2010). "'Star Wars In Concert' Puts The Force In The Music". NPR. Archived from the original on December 30, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015. The Live to Projection presentations also feature various reductions, namely in the brass section, in line with Williams' reduced orchestration for his "Star Wars Suite", and generally omit the unusual orchestrations of Empire Strikes Back and synthesize or remove the choral parts The roster is between 50 and 90 pieces. https://nyphil.org/~/media/pdfs/program-notes/1718/WilliamsStarWarsANewHope.pdf
- Empire Strikes Back only.
- Star Wars featured one player on a piano and a second player on celesta. The second player also doubles on Electric Piano. For select sections of Empire Strikes Back, both played on pianos. The scores also used synthesizers for electronic sounds and to mimic the Celesta (a real Celesta was not used since Return of the Jedi) and the Harpsichord (for Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones). In the Skywalker Symphony recording, one player doubles on all keyboards. From Attack of the Clones going forward, the synth is performed by the electric keyboard player.
- Most of the episodes feature six percussionists, although sections of the prequels and Empire Strikes Back require as many as eight, including two Xylophone parts, etc. Star Wars, however, only requires only three and the sequel trilogy scores require only four.
- https://nyphil.org/~/media/pdfs/program-notes/1718/John-Williams-Star-Wars-The-Empire-Strikes-Back.pdf; https://nyphil.org/~/media/pdfs/program-notes/1718/John-Williams-Star-Wars-Return-of-the-Jedi.pdf; https://nyphil.org/~/media/pdfs/program-notes/1718/John-Williams-Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens.pdf
- Star Wars uses the original arrangement, but its two sequels call for an additional of one of each woodwind. The prequel trilogy scores use three flutes, oboes and bassoons, as well as four clarinets, and the sequel trilogy scores omit the fourth clarinet part. Sections of Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Last Jedi call for expanded higher woodwind: four flutes and an added piccolo part and five oboes. The former score also calls for a fourth bassoon for Boba Fett's motif. Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace also feature recorders. Star Wars and The Last Jedi use three saxophones, as well.
- Up to the sequel trilogy, Star Wars scores had utilized eight horns and two tubas, although the Skywalker Symphony recording omits those parts and adds a fifth trumpet. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones also omit the second tuba.
- In Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. A second set of timpani is used in the former, and in The Last Jedi.
- The full SATB choir is used for the prequels: The Last Jedi only requires a 64-piece Tibetan Throat chanting is used in Revenge of the Sith. The boy choir is used in The Phantom Menace but synthesized in the later two scores. Empire Strikes Back uses a small women choir and Return of the Jedi uses a small male choir. The Force Awakens uses a 24-piece basso profundo orchestra, which is about ten more pieces than would be in a 90-piece SATB choir.
- For Star Wars: In Concert.
- Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi call for two added contrabass parts, and the former also calls for a third harp. The Skywalker Symphony uses a fuller string section, but omits the second harp. The prequels also use the fuller string section.
- Williams is not usually keen to stray far from the orchestral instrumentation. The Cretan Lyra and Cumbus are used briefly for diegetic Tatooine music for Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, composed by his son, Joseph, and were originally played by one instrumentalist. Williams also recalls "reed flutes" (most likely referring to the ney flute) used in the score, probably for those cues. The prequel scores aren't performed live, but seeing as diegetic pieces are not played even in the scores that are performed live, these would probably be omitted under such circumstances, as well. The electric guitar is used in small inserts during the chase through Curoscant in Attack of the Clones (albeit muted in the film on the request of George Lucas). Williams also used three saxophones for the Cantina Band, although those could be doubled by the clarinet players. He also once claimed to have used Kazoos in that sequence, although the liner notes make no mention of it. Didgeridoos are used in the diegetic Caretaker party music, which scores a deleted scene. They are also featured in The Phantom Menace ultimate edition release, where they were originally used as diegetic sound effects, and layered over the soundtrack.
- the theme recurs thirty times or more in a two-hour film.
- The scores to the original three films are melodic and romantic, as is – largely – the score to The Phantom Menace. However, Episodes II and even III feature much more rhythmic music, and Revenge of the Sith, in particular, is more operatic in its use of choir and even solo vocals. The sequel scores feature another evolution of Williams' musical style, which is less obtrusive, with more lilting musical themes like Rey's theme, reminiscent of some of Williams' work on Harry Potter.
