What will live in “Star Wars” infamy longer: Baby Yoda or the opening notes of “The Mandalorian” theme?
As compelling (and cute) as Baby Yoda is, one could argue that the entire tone of “The Mandalorian” is driven by the opening notes played on Ludwig Göransson’s bass recorder.
The decision to use that recorder, or flute as the Oscar-winning composer often calls it, was inspired by Göransson’s desire to return to his childhood roots.
“I just started thinking a lot about going back to how I remembered ‘Star Wars,’ and the impact it had with me as a little kid,” Göransson told Variety from his Los Angeles studio. “I bought a set of recorders, these little woodwind recorders that everyone played when they were a kid. I wanted to take a step away from screens and computers. That’s the way I used to write music when I was a kid. I was just alone in my studio with all these instruments. I wanted to recreate that feeling.”
That melancholy howl became the sound of the lonesome bounty hunter on the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series. Despite audiences’ immediate positive reaction, Göransson worried his impulse was too simple at first.
“In my head, when I’m thinking about writing music for ‘Star Wars,’ I set the bar very high,” the composer explained. “The music needs to be advanced and clever. From the get-go, I was like, ‘Well, this is too simple.’ But the more I listened to it, I played it over and over again, and then starting off with the flute, it inspired me to go over to the drums and play this drum rhythm. That made me inspired to go to the piano, play the piano. So a whole song came out of just this idea, and that’s when I figured it out, the flute is just the intro. It’s not the whole song. It’s just a little intro. It was like a puzzle coming together.”
His impulse was reaffirmed the moment he played it for showrunner Jon Favreau. “We were actually in the elevator together, and I was like, ‘You want to hear some stuff?'” he said. “I think I played it first on my phone through the speakers, and it just started with that flute sound, the intro and three seconds in, Jon was like, ‘That’s it. That’s the theme.'”
As for the original “Star Wars” music-making legend, Göransson is resolute in his admiration: “There’s only one John Williams.” However, the composer has yet to hear what Williams thinks of his “Mandalorian” score.
“I have not heard what [Williams] thinks about it. I’m obviously a huge fan. I’m not scared, but I’d be curious to see what he thinks,” Göransson revealed. After pitching a possible Hollywood Bowl collaboration, Göransson did us one better. “What I would really love is… I mean, he’s an incredible jazz pianist, and my background is a jazz guitar player. So it would be really fun to do a little jam session sometime.”
Variety Artisans are presented by HBO.