"The Throne Room", which concludes A New Hope, shares significant structural similarities with American marches (a la John Philip Sousa). Marches typically follow a six-part formal layout:
Introduction - brief, fanfare-ish, and often in unison until a cadence at the end
1st Strain - the first melody, repeated immediately
2nd Strain - the second melody, builds slightly in intensity, repeated immediately
Trio - a section of repose (lower intensity), key change of +1 flat
Dogfight - intense and harmonically unstable section, to be resolved by the...
Grandioso - the climax, often repeats back to the trio/dogfight the first time
Of course, not every march follows this structure exactly, but this is the basic template. Let's use perhaps the most famous march ever composed as an example: "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa.
0:08-0:23 1st strain
0:23-0:38 1st strain, repeated
0:38-0:54 2nd strain
0:54-1:10 2nd strain, repeated
2:35-2:58 Dogfight, repeated
2:58-3:30 Grandioso, repeated
Now compare that with the formal design of "The Throne Room".
0:00-0:17 Introduction - C major
0:18-0:34 1st strain (Force theme) - F minor
0:34-0:48 1st strain repeat (add trombones) - F minor
0:48-0:56 Transition (based on the introduction, but a perfect fifth lower pitched)
0:56-1:12 Trio - D-flat major
1:12-1:29 Main theme, part b - D-flat major
1:29-1:46 Grandioso - D-flat major
"The Throne Room" uses a very simplified version of the march structure, but it is clearly related. Both share opening fanfares that start in unison, a repeated first strain, a transition to a trio with a key change of one added flat, and conclude with a grandioso.
That being said, of course, there are also obvious dissimilarities. "The Throne Room" omits the 2nd strain entirely, along with the dogfight. Instead, the 1st strain and trio are separated by a transition based on the music of the introduction; and the trio and grandioso are separated by the secondary part of main theme, the melody of which is then repeated as the grandioso.
That transition from 1st strain to trio (which in terms of structural function replaces the 2nd strain) is worth a close look.
The first two measures of the transition are identical to the first two measures of the introduction except for the fact that the transition is based on F while the intro is based on C. The transition then abbreviates the introductory fanfare by jumping straight to a secondary dominant (A-flat 7 functions as a V7 of D-flat) in the fourth measure, which functions both harmonically and structurally as the impetus for the traditional key change of one added flat at the trio. In other words, both the intro and the transition conclude with dominants requiring resolution, but in different keys.
Although much of "The Throne Room" follows traditional march tonal designs, one aspect that is somewhat unconventional is the fact that the first half is in minor. The majority of marches are in major the entire time (with the possible exception of the dog fight). Even so, there are some notable precedents, perhaps the most famous being Sousa's "The Gladiator March".
Lastly, although the term "character" is far more subjective than tonality and structure, there are several other marches that share similarities with "The Throne Room" in terms of character - that dignified, noble, heroic quality that makes "The Throne Room" such effective music at the conclusion of A New Hope. Sir William Walton's "Crown Imperial March" (the name of which would obviously influence John Williams' score to The Empire Strikes Back) is perhaps the most obvious such example. (Notice how the very first notes are remarkably similar to the secondary main Star Wars theme, as heard in "The Throne Room".)
Another such example of similarity in musical character is "Orb and Sceptre" by the same composer. (Note how it opens with a trumpet fanfare, quite similar to "The Throne Room".)
To summarize, then, John Williams' "The Throne Room" combines elements of formal and tonal designs of American marches (as seen most notably in John Philip Sousa) with the majestic and regal character of English marches (as heard most notably in Edward Elgar and Sir William Walton).
While the melody of the Throne Room is the Force theme, the introduction bears strong similarities to the introduction of the famous "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Felix Mendelssohn.
To visually articulate the similarities, here are two score fragments, with the Throne Room intro on top and the Wedding March intro on bottom.
