John Williams, creating memorable music for “Star Wars” villains—and more

Posted on: December 17, 2019

“It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but John Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too,” writes Frank Lehman in Sunday’s (12/15) Washington Post. “Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs … much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains…. Listening to these nefarious themes … offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side.… Of all Star Wars’ Dark Siders … Palpatine has the most intriguing musical representation…. Palpatine’s primary leitmotif, introduced in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ is constructed around commonplace minor triads that progress chromatically, in a kind of violation of natural musical law…. When Palpatine finally makes his pitch to Anakin, his music does something most uncharacteristic for a Sith: It gets ecclesiastical. For a brief 15-second span, the violas and cellos state a hushed, reverential hymn in pure, unadulterated C-sharp minor…. For decades Williams has proved himself Hollywood’s master musical manipulator.… With his music for villains like Vader, Kylo Ren and the emperor, Williams invites us to lower our guards. For the Jedi, the seductive power of evil is a constant threat. And … it’s something we can easily hum along to.”