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

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors – music by Peter Howell

It says a lot for the evolution, over time, of what listeners expect from a soundtrack purchase, when one considers that The Five Doctors – the 90-minute Doctor Who 20th anniversary special – once lent its name to an LP of “suites” from various 1980s Doctor Who stories, but didn’t merit its own full soundtrack release until 35 years after its 1983 premiere. But now that it’s here, was it worth the wait?

In the liner notes, composer Peter Howell himself says that he was firing on all creative cylinders in a way that he hadn’t before. The Five Doctors was a special production, not part of an ongoing season, so there was a bit of breathing room to come up with ideas. The Five Doctors score is one of the high water marks of 1980s Doctor Who soundtrack music, being possibly the first use of sampling, or at least the first use of sampling as a key part of the music. The unearthly, menacing exclamation point of the Cybermen’s percussive music cues is the slowed-down sound of a lid being pulled off of a metal can. The foreboding horn heard in the Death Zone on Gallifrey isn’t a brass musican instrument, but a sampled ship’s horn. And the Time Lord-centric story gets appropriately clock-like percussive elements, very much a first in Doctor Who.

Of course, none of that would really matter if Peter Howell wasn’t one of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s masters of memorable melodies. It really wasn’t until the Radiophonic Workshop came along that any of the show’s various resident composers had employed Ron Grainer’s theme tune as a leitmotif; even Dudley Simpson crafted his own theme for the Doctor that had virtually nothing to do with Grainer’s theme. But here, Howell leans hard on the show’s signature theme throughout the adventure, which really helps to point up the momentous nature of the story being told: the story doesn’t just involve the Doctor, it’s about the Doctor and the Time Lords. And it’s not just the motif itself, but the fact that it’s still – after 20 years – the BBC Radiophonic Workshop doing the honors, bringing all of the lovely analog tricks and reverb to the table in quoting that theme authentically. The Five Doctors was really the first Doctor Who music that even a non-fan could listen to and say, “That’s Doctor Who music, isn’t it?”

Much of the second half of the disc repeats the score, but with some sonic enhancements Howell added for a 1990s extended VHS reissue of the story, which restored some deleted scenes and added new effects, forcing Howell to rethink sections of the score to match the new edit. Bonus tracks include the “cliffhangers” composed for syndicated versions of The Five Doctors that broke the story up into a traditional four-parter, as well as some Radiophonic Workshop sound effects.

4 out of 4It all adds up to a long, long overdue package. I know that there was a fairly comprehensive suite of highlights from the score of The Five Doctors on CD and, before that, on LP going back to 1984, and I know that the score was available on DVD as an isolated audio track…but it really has been a long wait for a properly remastered release of the original, pre-special-edition score as I remember hearing it back in 1983 when The Five Doctors blew my mind by finally showing me all of the Doctors and companions that I’d only read about in Starlog. It’s nice to finally have it, and even with all of the widescreen orchestral grandeur that has become the sound of Doctor Who since the turn of the century, The Five Doctors remains one of the show’s all-time great scores.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who – Opening Theme (0:36)
  2. New Console (0:24)
  3. The Eye Of Orion (0:57)
  4. Cosmic Angst (1:18)
  5. Melting Icebergs (0:40)
  6. Great Balls Of Fire (1:02)
  7. My Other Selves (0:38)
  8. No Coordinates (0:26)
  9. Bus Stop (0:23)
  10. No Where, No Time (0:31)
  11. Dalek Alley and The Death Zone (3:00)
  12. Hand In The Wall (0:21)
  13. Who Are You? (1:04)
  14. The Dark Tower / My Best Enemy (1:24)
  15. The Game Of Rassilon (0:18)
  16. Cybermen I (0:22)
  17. Below (0:29)
  18. Cybermen II (0:58)
  19. The Castellan Accused / Cybermen III (0:34)
  20. Raston Robot (0:24)
  21. Not The Mind Probe (0:10)
  22. Where There’s A Wind, There’s A Way (0:43)
  23. Cybermen vs. Raston Robot (2:02)
  24. Above And Between (1:41)
  25. As Easy As Pi (0:23)
  26. Phantoms (1:41)
  27. The Tomb Of Rassilon (0:24)
  28. Killing You Once Was Never Enough (0:39)
  29. Oh, Borusa (1:21)
  30. Mindlock (1:12)
  31. Immortality (1:18)
  32. Doctor Who Closing Theme – The Five Doctors Edit (1:19)
  33. Death Zone Atmosphere (3:51)
  34. End of Episode 1 (Sarah Falls) (0:11)
  35. End of Episode 2 (Cybermen III variation) (0:13)
  36. End of Episode 3 (Nothing to Fear) (0:09)
  37. The Five Doctors Special Edition: Prologue (Premix) (1:22)

