Star Wars vs. Beatles
It's not very often that two of my analytical interests coincide, however this afternoon I discovered an intriguing (although no doubt coincidental) similarity between John Williams' Star Wars main theme and the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home".
I have a distinct recollection of sitting in a theory class taught by Dr. Stanley Kleppinger as a sophomore at Butler University in which he pointed out the fact that in the Star Wars main theme, the second scale degree resolves not down to the first scale degree, but rather up. This is most unusual because 2 is such a strong tendency tone, having a very potent tonal pull downwards to tonic (scale degree 1). In Star Wars, however, this pull is thwarted by the jump a minor seventh up to tonic rather than the step down to it, as indicated in the example below with a blue line.
This unconventional resolution helps provide the theme with a sense of heroism - a feeling of overcoming obstacles, just as the melody overcomes the descending harmonic tendency.
Since that class, I have been on the lookout for another such example, and some eight years later I have finally found one: Paul McCartney's "She's Leaving Home", off of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. While in different keys (and thus using different tones), I have helped show the similarity by including scale degree numbers above each note.
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The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.