- Williams wrote some fifty themes for over 19 hours of cinema, with an average of six new themes per film and an average 12 themes used in each film overall. By comparison, Howard Shore wrote over 160 leitmotifs for 21 hours of cinema in the Middle Earth films, of which he uses 40 or more in each film. Richard Wagner wrote 176 leitmotifs for the 15-hour Ring cycle.
- In thematic works such as those of Wagner or Shore, all the leitmotifs which are thematically connected (e.g. all of Alberich's themes or all of the Hobbits' themes) are connected in melody, harmony, key and orchestration, so as to create sets and subsets of inter-connected thematic "families." This allows the composer to introduce new themes later in the work while having the new theme evoke associations that the audience already felt towards existing related themes. Williams' various themes do share certain connections, but they are basic enough as to nullify any attempts to categorize them except in the broadest of strokes, such as themes for the protagonists and themes for the antagonists.
- Using leitmotifs as a suggestion of mood or emotion rather than as themes, is a common practice for all composers in symphonies, operas and especially in film. Nevertheless, classical and romantic composers (and even some film composers like Howard Shore in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit cycle) are generally much more strict with the application of leitmotif than Williams.
- Ross, Alex (January 3, 2018). "A Field Guide to the Musical Leitmotifs of "Star Wars"". The New Yorker.
- Since the princess is present at Ben's death, her theme is said to "represents Luke's and the Princess' reaction to leaving Ben behind" (Star Wars, Liner Notes) although the romantic explanation has been favored by Adams and Michael Matessimo, the author of the special edition liner notes.
- Yoda's theme in Cloud City is said to denote Luke gaining courage as he "remembers Yoda's teachings and tries to apply them in this", but the theme is later used in relation to Leia's attempt at retrieving Han and even Lando's order to evacuate Cloud City, giving more weight to the outright dramatic explanation.
- Duel of the Fates as used in Tatooine, was often interpreted as signifying the internal struggle of Anakin, although no other occurrence of the theme is consistent with that line of thought. In fact, the internal struggle only presents itself in the next scene, where the theme is not used.
- In Star Wars, the theme was conceived and used more as a theme for the character of Ben Kenobi rather than as a theme for The Force itself. Therefore, Williams originally did not have it play during the Binary Sunset sequence (which has nothing to do with Ben), and only did so on the request of George Lucas. He did use it, however, for the Throne Room sequence, although it has little to do with Ben. Since the theme became more associated with The Force in following installments, it was used more often, but sometimes against images that do not evoke the idea of The Force such as numerous wide shots in Attack of the Clones, e.g. Anakin and Padmé departing for Naboo, Dooku arriving at Coruscant. It is also used during wide shots of the Battle of Hoth for no discernable reason.
- It should be said, however, that some of the music in the later films was always intended to be acquired through tracking of pre-existing material, and that some of the tracking choices are very deliberate.
- Hence, claims that Williams conceives his themes with foresight and subsequent attempts to draw tenuous connections between such pieces of music as Snoke's theme and the drone in Palpatine's Teachings are dubious. In fact, Williams himself always notes that he only scores the film by watching the finished film, rather than reading a story outline or script. He, for instance, claimed to have had no idea that his score to the original Star Wars would result in sequels and further scores, and even shared the fact that he had, at the time, written a love theme for Luke and Leia, only to discover by Return of the Jedi that the two had now been written to be brother and sister.
- Larsen, Peter, and Irons, John (2007). Film Music, p. 168. ISBN 9781861893413.
- Star Wars LP liner notes
- Michael Matessino, Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition Liner notes.
- Karol Krok, themes of the original trilogy, films on wax.
- Frank Lehman, The Complete Catalogue of Musical Themes of Star Wars.
- In The Force Awakens, Williams wrote a concert arrangement using this theme in a fast, playful variation.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 9, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Larsen & Irons (2007), p. 170.
- This theme appeared once in the previous film, and only acquired leitmotivic status by its restatement in this film.
- Michael Matessino, Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition liner notes.
- Empire Strikes Back LP liner notes
- This theme was also used briefly in Williams' score of E.T. when the figure of Yoda (here a boy in a costume) appeared on screen.
- This rhythmic motif was used in the TIE Fighter Attack setpiece cue. The material was lifted for the revised Sail Barge Assault cue, and – more importantly the Superstructure Chase sequence, tying it to spaceship battles involving the Millennium Falcon. The material returns for a similar instance in the Falcon's involvement in the Battle of Crait.
- Doug Adams, A Return or a New Hope? In: Film Score Monthly, Volume 4, number 7, pp. 32–34.
