A musicologist is cataloguing “Star Wars” themes

Posted on: December 22, 2017

“Even if you haven’t seen the Star Wars movies, you’ve almost certainly heard them,” writes Andy Thomason in Monday’s (12/18) Chronicle of Higher Education. “ ‘The Imperial March.’ … The iconic opening bars. The work of John Williams, they’ve been the object of parody and constant allusion. That ubiquity prompted Frank Lehman, an assistant professor of music at Tufts University, to create a short catalog of all the leitmotifs … in the Star Wars movies. Q: What was your dissertation topic? Lehman: It was specifically on harmony in film music and the depiction of wonderment and awe and the sublime in mostly mainstream movies. Q: One of the subtler themes in The Last Jedi … was a reprise of a theme associated with Emperor Palpatine. Lehman: … This theme … originated in Return of the Jedi…. It’s densely chromatic … eerie, malevolent, insinuating…. I was teaching … a psychology course … and the topic was musical chills … and goose flesh…. The example I used was the last scene in The Force Awakens, when Luke Skywalker is revealed after a long absence.”

Posted December 21, 2017