    Special Edition

  38. Doctor Who – Opening Theme (0:35)
  39. Prologue (1:17)
  40. The Eye Of Orion / Cosmic Angst (2:22)
  41. Melting Icebergs (0:56)
  42. Great Balls Of Fire (0:56)
  43. My Other Selves (0:35)
  44. Nothing Can Go Wrong (0:35)
  45. Bus Stop (0:22)
  46. No Where, No Time (0:36)
  47. Enter Borusa (0:28)
  48. Enter The Master (0:14)
  49. Dalek Alley and The Death Zone (3:06)
  50. Hand In The Wall (0:20)
  51. Recall Signal (0:34)
  52. Who Are You? / Tell Me All About It (0:49)
  53. Thunderbolts (0:33)
  54. The Dark Tower (0:25)
  55. My Best Enemy (1:11)
  56. The Game Of Rassilon (0:17)
  57. Cybermen I (0:22)
  58. Below (0:43)
  59. Cybermen II (1:12)
  60. The Castellan Accused / Cybermen III (0:35)
  61. Raston Robot (0:24)
  62. Not The Mind Probe (0:32)
  63. Where There’s A Wind, There’s A Way (0:31)
  64. Cybermen vs. Raston Robot (2:04)
  65. Above And Between (1:41)
  66. The Fortress Of The Time Lords (1:04)
  67. As Easy As Pi (0:22)
  68. I Hope You’ve Got Your Sums Right / Phantoms (2:29)
  69. The Tomb Of Rassilon (0:29)
  70. Killing You Once Was Never Enough (1:26)
  71. Oh, Borusa (1:21)
  72. Mindlock (1:11)
  73. Immortality (1:17)
  74. Doctor Who Closing Theme – The Five Doctors Edit (1:16)
  75. The Eye Of Orion Atmosphere (3:07)
  76. Time Scoop (0:24)
  77. Transmat Operates (0:09)
  78. Rassilon Background (3:49)
  79. Borusa Ring Sequence (0:37)
  80. The Five Doctors Titles Zap (0:10)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: September 14, 2018
Total running time: 77:56

Doctor Who: The Sun Makers – music by Dudley Simpson

This is a Doctor Who soundtrack release I never expected to be holding in my hands or hearing. Composer Dudley Simpson was as close as classic Doctor Who had to the kind of singular composer-in-residence that seems to be the norm for the modern series; other composers were occasionally employed at the whim of individual directors, but from 1964 through 1979, Dudley Simpson was Doctor Who’s default musical “setting”, composing for and conducting a small ensemble occasionally augmented with synthesizers by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. But despite his music gracing most of the series across that fifteen-year span, most of the original session tapes of Simpson’s Doctor Who music have been lost. The only remaining specimens, in fact, can be traced to the Radiophonic Workshop – if they added their wobbly analog synths to Simpson’s music, a copy of that was retained in their archives. And that’s where the score from The Sun Makers, a 1977 Tom Baker four-part story, comes in – it’s one of only two Simpson scores that still exist in their entirety, both of them thanks to the Workshop’s involvement. (The other, still unreleased, is 1971’s The Mind Of Evil, a Jon Pertwee adventure that was the second-ever appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master, and as such heavily feature’s Simpson’s sinister theme for that character.) To have a complete Simpson score is a gift; for that score to hail from a fondly-remembered story featuring the fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9 toppling a regime embracing capitalism-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness is just gravy.

Tracks like “Mahogany”, which starts out with a somewhat plaintive bassoon before bringing the rest of the ensemble in to create a rich, warm harmony, exemplify what Simpson was best at. The same goes for “One Thousand Metres” and its interesting keyboard arpeggios floating over the acoustic instruments. Let’s be clear – a lot of people probably wouldn’t have chosen The Sun Makers to be one of the only complete surviving examples of Simpson’s work; they probably would’ve chosen City Of Death or Genesis Of The Daleks or a more “obvious” entry in Simpson’s canon, but The Sun Makers didn’t exactly burn itself into everyone’s memory the way those stories did. That’s actually what makes it a canny choice for a release: it’s a bit of a surprise because you probably don’t remember the score that well.

“Six Suns”, “The Others”, and “K-9, Bite!” remind me a lot of Blake’s 7, of which nearly every episode was also scored by Simpson. (The Sun Makers has a Blake’s 7 connection too – it’s where director Pennant Roberts met actor Michael Keating, giving Keating a hearty recommendation for the role of Vila.) “Subway 13” is a bit more menacing, and, at less than a minute in length, it’s a reminder some Doctor Who stories lent themselves to lengthier musical travelogues, and The Sun Makers wasn’t one of those stories. It’s comprised of shorter, punchier vignettes without the opportunity for the kind of extended musical interludes that, say, City Of Death afforded the composer. In that regard, The Sun Makers is absolutely a straight-down-the-line typical bit of Doctor Who scoring from the ’70s.