- Michael Matessino, Return of the Jedi: Special Edition liner notes
- Karol Krok, The themes of the Prequel Trilogy, Films-on-wax.
- The components of this theme, such as the ostinato, choral verses, introduction fanfare, the theme itself, etc. – are often treated as separate leitmotifs (see Lehman's catalog) although Williams never referred to them as such, nor assigned them with an identifiable dramatic purpose in the score. In fact, none of the components of the theme are used apart from the main theme more than once. Adams does mention that the ostinato is treated "thematically" but doesn't classify it as a separate theme, per se.
- In interviews, Williams mentions "Duel of the Fates", Anakin's theme, "Jar Jar's music", as well as Qui-Gon's theme and the Trade Fedeeration Droid Army March, from an interview in the making of the film.
- "Star Wars: Star Wars Episode I the Phantom Menace". Archived from the original on October 13, 1999.
- This gesture appeared only once in The Phantom Menace, and became a leitmotif after-the-fact when Williams revisited it twice here. Nevertheless, John Takis called it "tender music" which is "recalling Shmi."
- John Takis, Star Wars Episode Tunes: Attack on the Score, Film Score Monthly, pp. 18–23.
- Mark Richards, Across the Stars: Analysis.
- Mark Richards, Battle of the Heroes: Analysis.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 22, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Jon and Al Kaplan mention Archived October 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine "minor-mode arpeggiations" as dominating this score, presumably referring to this motif. Adams also says that the leitmotives in that score were "rhythmic" in nature. While Williams himself has said little of the leitmotives of this score (outside of Across the Stars), Lucas is quoted on the album saying that Williams "heightens the mystery and suspense that drives the first half of the film", most likely referring to this motif, which is indeed confined to the first half of the film.
- This theme is also apparent from the album presentation: Williams having edited the first track specifically to showcase its appearances. After the initial Kamino scenes, Williams continues to showcase the motif in a skeletal form – an arpeggiation often considered to be a separate "mystery" motif (although Lehman classifies it an "incidental" figure). This figure is also heavily present in the album.
- This is a piece of music written originally for Qui-Gon's funeral in The Phantom Menace. It was reprised and repurposed here as a general "funeral" theme, being woven into the lament material in "Anakin's Betrayal" and used for Padme's death and her later funeral.
- This fanfare from "He is the Chosen One", recurs Archived October 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine in "Palpatine's Teachings" for a transition to the view of Curoscant from Padme's abode. It was used in the finished film rather for a shot of Obi-Wan entering Bail Organa's ship.
- the themes and motifs of Episode III, JohnWilliamsFans.
- Williams recalls to have written "three or four pieces of new material" for this installment, including "a couple of[...]lamentations[...]of Anakin's turn from the light to the dark", a "piece with a lot of percussion for Grievous" and "Battle of the Heroes[...]a motif based on four pitches." Ian Freer who was present at the recording, noted the lament and "variations to Qui-Gon’s funeral." Also based on the recording, John Crichton speaks of "the new theme" (Battle of the Heroes) which has "nine notes", the lament, Across the Stars, and "a reprise of a choral track from a previous score. This is probably the reprise of Qui-Gon’s funeral music."
- The Rebel Fanfare is often (but not always) used in the sequel trilogy scores with the Millennium Falcon. In his score to Solo, John Powell continued this trend, having said that in talking to Williams the former claimed that it was the motif's intended association all along.
- Mark Richards, The Force Awakens themes.
- As with other long-lined themes on this list, components of Rey's theme have been described as independent leitmotives, namely the wind and chime introduction figures of the unabridged theme. In his commentary on the score, Doug refers to the piece as a single theme. He also refers to the variation heard in the end-credits as "Rey's theme in counterpoint[...]with The Force theme."
- According to an interview with Williams, he composed themes for Rey, Kylo, Rey, the Resistance, Poe and Snoke. His end-credits suite, traditionally used to recapitulate the entire thematic glossary of the film, features the themes for Rey, Kylo (both themes), Poe, the Resistance and the Pursuit ostinato. Snoke's theme is not visited, although it has a dedicated track on the album.
- John Williams refers to a "more ruminative part" besides Kylo Ren's main theme, which he thought of as a "relative of Darth Vader." (the unabridged interview appears here: http://projectorandorchestra.com/john-williams-on-the-force-awakens-and-the-legacy-of-star-wars/) The arpeggiated material that often introduces this motif often appears as a shorthand for the entire theme, and Lehman classifies it as a separate motif and Maurizio Caschetto follows in his lead.
