Imperial Marching Through Life

Music has a primal effect on our bodies. A catchy melody can cause our toes to tap, a pulsing beat can start our head bobbing like a metronome, and bombastic blast can transport us to a galaxy far, far away. For many of us, Star Wars music in particular has had (and continues to have) a profound effect on our lives. It’s the soundtrack that follows us throughout our days whether our earbuds are nestled firmly in our ears or the tune is just set on repeat in our minds. We may even find that certain songs follow us through certain actions and events throughout our day. With that in mind, here are five songs that I routinely pull up throughout my day.

When I'm going on an adventure…

No Star Wars theme screams “adventure” to me like “Rey’s Theme.” I think part of it is the way that the music starts out so soft before swelling in intensity. The gentle initial flutes signal a preparation for me. It’s the mental packing of my supplies before I head out. Once my journey through nature or an urban jungle like a shopping trip or a journey through the Magic Kingdom has begun, the quiet bells call me to observe. Their sound inspires an awe in me that leads me to seek out the awe-inspiring quality in the environment. The beat is steady but not driving in the same way as some of the Star Wars marches. It prompts movement while encouraging me to explore. That theme of exploration expands as the music swells and gets larger in scope prompting me to see more and more of the wonderful place I’m in. As the song moves towards its end, it becomes more and more bold and powerful giving me the strength to continue when my muscles are weary or my nerves are frayed. In the end, it comes right back to the beginning with the gentle bells just as I have found myself back home at the end of my own journey.

When my mood has gone to hell and people just need to stay out of my way…

There’s no better angry walk song than “The Imperial March.” There just isn’t. Right from the beginning the driving beat just propels you forward and makes you feel like you radiate power. You feel unstoppable because that constant beat sure isn’t stopping. Then there’s the cymbals. There’s a certain violence inherent in them. Their sudden, loud clashing that reminds of lightning strikes. When you’re really pissed you can conjure all kinds of horrifying vengeance from that sound. Towards the middle of the song the beat quiets but I don’t often find that my anger does; instead, that quiet middle reminds me of slow treachery of a snake (or Palpatine). Sure, it seems like a nice respite from the constant marching, but there’s a sinisterness to it. There’s the sense that while others may not know what is coming, you do, and they will regret it if they they bother you because the beat’s (not beatings) about to pick back up. Thankfully, this song doesn’t invite us to wallow in perpetual anger (I’m looking at you Vader). As it winds to its eventual conclusion, it builds up higher and higher before arriving at an end that feels both like a tremendous release of emotion while offering a finality that allows us to begin the process of moving on.

For those times when you’re feeling some righteous anger, I find that the “March of the Resistance” to be a good match.

When I need to find some peace…

At my school, we’re encouraged to stand outside our doors after each class begins, so we can keep an eye on the halls and greet our students. On my toughest days, the days when a student has tried to blame me for their dismal grade or the class just couldn’t quiet down, you might hear me humming “The Force Theme.” The slow dragging out of each individual note somehow just seems to encourage me to breathe, just breathe, and sometimes I maintain the notes a little longer allowing them to rattle around in my chest. The swelling of the melody that follows always offers me encouragement. It seems to imply that the part of me that went out into that hallway feeling weak can go back into that class feeling stronger, believing in my ability to make it through. That pattern of quiet beginning building to a powerful climax repeats too, so I can repeat it as often as I need to throughout the day.

When I'm celebrating how awesome I am…

Sometimes we all just feel awesome. Maybe we just won an award, received a compliment, or just made it through the day, but we feel great. During those times, my Rebel heart always pumps to the beat of “The Throne Room” from the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. While my mind often skips more towards the marchy beat of the song, the initial moments certainly have their appeal. The increasingly movements of horns sounds as if they’re announcing something magnificent, as if they’re cuing everyone in that greatness has just arrived. It’s the march that always gets me though. It’s a march to strut to. There’s just such a sense of accomplishment in it. In many ways, it sounds like “Pomp and Circumstance” in its grandness. Towards the middle of the song, there’s also some quiet, more regal moments when Leia’s onscreen that invite some introspection. It invites you to look back at all the trials you faced and towards where your journey might take you next. It doesn’t hurt that this song which is some completely great in its own right leads right into a spirited version of the main theme, implying that your own current accomplishment is only the precursor to many more.  

When I'm winding and weaving my way through crowds…

My mental shopping cart or stroller often looks like an X-Wing or the Millennium Falcon. I find driving both earthly vessels exciting because I like to find the best way to navigate the people and obstacles as I try to make my way to the checkout in less than twelve parsecs. When I’m doing this, it’s always to “The Asteroid Field.” The very quick initial beat and the way that the strings lilt up always makes me think of all the things between my destination and myself. When the song really gets going and the horns sweep in, all I can imagine is the path through the maze. There’s a sweeping feeling to the melody that just implies movement in this piece that always makes me want to work my way through. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes I have some kind of an asteroid block my way, but even then, the strong blast of horns at the end almost implies a shrug to me. It’s almost my mind’s way of saying, “The way was cut off. Better luck next time, Chewie!”

So many of us owe John William’s a musical life debt because his music (whether it’s Star Wars or one of his many other compositions) has been the soundtrack to not just our films but our lives. The moments of our lives are made more rich by it and its ability to evoke an emotional response in us brings out our humanity. Just today, I held back tears while watching The Force Awakens at least three times because gosh dang it those X-Wings arrived at that perfect moment and Rey just claimed her place as supreme ruler of Awesometown by causing that lightsaber to pass Kylo by before finding its rightful place in her hand. I can’t wait to hear more John Williams Star Wars music. Until then, when you see me weaving out and about at the store or at an event like Star Wars Celebration, remember to not be an asteroid.

What Star Wars music do you associate with events or actions in your life? Share them with me on Twitter at @mapplebee7567!