Imperial March analysis lecture at Tufts

This slide deck is for a guest lecture at Tufts University for the ExCollege course “Star Wars: How Long Ago? How Far Away?” Here we explore the harmonic twists John Williams employs for the Imperial March, deviating from normative chord progressions in subtle yet effective ways to portray the corruption of Darth Vader and the Empire. Taught to students assuming no prior musical training.

Side note: click on the images for slides 8, 9, & 10, and 19, 20, & 21.  Those images link to youtube videos with music examples.

I’m hoping to illustrate how the G minor and Eb minor triads that back the main melody are a dark twist on a basic i-V relationship, and that the C# minor and Eb minor triads are also peculiar yet effective. So G minor (i), C# minor (#iv??) and Eb minor (#v?? vi??) make for a ‘twisted and evil’ rendering of traditional tonic / subdominant / dominant chord progression.

My main point is that while these kinds of harmonic choices come right from late Romantic tonal language of folks like Dvorak and Wagner, these particular choices could be used in the Stars Wars narrative to reference the bygone era that the Empire (previously the Republic) (and Darth Vader) represents. Anakin turned bad. Tradition turned bad.

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