“It’s a one man journey,” describes composer Ludwig Goransson of the story of “The Mandalorian.” The Oscar winner scored the hit Disney+ series with that lone gunslinger trope in mind and pushed himself to capture an “organic” musical tone. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
As the first streaming series set in the “Star Wars” universe, the pressure was always on for “The Mandalorian.” The classic “Star Wars” trilogy is synonymous with the music of John Williams. “It’s the essence of film score in a way,” suggests Goransson, “when anyone thinks about film music, you think of ‘Star Wars.’” The composer remembers how much of an impact Williams’ score had on him as a kid and reveals that he “put a lot of pressure on myself to give that back to kids today.”
Luckily, “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau had no interest in mimicking the music of the past for this series. Early on he told Goransson: “I want you to do something new.” Following the samurai and western influences Favreau incorporated into the show, Goransson plunged into the world of Akira Kurosawa films and Ennio Morricone music to find inspiration.
“I was drawn to the recorder,” explains Goransson. The distinct sound of that instrument would become a vital sound in the theme for Mando (Pedro Pascal), the bounty hunter protagonist of “The Mandalorian.” As he experimented with recorders, the composer set up a studio full of instruments with which he could experiment. “I knew I wanted to take a break from the computer,” divulges Goransson, who is no stranger to incorporating synths and digital elements in his work. So, he hopped around to various instruments, following the sounds that intrigued him. This method of working evoked a sense of play that he would have brought to instruments as a kid, and he describes the process as surprisingly “meditative.”
The resulting score is distinct and surprising, and untethered from the Williams sounds that came before it. Bass recorders wail as Mando struts through town and drums bang furiously as a massive beast attacks. It’s all a result of the sense of play the composer brought to the project. “A lot of things come out of just experimentation,” admits Goranssson, “almost mistakes sometimes.”
Goransson won an Oscar and a Grammy Award for his score to “Black Planther.” He won two additional Grammys for his work on the Childish Gambino song “This is America.”
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