- The arpeggiated introduction figure to this theme (Lehman's C theme for Kylo Ren) is the basis for the material surrounding The First Order itself, the so-called "First Order motif".
- This theme is often used in conjunction with the character of Finn, and was therefore often mistaken to be his theme, as well as for the Millennium Falcon. Rather, it is a motif for the more comedic action sequences in the film, in which Finn's propensity to flee is used for comedic effect.
- While this theme, which appears in the very end of The Force Awakens, technically only re-appears once in The Last Jedi (in a scene recreating the one from The Force Awakens), it is primarily the product of thematic transformation, being based on the inversion of Luke's (Star Wars) theme and as such, its single appearance can be seen as a culmination of that theme's development.
- The score seems to feature a multitude of lesser, more tongue-in-cheek call-backs to the music of the Battle in the Snow, snowspeeders, space slug, etc. https://moviemusicuk.us/2017/12/19/star-wars-the-last-jedi-john-williams/
- Mark Richards, The Last Jedi themes.
- http://www.waltdisneystudiosawards.com/media/pdf/SW_PRODUCTION_NOTES.pdf. Williams mentions a theme for Finn, but is most likely misremembering.
- Such an approach is taken by the programs to the live-to-projection premiere, which is seemingly not based on new insight from Williams himself. Such an approach was taken by the programs to the live-to-projection premiere of the Star Wars films, where numerous motifs were identified (seemingly with no new insight from Williams himself), including a rancor motif, a motif for the droids in the original Star Wars, etc... Others to have taken to such an approach are Alfred Surenyan and Aaron Krerowicz. Even Ed Chang does this with several minor motifs he attributes to the various Star Wars scores, including a "Imperial rhythmic motif", a " rhythmic Imperial skirmish motif", "exotic Bespin motif", "'one with the Force' motif", "trap theme", a "taking off motif", a secondary Droid march, an Utapau "motoric" motif, and a "Millennium Falcon rhythmic motif." Also see previous versions of this page.
- Doug Adams analysis of the first four scores only includes just about 35 "themes" (with Adams himself casting doubt over some of them), and Frank Lehman's analysis of the entire series contains only 55 leitmotives, in spite of including "retroactively inserted or tracked themes", material that is revisited in Giacchino's Rogue One, and "B-themes[...and]detachable polyphonic subcomponents" but "only when they are heard as detached in the underscore."
- Such an approach is taken by Frank Lehman. Even Adams does this with the ostinato accompaniment to The Rebe Fanfare (albeit admitting that its "not a theme, per se") and with the B-phrase of Luke's theme, the former due to tracking, and the latter most likely due to certain, fleeting comments made by Williams in a preceding interview. Adams also mentions that components of various themes, such as the ostinato accompaniment of Duel of the Fates or Yoda's playful side, are "used thematically" but doesn't describe them as separate themes, per se, as he does Luke's B-theme, for instance. Aaron Krerowicz also does this with Luke's theme and the Jawa theme, which he describes as no less than three thematic identities. Ed Chung does this with the rhythmic accompaniments to multiple themes, which he describes as "Imperial rhythm motif", "Imperial skirmish motif", a "Droid Army Attack motif", etc...
- Outside of Star Wars, the only known instance is the introduction figure to the Superman fanfare. Indiana Jones' theme, the Raiders March, originated as two choices for the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the latter of the two becoming the bridge to the former (when Spielberg asked to use both), and both serve the same narrarive function. Williams has also made a fleeting comment about Luke's theme B-phrase, and similar comments about the B-theme of "The Adventures of Han" were relayed by John Powell.
- Adams does also identify (after the fact) a secondary Ewok theme, although the material in question (which mimics the Ewoks diegetic horn calls) only appears twice in the score, and only once in isolation from the main Ewok theme. All other appearances are not isolated and are part of either the concert arrangement of the Ewok material or a concert version of the film cue in which the piece originally appears. Adams also notes a "Playful Yoda theme" and that the ostinato accompaniment of "Duel of the Fates" is used "thematically" but does not list either of them as separate themes, per se. Lehman identifies both the secondary Ewok theme, the various components of Duel of the Fates and the introduction figures to Rey and Kylo's themes as separate leitmotives.
- See http://starwarsmusic.pashamusic.com/index.html and Lewister's article on the score.