A word about the sound quality: The Sun Makers was remastered extensively by Mark Ayres, himself a Doctor Who composer of a later era (but also a die-hard Dudley Simpson fan, as he himself admitted to when he was interviewed for this site quite a few years back). Ayres is also behind the audio remastering of Doctor Who’s DVD and Blu-Ray releases, so it goes without saying 4 out of 4that this entire disc is as crisply, lovingly listenable as if the tape had just been recorded last week.

As a whole listening experience, The Sun Makers is a time capsule that may find an audience only among completist collectors, and the older generation of Doctor Who fans who were there for this story the first time around (he said, addressing the mirror). It may not appeal to everyone. But it’s a lovely little slice of the past where, rather than striving to be epic or futuristic, the sound of Doctor Who was quietly, politely going for baroque.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Opening Title Theme (0:46)
  2. Death And Taxes (0:28)
  3. Mahogany (0:51)
  4. One Thousand Metres (2:12)
  5. Six Suns (1:53)
  6. The Others (1:29)
  7. Subway 13 (0:36)
  8. Subway 13 (continued) (1:07)
  9. A Heart As Big As Your Mouth (0:30)
  10. A Little Hop (0:23)
  11. Jelly Babies (0:31)
  12. Something In The Air (0:24)
  13. K-9, Bite! (0:54)
  14. Humbug (1:25)
  15. The P45 Return Route (1:08)
  16. The P45 Return Route (reprise) (0:55)
  17. Morton’s Fork (1:09)
  18. I’ve Heard That One, Too (1:05)
  19. The Rebellion Begins (0:46)
  20. Static Loop (3:20)
  21. The Steaming (1:18)
  22. The Steaming (continued) (1:10)
  23. Gentlemen, Good Luck (0:40)
  24. Nobody Works Today (2:11)
  25. The Gatherer Excised (0:43)
  26. Doctor Who Closing Title Theme (0:55)

Released by: Silva Screen Records
Release date: May 8, 2020
Total running time: 28:49

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

Black Mirror: Hang The DJ – music by Alex Somers & Sigur Ros

Arguably the 21st century’s most legitimate and enduring successor to the O’Henry-inspired twisted morality tales of The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror began on Channel 4 in the U.K. before migrating to Netflix and gaining an international audience beyond C4’s reach. Each of its stories are couched in the technology we have, or the technology we’re all but destined to invent given current trends of both technology and society. While many an episode of Black Mirror ends with a dark twist, Hang The DJ has a much happier one, an oddball among the show’s typical cynicism.

Hang The DJ‘s score is an exercise in barely-tonal minimalism. The episode concerns itself with an omnipresent matchmaking system, Coach, which pushes couples together for relationships of various lengths as it tries to determine their ideal match. Failure to abide by Coach’s matches risk banishment beyond an unspecified wall around the city/county/country in which the story happens, but when the alternative is being permanently paired with someone who isn’t one’s ideal match, and one is forbidden from doubling back to a former match, is that really such a threat?

Rather than hewing closely to the contours of the two protagonists’ budding-but-uncertain romance, the score almost seems to be providing accompaniment for Coach and its influence on the lives of everyone seen on screen: it’s atonal at times, almost a background drone that only foregrounds itself in melodic terms when the two main characters’ attraction increases. Even at the end, when they seriously contemplate climbing over the wall themselves rather than waiting for banishment, there’s little in the way of urgency or traditional tonality. It’s not an action scene, and the momentousness of it isn’t signalled by the score.

4 out of 4Things become more melodic and “human” once they’ve escaped – the constant drone of Coach’s presence is gone, and along with it the rigid matchmaking system that dominates everyone’s lives, and suddenly it’s Sigur Ros doing the music.

Hang The DJ is a fairly brief score, one whose impact and meaning may be a little hard to grasp when heard in isolation. But despite its brief duration, much like the story it accompanies, the score makes an impact.

Order this CD or download

  1. All Mapped Out (1:26)
  2. Sorry (2:58)
  3. Hours, Days, Months (1:31)
  4. Into Place (3:31)
  5. Match (1:31 – Sigur Ros)
  6. Out There (1:43)
  7. Sleeps (0:48)
  8. See You (1:53)
  9. Treasured (1:34)
  10. Ruined It (3:19)
  11. One Year (2:09)
  12. Doubts (1:58)
  13. Three, Two, One (1:12)
  14. We Agreed (0:33)
  15. One, Two, Three, Four (0:39)
  16. There’ll Be A Reason (1:28)
  17. End (4L58 – Sigur Ros)
  18. Over And Over Again (1:07)

Released by: Lakeshore Records
Release date: December 30, 2017
Total running time: 34:18