The Mandalorian: Chapter 4 – music by Ludwig Goransson

The fourth chapter of The Mandalorian opens in a positively pastoral musical setting, with acoustic guitars setting a less menacing and less frenetic pace than the beginning of any episode of the show so far with the “Ponds Of Sorgan” track – so it can’t last, right? Of course not – within that same track, the agrarian village we’ve seen is attacked, and it’s kind of like the best cold open that a TV western could give you: before we even catch up with our hero(es), we are already acquainted with the situation that requires their intervention.

After Mando’s ship arrives, the peaceful sound returns (“Can I Feed Him?”) as he and the Child settle in with their new hosts. The action and tension return with “Training The Plebs”, and then chaos sets in with the inevitable “Camp Attack” and “Spirit Of The Woods”, the latter of which sees the raiders’ AT-ST come out of hiding and hesitate before plummeting into the trap set by Mando and Cara Dune.

A more relaxing pace returns in “Stay”, as the Mandalorian is tempted with the opportunity to stay on the planet, secluded and off the radar…until a burst of musical tension heralds the appearance of another bounty hunter trying to track down the Child; 4 out of 4it turns out this chance to find some peace was only a limited time offer.

A nice change of pace musically, Chapter Four is a reminder of the vast breadth of musical styles that Ludwig Goransson brought to bear on something that a less talented composer would’ve just tried to make sound like cut-rate John Williams; instead, as is always the case with this series, he carves out his own path and really sets the stage for the story in the process.

Order this CD

  1. The Ponds Of Sorgan (3:09)
  2. Off The Grid (1:47)
  3. Can I Feed Him? (3:34)
  4. Training The Plebs (3:10)
  5. Camp Attack (2:22)
  6. Spirit Of The Woods (5:10)
  7. Stay (2:21)
  8. Mando Says Goodbye (1:20)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: November 29, 2019
Total running time: 22:53

The Mandalorian: Chapter 3 – music by Ludwig Goransson

The third chapter of The Mandalorian really sets up the core conflict of the entire show: having retrieved “the asset”, Mando delivers it as promised…and then, feeling remorse because he too was once a child rescued from near-certain death, he ends his career as a bounty hunter by doubling back to rescue his quarry – in short, by caring.

Since the story deals with a decision that is, at its most basic, an emotional one, the music is surprisingly clinical for this episode, leaning heavily on electronic minimalism. That in itself is not entirely surprising; since this is a conflict playing out in the Star Wars universe, there are going to be blasters and explosions involved, and anything too musically involved would wind up getting severely dialed down in the final sound mix.

That said, the music does have its moments. The somewhat dissonant theme for the Mandalorians as a whole, the musical signature of the Mandalorian way of life, makes itself known as Mando’s new suit of armor is being forged, and to a lesser extent as the Armourer has to smooth over a disagreement among her fellow Mandalorians on the subject of accepting work from a leftover remnant of the Empire. But after a tender statement of the Child’s theme, the “Mandalorian Way” motif finally gets a bold, triumphant, major-key statement as the entire Mandalorian covert makes itself known, turning Mando’s hopeless attempt to reach his ship with the Child into an even fight. It’s a fight that’ll have serious consequences later in the season, but here it’s good news, and it’s got a hell of a scene to accompany, with Mandalorians dropping into a fierce firefight the likes of which had only previously been achieved in animation (or by nine-year-old kids playing with a 12-inch Boba Fett figure and wondering 4 out of 4what the jet pack accessory was all about – or, um, so I’ve heard). The more celebratory tone continues into the episode-closing “I Need One Of Those” cue.

I try not to recommend an entire soundtrack on the basis of a single track, but in The Mandalorian, it was such a rarity to hear something in major keys that this one really stands out. The series and its composer really succeeded in redefining the music vocabulary of Star Wars. In short, you need one of these.

Order this CD

  1. A New Day (5:30)
  2. Mandalore Way (3:21)
  3. Signet Forging (2:02)
  4. Second Thoughts (4:19)
  5. Whistling Bird (2:22)
  6. Mando Rescue (2:14)
  7. I Need On Of Those (1:34)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: November 22, 2019
Total running time: 21:22

The Mandalorian: Chapter 2 – music by Ludwig Goransson

If there was an episode of The Mandalorian in which Ludwig Goransson could shine brightly, Chapter 2 was definitely it – there’s a lengthy stretch of the episode where not a word of English is spoken, and the story is punctuated by grunts, groans, and Jawa-speak. It’s not until Mando returns to Kuill’s settlement to ask for help that anyone in this episode talks. Everything during that time is conveyed by body language, visual effects…and the music.

That’s part of what makes “Jawa Attack” such an unashamedly big piece of music. Aside from sound effects, the show’s main character grunting as he tries to muscle his way through his opposition, and the Jawas doing what Jawas always do in Star Wars mythology – namely, stripping ships and vehicles and leaving them on blocks – there’s nothing in the music’s way. Though not as action-packaged, “Trahsed Crest” is also a musical moment that gets to happen with minimal interruption. “To The Jawas” is an in-your-face travelogue that takes the Manadlorian from Kuill’s settlement to the Jawas’ sandcrawler, with echoes of “Jawas Attack” thrown in as a motif. The Jawa motif returns in full force at the beginning of “The Egg”, which then gradually becomes more moody and electronic as Mando (and the tiny child who is now, almost inexplicably, tagging along on one of Mando’s most dangerous encounters).

