You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Composer Takes Music for the ‘Star Wars’ Series ‘The Mandalorian’ to a New Universe

Ludwig Göransson, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer of “Black Panther,” faced a tricky assignment when he took on “The Mandalorian,” the new “Star Wars” series launching this week on the Disney Plus streaming service.

“It’s a new medium, a new set of characters — and it has a certain tech-y grittiness, because you’re dealing with a very dystopic setting,” says executive producer Jon Favreau. “The Empire has fallen and chaos is beginning to reign in the galaxy, so the romantic strains of John Williams’ score would not sit well against the imagery that we have.”

Yet this is still “Star Wars” (even if it’s about an interstellar bounty hunter who rarely speaks and whose face we never see) so the creative team didn’t want to dispense with the traditional orchestra entirely. “It still has the soul of ‘Star Wars,’” says Göransson.

The Swedish-born, L.A.-based composer came up with a novel solution: He would play many of the key instruments himself — unusual woodwinds, drums, guitars, piano, percussion — add a 70-piece orchestra for that “Star Wars” touch, then apply modern production techniques for an even more alien soundscape.

He began work before shooting started last fall, reading scripts and coming up with musical ideas — particularly the sound of a bass recorder for the mysterious, unnamed title character. He spent a month in his studio inventing the themes and musical colors for the rogues and renegades who live at the edge of the galaxy.

“I was closed off for 10 hours a day, just coming up with music and sounds, going from instrument to instrument,” he says. “There weren’t a lot of computers involved. It was just me playing, so it felt timeless.”

Favreau and his producing partner Dave Filoni (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”) immediately approved the echoing notes of the bass recorder for the lead character. Notes Göransson: “It’s a very original, distinct, lonely sound that follows this gunslinger on his journey.” The music provides “the facial expressions” that we never see, as the Mandalorian never removes his helmet — which, along with his armor, further inspired the composer to add “metal sounds” throughout the score.

As he began to see footage and compose to specific scenes, he combined his recordings of individual acoustic instruments with more modern sounds, including synthesizers and cutting-edge processing. “You take these organic drum sounds or percussion sounds or flute sounds and then make them sound different or modern using the tech,” Göransson adds.

He then recorded an L.A. studio orchestra, many of whose members were playing John Williams’ score for the upcoming “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on different days of the same weeks during the summer months.

Favreau knew Göransson’s work not only from “Black Panther” but also because both he and Göransson have collaborated with Donald Glover: Favreau on “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Göransson sharing song of the year and record of the year honors with Glover’s alter ego Childish Gambino at this year’s Grammys.

“Ludwig has one foot in traditional score and another foot in technology, creating sounds that feel very musical even though he’s using nontraditional methods and instruments to achieve that,” Favreau says. He and Göransson talked about the Western and samurai influences that Favreau saw in the series, particularly the films of Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa featuring mysterious, well-armed loners in strange places and offbeat musical scores.

The primitive-sounding flutes, massive tribal drums, exotic plucked-string instruments and ugly metallic scrapings combine with airy synths and traditional strings and brass for a unique yet still unmistakably “Star Wars” ambience.

In addition to the Mandalorian (played by Pedro Pascal), the subsidiary characters, including Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano), sport their own musical themes. “Stylistically, I’m all over the place,” Göransson says, laughing, “but it’s all connected.”

The four hours of music he penned for the eight episodes constitute the longest score he has written to date, and the longest time he’s ever spent on a single project, having begun last November with those initial ideas, then composed and recorded from April to September. Disney Music Group will release a mini-album of Göransson’s work after each episode.

“Ludwig’s music has given ‘The Mandalorian’ its own identity, apart from, yet related to, ‘Star Wars,’” says Favreau. “We were departing definitively from what has come before, yet we wanted to feel like it was a continuation — a dichotomy of goals. It took somebody with a strong musical vision like Ludwig to do it.” 

More Artisans

  • Bong Joon Ho Parasite BTS

    'Parasite' Director Bong Joon Ho on His Core Crew and Their 'Risky Choices'

    In Neon’s “Parasite,” writer-director Bong Joon Ho creates a rare film in which the audience has no idea where the plot is headed. Bong, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and rave reviews for the film, talks about the contributions of his colleagues — without spoiling the plot. Cinematography, Hong Kyung pyo On the [...]

  • Tonko House School

    Tonko House's Educational Class Act

    In addition to producing content, Tonko House has an eye on what comes next, creating a series of educational efforts that are extensive for a company still in its relative infancy. The company’s first project as a fully formed studio was an online computer-painting course designed to share skills its artists — headed by co-founders [...]

  • The Dam Keeper Tonko House

    Curiosity Key to Tonko House’s Diverse Slate

    Five years ago, art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi traded in stability at Pixar for the unknown as they launched Tonko House, a Berkeley-based multimedia production company. Since then, they’ve developed a range of projects and educational initiatives to support their mission of telling stories that inspire curiosity and increase social awareness. Mere [...]

  • Hair Love Animated Short Sony

    A Wide World of Animated Shorts

    A record 92 animated short films have qualified for the 92nd Academy Awards, a list that will be winnowed to 10 contenders when shortlist is announced Dec. 16. Alongside entries such as Sony’s “Hair Love” and Magic Light Pictures’ “Zog,” challengers include lauded films from animators such as Tomek Popakul’s “Acid Rain,” Siqi Song’s “Sister” [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari Movie

    'Ford v Ferrari' Race Re-Creations Better Than the Real Thing

    Over a long career that stretches back 25 years, stuntman and stunt coordinator-turned-second-unit-director and actor Darrin Prescott has choreographed many a spectacular car chase and race in such testosterone-fueled movies as “Drive,” “Deadpool 2,” “Baby Driver” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which won him a Screen Actors Guild award as part of the stunt ensemble. But [...]

  • Toy Story 4

    The Art of Saying Goodbye to 'Toy Story,' 'Dragon' Series

    This seems to be the year for sweet but sorrowful endings in animation. Two of the medium’s most popular franchises — “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Toy Story” — wrapped up their stories by making sure audiences got what they needed even if they weren’t quite ready to say goodbye. With the release of [...]

  • The Irishman

    Designing Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

    “The scale of the movie is big, but it’s intimate,” Martin Scorsese says in this new behind-the-scenes clip of his new mob drama epic “The Irishman.” The film stars Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who meets Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci) in the 1950s. Sheeran gets involved in the mob and the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content