‘The Mandalorian’ composer explains his process for creating 8 distinct scores for the 8 episodes, and how he made the show’s theme
- Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson talked to Business Insider about creating the score for “The Mandalorian.”
- Göransson walked us through how he used a recorder flute to create the theme music and how the mixture of wind instruments and percussion with orchestra and modern-day electronic equipment led to the sound on the show.
- In fact, Göransson created different scores for all eight episodes of “The Mandalorian.”
- The composer also explained that the complexities Mando goes through in episode 3 led to challenges to come up with the music.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Warning: Spoilers below if you haven’t seen episode 3 of “The Mandalorian.”
Last fall, Ludwig Göransson got to do something that’s rare for a composer: talk about how he would provide music for a “Star Wars” project.
Sitting in the office of “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, he stared at the storyboards of the show covering the walls around him. Göransson was immediately aware the gift being handed to him. Outside of John Williams, whose epic orchestra pieces are as recognizable as the saga itself, only a handful of composers have been brought into the Lucasfilm inner circle. And Göransson (“Creed,” “Black Panther,” which earned him an Oscar) was about to be the latest.
Though filming on the show hadn’t begun yet, Favreau wanted Göransson to get started on the score.
“He talked about ‘Seven Samurai,’ Kurosawa, Leone, and this dystopian hunk world that the story is set in,” Göransson told Business Insider. “Immediately I could figure out that he wanted to try something different and want to experiment.”
So Göransson decided to go back to the basics. He spent two months in his studio with five different kinds of recorder woodwind instruments and — taking inspiration from the conversations he had with Favreau, the scripts he read, and the storyboards he saw — just began playing.
“I hadn’t played a recorder since I was seven or eight,” he said. “But when I played the bass recorder it just had this sound and this tone that I wasn’t familiar with. I was drawn to it.”
Göransson recorded those sounds and began distorting it through his production equipment. It produced a sound that he gravitated to, as you couldn’t tell what type of instrument was playing it — perfect for a galaxy far, far away.
Still holed up in his studio, Göransson said he produced five songs. He then went back to play them for Favreau and the show’s executive producer Dave Filoni. It didn’t take long for him to realize he was on the right track.
“I played them the first song, which ended up being ‘The Mandalorian’ theme, and it starts with the recorders and after one second of playing it, Jon and Dave looked at each other like that’s perfect,” Göransson said.
Göransson was off and running. He continued to flesh out the score using drums, guitars, bass, and percussions, but — like the recorder flute — he would manipulate what he was playing on the instruments in post to give it an otherworldly sound.
He also began to realize the score needed to tell a story because of the show’s main character.
“We have a main character with a helmet on, so you don’t see any facial expressions,” he said. “I pretty much understood from the get-go that the music is the facial expressions of the Mandalorian.”
Göransson worked on the music for ten months, tweaking things when he began to see footage and recording with an orchestra once every two weeks during the final three months.
The result is a score that gives the show the feel of an intergalactic Western. And if it sounds like each episode has a different sound, you’re not hearing things. Göransson made different scores for all eight episodes of “The Mandalorian.” (“It kind of just happened that way,” he said.)
For “Chapter 3: The Sin,” which was released on Disney Plus on Friday, the score is darker and more fast-paced than the previous two, as we follow the Mandalorian’s journey back to the client (Werner Herzog) to deliver him baby Yoda.
“To me it’s a very dark episode,” Göransson said, stating that out of the three episodes shown so far, this one was the most challenging to get right. “There’s so much at stake. I really wanted to tell the story that you don’t know if he’s going to give up this incredible creature or not. He really changes as a person in the episode and it’s pretty life defining for him.”
For the episode 3 score, Göransson said he used different percussion instruments and an 808 drum machine.
“It’s kind of what I would use in my song producing,” said Göransson, who along with film composition has produced songs for Childish Gambino and Chance the Rapper. “I think that’s what’s interesting is when you combine modern production sounds with an orchestra and make it sound like one thing.”
Göransson said he always learns something new on every project and “The Mandalorian” was no different.
“‘Star Wars’ was always my favorite film scores growing up,” he said. “John Williams was inspiring to me and being able to go back to my childhood and analyse what I was drawn to then and trying to recreate that feeling, it took me to new ways of writing music.”