“The Mudhorn” is largely electronic, giving the beast a truly otherworldly yet primal rhythm, an element that is brought up short when the child brings the Mudhorn to a standstill with the Force, culminating in a much more full-bodied version of the theme for the child hear at the end of the show’s first episode. “Celebration” brings the Jawa motif back in a major key, as we discover that they sent the Mandalorian into a life-threatening situation to fetch them a snack. I mean, really, it’s like he got them a bag of real Cheetos instead of the store brand bag that doesn’t quite taste the same. Remind me never to go 4 out of 4grocery shopping for Jawas.

This episode may well be the strongest, musically, until the closing two episodes of the season, giving Goransson a chance to go nuts and really lay out the show’s musical manifesto with a minimum of spoken dialogue to get in the way. This was where we really found out that this show’s musical voice was an amazing character in its own right.

Order this CD

  1. Walking On Mud (1:38)
  2. Jawas Attack (3:46)
  3. Trashed Crest (2:18)
  4. To The Jawas (1:35)
  5. The Egg (2:54)
  6. The Mudhorn (3:00)
  7. Celebration (3:31)
  8. The Next Journey (2:35)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: November 15, 2019
Total running time: 21:17

The Mandalorian: Chapter 1 – music by Ludwig Goransson

Of all of the elements that have been pored over exhaustively where The Mandalorian is concerned, I’m not sure the music is getting its due. There was an entire episode of Disney Plus’ streaming documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian devoted to it, making it clear that showrunner Jon Favreau thought that the music was a big deal.

The most obvious antecedent to The Mandalorian’s music would seem, on the surface, to be the two movies subtitled “A Star Wars Story”, which used elements of John Williams’ music as a flavoring, and his style as a template. Composers Michael Giacchino (Rogue One) and John Powell (Solo) struck out in their own Williams-inspired directions. but it still basically sounded like Star Wars stylistically…but that’s not what Ludwig Goransson (who made a fantastic impact with his score to Marvel’s Black Panther) is doing here.

The Mandalorian takes a very bold step beyond the anthology movies’ stylistic parameters. Not only is the show’s music (at least in the first season) free of even so much as a single reference to Williams’ body of work, but it stylistically breaks free of the 19th century romantic musical lexicon that has defined Star Wars until now. Sure, there’s an orchestra (and, given how much money Disney threw at every aspect of The Mandalorian, a decent-sized one), but there are electronic elements unlike anything that has graced filmed Star Wars before. The strongest resemblance I can think of to any prior entry in the franchise’s musical canon would be the computer game Star Wars: Force Commander, which chopped up and sampled Williams’ music before throwing it into a kind of techno-metal stew.

The Mandalorian is unapologetic about leaning hard on otherworldly eletronic elements if the scene calls for it, sometimes in combination with purely acoustic instruments, but never in a way that seems out of place; it enhances some of the colder aspects of the story, such as Mando’s ruthless nature, and often coincides with story situations that are down to pure survival, such as trying to get a blurrg to stop munching on you (as blurrgs are wont to do), or IG-11’s unsubtle approach to the encampment where his bounty is being hidden away, and the resulting high-octane response.

There’s a second flavor at work here, mostly acoustic, that seems to sit more comfortably in a Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone-inspired western vein – just a reminder that The Mandalorian is really more of a modern western with sci-fi trappings than anything. These cues are really among the most fascinating, unafraid to use a momentary silence to build tension rather than slathering on the entire orchestra.

For the big, epic moments, however, Goransson doesn’t disappoint with a full orchestra at his disposal. These three flavors – let’s call them electronic, western, and orchestral for lack of a better set of labels – often occur withing the same cue. “Bounty Droid” starts electronic, but ends with a massive orchestral flourish as Mando commandeers the heavy artillery that, just moments ago, was aimed at him. “The Asset” – the scene which reveals the tiny being whose continued existence is the driver for so much of The Mandalorian’s storyline – starts out in a sparse western vein with electric guitar before culminating in an orchestral conclusion that’s just quite simply magic.

4 out of 4Nearly every aspect of the production The Mandalorian is amazing, and again, nothing less was expected considering that Disney was going to throw everything at the first live-action Star Wars series in an attempt to change course on the franchise after a series of movies that have stirred heated debate among fans (some of whom are, quite honestly, taking the whole thing too damned seriously). The music, either in the show or on its own, is well-judged, perfectly-pitched, epic stuff.

Order this CD

  1. Hey Mando! (2:13)
  2. Face To Face (5:13)
  3. Back For Beskar (2:25)
  4. HammerTime (2:17)
  5. Blurg Attack (1:25)
  6. You Are A Mandalorian (3:55)
  7. Bounty Droid (3:02)
  8. The Asset (1:35)
  9. The Mandalorian (3:18)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: November 12, 2019
Total running time: 25:23