Look and Find #3: Empire Strikes Back ‘The Force’ Theme

Welcome to the third post in the “Look and Find” series. The process is straightforward: look across the length of a film/video game for leitmotifs/themes, transcribe them, find other instances of them, detail them with instrumentation as well as notable characteristics and permutations, and post them here! Again from The Empire Strikes Back (1980), we have the Force theme.

The Force theme:



These theme is used all OVER the place. It seems that characters talk about/use the Force a lot in these movies. It features an initial upward interval which is typical of Williams, and has a very straightforward melodic contour which to me is oddly satisfying. What I mean is that the melody slowly rises to a climax on F in mm. 6 before falling. just look at all of the half notes to really see what I am talking about. It’s simplicity leads to being memorable.

Also of significance is the harmony, which is simple as well. We start with the tonic minor which lasts us for most of the initial melody, up until mm.4. Then we jump to a major subdominant. Just these two basic chords are a big deal in film music, you can find them all over the place. As an example, check out “Rey’s Theme” from The Force Awakens (2015).

Specific time stamps of this theme:

9:30 – Luke concentrates as he tries to summon his lightsaber.

13:18 – Here the theme is associated with Ben, using the Force to communicate with Luke from death.

32:12 – As the Rebels retreat from the Empire to escape, leading into Luke playing up an AT-AT.

47:10 – This happens before Yoda appears. Think about Luke’s assumptions about Yoda before he meets him. Consider also how no music is played while Yoda fools around Luke’s camp. What does that mean?

55:40 – As Ben says “He will learn patience,” as if from nowhere.

56:59 – Again, as Bend speaks: “so was I if you remember.”

1:10:40 – Yoda describes what the Force is.

1:16:59 – Again Yoda is talking about the Force, which is suddenly interrupted as Luke receives a vision of the future.

1:23:13 – Ben appears for real!

1:24:46 – Very interesting scene. The theme seems unsure of itself at first, but as Luke shows his confidence the theme becomes stronger, only to taper off as he realizes that he might fail!

Notice how the Force theme is not played at all while Luke is on Bespin. Yoda and Ben did say that they would not be able to help him. This is especially significant as Luke tries to contact Ben while dangling above the sky, only to be met with silence.

1:53:42 – However, he IS able to contact Leia and the theme finally comes back.

2:00:05 – At the end as we see that Luke has managed to survive the crushing encounter with Vader.

Did you find other examples of the theme in the film? Thought this was boring? Let me know in the comments below!


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