Both start with trumpets (The Throne Room also uses horns) on middle C with a fanfare-like rhythm (indicated in red), followed by an expansion of that initial motif to include the E above middle C (indicated in green). The Throne Room also adds the A-flat below middle C. The motif is further expanded to include the G above that (indicated in blue) before coming to rest on a C major chord (indicated in orange). In between the blue and the orange, Williams inserts a few chords (E-flat and G) before resolving to the C major chord that concludes the introduction. These chords are entirely absent from the Mendelssohn. (As a side note, E-flat to G to C is exactly the same progression that George Harrison used in the introduction to "Something" on the Beatles' last-recorded album, Abbey Road.)
This concordance of the music heard in the Special Edition DVD release of "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" dictates precisely what themes and motifs (as defined in my previous blog "A New Hope" Index of Musical Themes and Motifs") are heard in the film and when (give or take a few seconds). Mixed in, of course, is a great deal of incidental scoring that is NOT based on those repeated themes or motifs, and is thus not included in this timeline, which is only concerned with recurring musical material. For reference, approximately simultaneous quotes are listed on the right-hand side.
Episode IV: A New Hope
0:00:00 20th Century Fox Fanfare
0:00:30 Main Theme, parts a & b Main titles
0:02:08 Rebel motif
0:02:28 Rebel motif
0:02:43 Rebel motif "Did you hear that?"
0:03:46 Imperial motif
0:04:17 Rebel motif
0:04:54 Force theme "R2-D2, where are you?"
0:05:07 Leia's theme
0:05:33 Stormtrooper motif
0:06:18 Leia's theme "There's one. Set for stun."
0:06:43 Imperial motif "You'll be deactivated for sure."
0:07:30 Imperial motif "Darth Vader. Only you could be so bold."
0:08:51 Death Star motif "There'll be no one to stop us this time."
[0:09:01-0:10:29 No music]
[0:11:24-0:12:31 No music]
0:12:31 Jawa theme 1 "Utini!"
0:13:10 Jawa theme 2
0:13:38 Jawa theme 3
0:15:10 Imperial motif
0:16:08 Jawa theme 1 "We're doomed."
0:16:32 Jawa theme 2 "Will this never end?"
0:16:54 Jawa theme 1
0:17:15 Main theme, part a "Luke? Tell uncle if he gets a translator..."
[0:17:48-0:19:17 No music]
[0:19:41-0:21:08 No music]
0:21:40 Leia's theme "I think she was a passenger on our last voyage..."
[0:23:02-0:25:12 No music]
0:25:12 Main theme, part a "Owen, he can't stay here forever..."
0:25:39 Force theme Binary sunset
0:26:11 Rebel motif "What are you doing hiding back there?"
0:26:31 Main theme, part a "That R2 unit has always been a problem."
0:26:46 Force theme "How could I be so stupid?"
[0:27:22-0:27:47 No music]
0:27:57 Tusken Raiders theme "Hit the accelerator."
0:30:16 Force theme "Come here my little friend."
[0:30:46-0:31:04 No music]
0:31:04 Force theme "Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time."
0:31:51 Tusken Raiders theme "I think we'd better get in doors."
[0:32:43-0:34:09 No music]
0:34:09 Imperial motif "How did my father die?"
0:34:39 Force theme "The Force is what gives a jedi his power."
0:35:12 Leia's theme "Years ago you served my father int he Clone Wars"
[0:35:52-0:36:12 No music]
0:36:35 Force theme "Learn about the Force, Luke."
0:36:54 Imperial motif "You must do what you feel is right, of course."
[0:37:08-0:39:05 No music]
0:40:04 Force theme "Wait, Luke, it's too dangerous."
0:40:36 Force theme
0:40:48 Dies irae
0:40:55 Death Star motif
0:41:02 Imperial motif
0:41:04 Leia's theme
0:42:13 Force theme "I want to learn the ways of the Force."
0:43:27 Imperial motif "How long have you had these droids?"
0:43:59 Force theme "Move along."
[0:44:08-0:44:51 No music]
0:44:51 Cantina Band 1
[0:47:00-0:47:15 No music]
0:47:15 Cantina Band 1
[0:47:33-0:47:40 No music]
0:47:40 Cantina Band 2
[0:49:53-0:49:56 No music]
0:49:57 Cantina Band 2
[0:51:13-0:51:42 No music]
0:52:13 Main theme, part a "Alright, give it to me. I'll take it."
