In hopes of numbing the pain of finals, I recently watched all six episodes of the Star Wars saga for the first time (ever). I had my doubts. How could something parodied by every comedian since Gary Coleman be worth its social billing?
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised. The stalwart cultural franchise was well worth the time invested. But what struck me most in the wake was the saga’s score by John Williams- particularly The Imperial March. So much so, that The Imperial March easily earns the title, Pax Plena Song of the Week.
For those in need of motivation to study, open up iTunes. Download the song. Put the track on repeat. Listen to it while en route to your exam. The effect is almost like navigating an Imperial Star Destroyer in traffic. The tune should be enough to set you on attack mode as you prepare to annihilate the test (or your prof).
What makes The Imperial March interesting is John Williams’ adept use of leitmotif in crafting the score. Every time Darth Vader appears on screen some variation of The Imperial March melody is played. Of course, the same is true for other characters but their tunes are not nearly so frightening.
Here’s why: the famous, opening melody of the song does a fantastic job of blending the introductory chords with the subsequent chords in a mini-crescendo. These initial sounds are then contrasted with the quiet strains that follow in the middle. Naturally, the two melodies regroup after the pianissamo movement to engage in a bit of musical banter while building to a powerful crescendo at the end. The final product is the sheer terror of sound when the melody concludes. It almost makes you fear for Captain Needa’s life. No other song in the entire series is so powerful.
One quirky point of note: Many have disagreed with me (even those who have been recent guests in the viewing), but whenever I listen to The Imperial March I hear the Mary Poppins tune in the second movement of the song. For those who recall this embarrassing movie of youth, the words from Mary Poppins that I hear in The Imperial March are “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down.” Does anyone else hear it?
At least one other person does…
Darth Vader meets Mary Poppins?