One of the more challenging classes I took in high school was Music Theory my Junior year. There were just a few of us in the class, and Mr. Briel decided to push us. Part of the class including listening to a series of notes and determining the intervals between said notes. I think I can say I did pretty well. I have no where near absolute (aka “perfect”) pitch, but we practiced listening to the intervals between the notes that I got pretty good at it.
But that was more than fifteen years ago.
Needless to say, I’m out of practice. That’s why I hesitate to post this because…well…although music was essentially my life during high school (it happens when you’re a dedicated Band Geek), my ability to read music has dwindled since those days. And my ability to discern intervals like I could in music theory has definitely dwindled…or disappeared altogether.
I read about this a few months ago and haven’t been able to shake the idea. First, listen to this part of The Emperor’s Theme in Return of the Jedi. Starting at around the :20 mark, the choir joins the music, building tension in the dramatic climax to the Star Wars saga. Just take a few seconds and listen to the progression of notes the recurring musical theme. You can stop at the 1:10 mark (unless you want to keep listening…which is tempting).
Got it? Good.
Now, bear with me here.
At the :32 mark on this clip from the celebration scene in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a children’s choir starts singing in the background. Listen to them (you might have to turn up the volume).
I know I’m off my game and haven’t analyzed music in a very long time, but isn’t this the same theme, just in a different key, tempo, and some modifications to the rhythm? But it’s the same intervals, right? So it’s just a modification of another theme. Right?
If so, how come I didn’t hear about this or figure out out until ten years after Episode I was released?
I know recurring themes is common. And many of the musical themes used in the Original Trilogy popped back up in the Prequel Trilogy. But most of those were pretty overt. I don’t remember another instance where John Williams took a theme and modified it like this.
Maybe I’m wrong. If you know of another example, please share it. But unless I’m proven otherwise, I’ll just believe he’s a genius. Makes me want to see the Star Wars in Concert tour. Too bad the closest venue is in Oklahoma! Nothing against Oklahoma, really. It’s just too far away. Anyone wanna buy us some plane tickets to the land of the Sooners? 😉