While The Rise of Skywalker doesn't premier until tomorrow, the soundtrack was released this morning. As I always do with a new Star Wars soundtrack, I listened to the end first, since the credits music is always a medley of the most important themes, both new and old.
On first hearing (not knowing what new the new themes are, or what I'm listening for), the word recycled immediately comes to mind. The opening of this track is essentially identical to the ending track from The Force Awakens. Compare 0:00-1:14 above to 1:37-2:54 below.
The famed 'Imperial March' is heard, followed by Rey's themes, all of which are also essentially identical to previous soundtracks. Compare TROS 3:26-4:51 above with TESB 0:05-0:38 and 2:16-3:03 below.
And TROS 5:02-6:03 above with TFA 1:41-2:38 below.
Lastly, the concluding fanfare of TROS (8:55-10:55) is the same as the conlcuding fanfares from ROTJ (6:46-8:33) and ROTS (11:17-13:06).
None of this borrowing is inherently bad - of course there is going to be much overlap - but some of it does seem a little lazy, like he couldn't come up with something different. One thing that stands out as appropriate, though, is how the final films of each trilogy conclude with the same fanfare. Obviously I have not seen TROS yet, but Rey especially seems like her music should be different from TFA because her character is (presumably) different from two films ago. But I'll withhold final judgement until I see the film a few dozen times and more extensively analyze its soundtrack.
Despite the recycled nature of much of TROS credits music, there are three prominent new themes. I have no idea whose themes they are, or what they mean since I don't know the plot of the movie. Nevertheless, there are some interesting parallels to previous themes that might or might not be significant.
First, from 1:20-2:08, is a lush ultra-romantic theme - the kind Williams is so famous for composing. Since I don't have any clue what this theme symbolizes or who it represents, I'll give it the placeholder moniker "Five Golden Rings" due to the similarity to the line from "The Twelve Days of Christmas".
The #4 (G# in D major) stands out to my ears because Yoda's theme, Anakin's Theme, and Rose's Theme all also employ the same pitch. That might or might not mean anything. It's also noteworthy for the common tone diminished seventh chord (highlighted in red). I'll use this in my theory classes from now on as an example that's not either Tchaikovsky or barber shop!
The second new theme is heard immediately after the "Five Golden Rings", at 2:24.
No clue what this represents, but it does remind me of the Resistance March (again with the #4, though in minor) and Admiral Holdo's theme.
The third and final new theme, which I'm temporarily dubbing the "Percy Grainger chorale" since it reminds me of the second movement of his Lincolnshire Posy, is a calm and stable tune that nevertheless modulates effortlessly. I'm imagining this theme is prominent at the end of the film, as it has a "they all lived happily ever after" kind of feel to it.
Now that I have a (slight) idea of new themes to listen out for, I'll turn my attention to the remainder of the soundtrack.
The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.