I saw The Last Jedi for a second time on Tuesday. I took 21 pages of notes (I know, I'm a nerd) on the music and how it relates to the story so I can update my "Music of Star Wars" presentation. Here is a working catalog of all the themes used in the film. Starting tomorrow, I will use this catalog as a reference as I dissect and analyze the soundtrack.
Most of the thematic (meaning non-incidental) music reprises themes from previous films.
Reprized from A New Hope:
Reprized from The Empire Strikes Back:
Reprized from Return of the Jedi:
Reprized from The Force Awakens:
The Force Awakens implied that the Jedi Steps theme is Luke's theme (there were only two characters in that final scene and Rey already has her music, so it seems reasonable that Jedi Steps is Luke's theme), but The Last Jedi did little to confirm or deny that. We do hear the theme a couple of times, but only at the beginning. If this really is Luke's theme, why don't we hear it throughout the film when we see Luke? It should be heard during Luke's battle with Kylo Ren for sure. So I'm still puzzled as to exactly what this theme means.
The March of the Resistance undergoes the most musical development throughout The Last Jedi. It is constantly fragmented, twisted, turned, and pulled in all sorts of directions depending on the narrative function at any given moment.
Poe's heroic theme features much less prominently in The Last Jedi than the March of the Resistance. It's still there, but it's much more subtle (I didn't even notice it the first time I saw the film) and doesn't carry the same weight. I'm a bit confused, though, as to why. Poe plays a major role throughout The Last Jedi, so why don't we hear Poe's theme more?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, notice how Rey's and Ren's themes are plural. It's because both characters have multiple parts to their music.
Rey's music has five components:
And Ren's music, though not quite as dense as Rey's, has several component parts, as well:
It's also worth mentioning how most of Rey's music and all of Ren's music is motivic rather than melodic. A motive is a short but memorable musical phrase, where melodies tend to be longer. Rey's chime motive, for example, is two measures long and uses seven notes. Rey's melody, by contrast, lasts for six measures and uses 14 notes. I was expecting (and hoping) for musical development of these brief motives for both Rey and Ren in The Last Jedi. I have to admit I was disappointed when that didn't happen. Nevertheless, music for both characters permeates the film – it's just that they're always more or less the same as what was heard in The Force Awakens.
Okay, so there are the themes from The Last Jedi that were reprized from previous episodes. Now for the new themes.
The most prominent is Rose's theme, which has two parts:
It rather similar to the opening phrase of the Force theme...
... and to Anakin's theme from The Phantom Menace...
… and even to David Newman's theme from the 1999 film Galaxy Quest.
I suppose this could mean that Rose is related to the force, or to Anakin (or to Dr. Lazarus!), but I suspect these similarities are little more than coincidence. All of these themes use scale degrees 5-1-2 and most use 3 in their melodies, which is a cliche of western music - there are a great many more themes that use this pattern, far too many to list here.
In addition to Rose, there are a few more new themes:
Frankly, I'm not entirely sure what all these new themes mean. I suspect it will become more clear as I continue digesting the soundtrack. If anybody out there has ideas, please comment!
So there are all the themes and motives I gathered from a second viewing of The Last Jedi. It's quite likely that I'll discover more bits of new music as I continue digesting, but I believe these are all the major new contributions to the Star Wars musical universe.
Now it's time to turn to the soundtrack specifically. I noticed quite a few discrepancies between the film's soundtrack and the album soundtrack (for example, the soundtrack's finale employs Yoda's theme while the film omits it).
The soundtrack consists of 20 tracks. I will endeavor to write 20 more blogs, one per track, over the next month, leading up to my “Music of Star Wars” presentations in January 2018, which will debut new commentary on Episode VIII's music.
The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.