To find the sound for the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian, Ludwig Göransson didn't just travel to a galaxy far, far away, but also to 1970s Los Angeles.
"I listened to a lot of John Williams' scores from the '60s and '70s that maybe people are not the most familiar with," the Oscar-winning Black Panther composer and producer told TV Guide. "I was interested in his state of mind at the time when Star Wars came out. He was experimenting with a lot of different types of music and instruments. I found an old soundtrack he did for Earthquake. It was awesome, I got it on vinyl."
It's easy to hear the influence Williams' Earthquake score had on Göransson and The Mandalorian, a show which mixes elements of Western movies and samurai iconography with the original Star Wars' trilogy's aesthetic. But the trick of Göransson's score is how it builds on its predecessors of genre and franchise.
"As a film composer, Star Wars is like the holy grail of film music. I grew up with John Williams themes in mind -- that's kind of what got me into film scoring," he said. "Entering this universe, there's a lot of pressure, but I was extremely excited, especially because Jon Favreau makes me feel so comfortable and is open to experimenting."
Created by Favreau, The Mandalorian takes place in the immediate aftermath of the events depicted in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. The Empire has fallen and the Rebel heroes have won, but the galaxy remains large and filled with scum and villainy. Into this world comes the unnamed title character (played under the mask by Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter who collects his prey with precision and extreme prejudice -- until he secures a job that speaks to a larger conspiracy afoot and introduces him (and the audience) to the cutest little baby Yoda around. (To be clear, the child on The Mandalorian has not been identified as Yoda, who as fans know is a character and not a species. But what else are we going to call baby Yoda?) Thus far, two of the show's eight episodes have debuted on Disney+, and the reviews and response have been strong -- with many citing Göransson's score as a standout.
"I remember the feeling I had seeing Star Wars for the first time, and you're in a totally different world," said Göransson, who also wrote the score for the modern Rocky franchise reboot, Creed, and its sequel. "So to be creating that, I wanted to go back to the playfulness and go back to being a child again. The way I started writing the Mandalorian music was to surround myself with instruments I could play. I bought these recorders because I used to play the recorder when I was a kid. I stepped away from the computer and just started recording myself with these instruments."
Those recorders, specifically a bass one, help form the backbone of Göransson's Mandalorian themes, which have been packaged in episode-specific albums and released on Spotify. And while Baby Yoda has yet to receive its own track, Göransson teased that fans should expect the music to expand with the show throughout the remaining episodes.
"The world is so big and the visuals are so incredible and there's so much going on -- they're traveling around and meeting new characters and tribes," he said. "I think something that was really fun was how every episode is unique. We're releasing one soundtrack per episode so I can't say too much about what's coming up, but there's something for everyone. Some people are going to love the music in Episode 4, some people are going to love the music in Episode 5. But it's going to take some time for people to get used to the sounds and themes."
Göransson said he had his first meeting with Favreau last September, meaning he's spent the better part of 14 months immersed in the world of Star Wars secrecy. But the premium on privacy will not go away any time soon: His next project is Christopher Nolan's top-secret 2020 film, Tenet. So what can Göransson tease about Nolan's latest?
"Unfortunately, I can't say."
The Mandalorian has taught him well.