0:52:42 Jabba's theme "Solo!"
0:54:12 Main theme, part a "If the ship's as fast as his boasting..."
[0:54:40-0:55:03 No music]
0:55:03 Imperial motif "Hello, sir."
0:55:23 Force theme "Stop that ship! Blast 'em!"
0:55:46 Force theme "Our passengers must be hotter than I thought."
0:56:59 Death Star motif
[0:57:18-0:58:09 No music]
[0:59:30-1:04:27 No music]
1:05:24 Rebel theme "There are alternatives to fighting."
1:05:49 Stormtrooper motif "To your stations. Come with me."
[1:06:10-1:07:14 No music]
1:07:23 Force theme "Boy, it's lucky you had these compartments."
1:07:44 Imperial motif "If the scanners pick up anything, report it immediately."
[1:08:21-1:08:53 No music]
1:08:32 Imperial motif fragment "Take over, we've got a bad transmitter."
1:08:51 Main theme, part a "Between him howling and you blasting..."
[1:09:05-1:12:30 No music]
1:13:54 Main theme, part a "This is not going to work."
1:14:43 Main theme, part a
1:15:55 Rebel motif "Luke, we're gonna have company."
1:15:58 Leia's theme "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper."
1:16:11 Main theme, part a "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you."
[1:16:25-1:17:07 No music]
1:17:22 Imperial motif
1:17:39 Rebel motif "Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route."
1:18:36 Imperial motif "Get in there you big furry oaf."
[1:19:08-1:22:15 No music]
1:22:27 Imperial motif "Look! There!"
[1:24:35-1:24:58 No music]
[1:25:42-1:25:55 No music]
1:27:00 Main theme, part a "There she is."
1:27:35 Stormtrooper & Imperial motifs
1:28:24 Main theme, part a
1:28:42 Main theme, part b
1:28:58 Main theme, part a "Here they come."
1:29:08 Leia's theme
1:29:18 Stormtrooper motif "We think they may be splitting up."
1:29:32 Main theme, part a "Where could they be?"
1:29:45 Stormtrooper & Imperial motifs "Close the blast doors"
[1:30:10-1:32:17 No music]
1:32:20 Force theme
1:32:30 Leia's theme
1:32:59 Rebel motif "I hope that old man got that tractor beam..."
1:33:27 Force theme "Coming up on their sentry ship."
1:34:33 TIE Fighter attack & Rebel motif "Here they come."
1:35:57 Death star motif
[1:36:07-1:44:59 No music]
1:45:59 Death Star motif
1:46:33 Force theme "This is Red 5. I'm going in."
1:46:56 Imperial theme "We count 30 rebel ships, Lord Vader."
1:48:44 Force theme "Whatch your back, Luke."
1:49:07 Force theme "I can't shake him."
[1:49:38-1:53:26 No music]
1:53:59 Imperial motif "What about that tower?"
1:55:19 Main theme, part a "Hang on R2."
1:55:38 Force theme "Use the Force, Luke."
1:55:56 Main theme, part a "Luke, you switched off your targeting computer."
1:57:33 Rebel motif "Remember, the Force will be with you. Always."
[1:57:40-1:58:24 No music]
1:58:24 Throne Room, part a (Force theme) Medal ceremony
1:59:20 Throne Room, part b (independent)
1:59:37 Main theme, part b
1:59:53 Throne Room, part c
2:00:09 Main theme, part a End credits
2:00:20 Rebel motif
2:00:47 Main theme, part a
2:01:05 Main theme, part b
2:01:28 Main theme, part a
2:01:45 Main thee, part b
2:02:03 Main theme, part a
2:02:25 Leia's theme (+ Rebel motif)
2:03:11 Main theme, part a
2:03:27 Main theme, part b
2:03:43 Rebel motif
Here is a list of all the musical themes and motifs (i.e. recurring musical patterns - I am not including the extra incidental music that is heard once and then never reprised) used in "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope", with a brief musical score excerpt included for reference, roughly in order of significance.
Tusken Raiders Theme (no score, but audio example):
NOTE: Throne Room, part a is not included here because it is identical to the Force theme illustrated above.
The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.