"Who is Rey? John Williams might be giving the answer in The Force Awakens Soundtrack!" Response
A popular recently-posted YouTube video posits that Rey's theme hints at a lineage to Darth Vader. Click below to watch:
The video observes that, “If we analyze some parts of 'The Scavenger' and 'Rey's Theme' cues, there is some curious stuff.” It goes on to cite the “reflective motive” as containing “The Vader Cadence”, and therefore concluding that Rey is descended from Vader.
Here is an excerpt from “Imperial March”, with that “Vader Cadence” highlighted in red:
And here's the “reflective Motive”, with the notes in question again highlighted in red (this is a transcription from The Force Awakens original soundtrack, track 2, 3:16-3:29):
No doubt there are similarities. The melodic contour (the shape of the melody – when notes go up or when they go down) is the same. In this case, it's three notes, the lowest of which is first, the highest of which is second, and the middle of which is third.
But that's where the similarities end – intervallically, Rey's Theme is largely unrelated to Vader's.
Furthermore, this argument is entirely predicated on the reflective motive, which is the least substantial part of Rey's Theme.
Rey's Theme consists of five intermingled musical segments: (1) the tip-toe motive, (2) the chime motive, (3) the main melody, (4) the regal motive, and (5) the countermelody. All 5 of those morsels are heard frequently throughout both the film and the soundtrack. (Click here to read my article analyzing Rey's theme.)
The video claims that the reflective motive “is also present in other parts of the album.” But it is actually found just twice on the original soundtrack: Track 2 from 3:16-3:29 (the example above), and track 6 from 0:47-0:58. And that's it! The reflective motive could be added as a sixth component of Rey's Theme, but it's insignificant (both in substance and frequency) in comparison to the other five components.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that Rey is not a descendent of Vader – that could still turn out to be true, and we'll have to wait for the subsequent episodes to know that for sure. Nor does it mean that John Williams didn't intend such a musical relationship – only the maestro himself can confirm or deny that. What it does mean, however, is that the evidence supporting the conclusion is extremely tenuous.
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Much stronger is the musical relationship between Luke and Rey – and how both of those characters are linked to the Force.
Used throughout all seven films, The Force Theme consists of four phrases, labeled 1 through 4 in the example below:
In “The Force Awakens”, the first three phrases are important, while the concluding fourth phrase is never heard – not even once.
If (as the title of the film tells us) the Force “awakens”, that implies that the Force had been asleep. Musically symbolizing this dormancy, The Force Theme is entirely absent from the first 1/3 of the film. It's heard for the first time at the 42-minute mark, during the scene where Rey and Finn meet Han and Chewie and Rey says something like, “You are the Han Solo who fought with the rebellion.” (For reasons I do not understand, this cue is not included on the original soundtrack). But, significantly, only the first two phrases of theme are heard – noticeably absent is the climactic third phrase, with its glorious high note. This is true throughout the film until the very end. (Disclaimer: The scene where Rey defeats Kylo Ren in combat features a possible exception to this claim. Listen for yourself: track 20, 2:39.)
Rey's Theme employs a chord progression identical to the first two phrases of The Force Theme (i to IV):
At the end of the film, as Rey finds Luke Skywalker, a new theme (Luke's Theme) is heard. Luke's Theme employs the same chord progression as the third phrase of The Force Theme (i to bVI), symbolic of how Jedi Master Luke is "further along in the Force" than rookie Rey. Here's Luke's Theme (track 23, 1:10-1:20) and how it is derived from The Force Theme:
Neither Rey's Theme nor Luke's Theme alone is sufficient to fully revive The Force Theme. But when their powers combine, the theme is heard in its full glory (track 23, 1:37-1:58).
What this means biologically is inconclusive, but clearly the two characters are strongly linked musically not only to one another but also to the Force. And by the end of the film, the Force has indeed awakened.
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The Music of Star Wars
These posts will help focus and develop my analyses of John Williams' film scores.