- For instance, a multitude of motifs identified in these reviews: http://scoresheet.tripod.com/alpha.html
- Alfred Surenyan describes themes for the Flag Parade, the Arrival on Tatooine, Jango's Escape, Taun We (which is mentioned in Takis analysis, but as a setpiece-specific piece), Anakin's Dark Deeds, The Dune Sea, The Emperor's Throne Room, Starkiller Base, etc. Ed Chung describes an "escape theme" from the opening space battle of Revenge of the Sith, an Utapau motoric figure appearing in the fight with Grievous, an "exotic Bespin motif" for the finale of Empire Strikes Back, a "taking off" motif from "The Phantom Menace", etc...
- Williams refers to the use of "bouncing" horns in Star Wars as a "motif" for Luke's Landspeeder, although it is based on no fixed recurring melodic or rhythmic idea. He also once referred to the material for the Battle of Hoth as "thematic", but Matessino's notes ultimately conclude that "thematic material is deffered" in the piece. Lehman makes no mention of either motif, even as "incidental" motifs, and in fact stressed that "Themes for self-contained, non-repeating set-pieces are not included." Adams also does not list any setpiece-specific material in his thematic analyses, but did mention Archived October 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine that "the walker attack on Hoth[...]was assigned a memorable and fully realized standalone melody" but, unlike the melody of "The TIE fighters chasing the Millennium Falcon away from the Death Star", which went on to recur in a later installment, this motif (like the Asteroid Field music) is used "with less thought toward a score-length arc of material than toward a series of self-contained vignettes." In the prequels, ostinati-based pieces such as Chase through Coruscant or Jango Fett's escape are described by Adams not as melodies but as "shorter, chunkier motives seldom longer than a measure or two, and often more rhythmic than melodic" and as "terse" and "episodic." Jeff Bonds also mentions that the former sequence features "no theme hitting them [the audience] over the head."
- The finale features two interwoven pieces of music: rhythmic phrases in the strings for the shootout, and an "ascending horn phrase" for three individual and unrelated moments: Luke spotting Boba Fett, him confronting Darth Vader, and lastly, Boba taking off with Han's effigy onboard. The latter has been described as a possible "ambush" motif, or as a secondary theme for Boba, but both seem to be too setpiece-specific to possess any leitmotivic significance, and are not described by either Adams, Matessino or Lehman as leitmotifs of any kind, nor mentioned by Williams himself.
- Adams, who also identifies this idea's appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark, identified these as "mystery chords", stating that they "may or may not" have been conceived as a leitmotif, but concludes that they "probably didn't mean anything." Lehman identifies the gesture from the original Star Wars as one to do with descending unto a planet, and the one from The Force Awakens as a motif for the map leading to Luke.
- Lehman classifies all these types of recurring material as "incidental motifs" rather than proper leitmotifs. These include the aforementioned "chromatic choral writing" from The Phantom Menace underwater scenes, suspenseful string writing in The Force Awakens, "Mournful homophonic choral progressions" in The Last Jedi and a multitude of other material such as "heroic descending tetrachords", "cascading trumpet lines", etc...
- Mikko Ojala, About the themes of Revenge of the Sith
- Adams comments Archived October 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine that the Grievous material appears in "in several developmental guises", probably referring to these applications later in the score.
- The "podrace motif" recurs in tracked music and in a dedicated concert rendition of the flag parade. The action ostinato is an incidental accompaniment used for the Rebel Fanfare in the Battle of Yavin, which would end up tracked into Sail Barge Assault in Return of the Jedi, along with the third appearance of the X-Wing attack motif which Adams identifies therein.
- According to John Powell, "The Adventures of Han" contains two themes which Williams develops separately (to the point of spotting them for a couple of actual cues), one more heroic, the other – more reflective.
- The first three scores received an expanded Anthology release and finally an effectively complete release in 1996. The Phantom Menace was also released in an "Ultimate Edition", featuring a lot of added cues but also multiple instances of tracked music, hence lacking a lot of original music that wasn't used as intended by the composer in the finished film. The Last Jedi received an isolated score release, albeit again not including unused material and maintaining tracked sequences.
- While the original track is a film cue, Williams created a new suite based on it in 2018.
- There's an alternate presentation over the end-credits, featuring a hint of Anakin's theme as an ending coda.
- Features a variation of "The Starkiller", premiered in 2019.
- Features a variation of Luke's theme.
- This suite uniquely features not one but two of the three thematic ideas that make up the entire score: Rose's theme, and Luke's Island motif, notably stressing the former.
- This is a suite of Han's themes which was written by John Williams, and the suite was arranged and conducted by Williams, as well.
- The dictionary definition of 'Diegetic' at Wiktionary.
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