Do you love Star Wars? We do, too! Let's learn how its iconic music tells one of the most popular stories ever told with leitmotivs – a technique from Classical music.
What to do
- Learn about leitmotivs. Can you recognize the characters they represent?
- Visit YouTube to listen
What is a Leitmotiv?
A leitmotiv is a short melodic fragment that a composer uses to remind us of a character, an emotion, or a dramatic moment. The word “leitmotiv” is a German word that means “leading theme”. This technique was first made popular by Richard Wagner, who used it in his operas, which he called “music dramas”.
When a character appears (or when they’re important to what’s happening onstage), the orchestra plays their leitmotiv, and we think about that character.
When John Williams wrote the score for Star Wars, he used Wagner’s techniques. Each of the main characters in the story has a tune that comes back when they show up or when other characters talk about them.
Examples of Leitmotivs in Star Wars
If you’ve seen Star Wars, can you hum or sing the leitmotivs for the following characters?
Sometimes, a leitmotiv isn’t about just one person, but about an idea or about a relationship between people. Do you remember the leitmotivs for each of these?
Luke and Leia
Han and Leia
It's Time to Enjoy the Music!
There are lots of ways to use music in films and theater. Leitmotivs are just one way, and not every movie uses them.
Now it’s your turn! Pick one of your favorite movies. Think about the music for it. Do you think the composer used leitmotivs? If so, see if you can figure out what the themes are for your favorite characters. If you don’t think the music uses leitmotivs, make a list of characters, ideas, and relationships that would receive leitmotivs if you were writing the film score!
Looking for More Music?
Check out our playlist of Spotify of with works from our March 2011 program – one of our most popular concerts ever. We played a collection of music from movies. Enjoy :)