Music has always been an integral part of the “Star Wars” universe, dating back to the John Williams scores for the original movie trilogy. So will Emmy voters recognize one, two or all three of the recent “Star Wars” TV series in the scoring categories?
Vying for consideration: the 12-part “Andor,” with music by Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated Nicholas Britell (“Succession”); the six-part “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” with a new theme by Williams and score by English composer Natalie Holt (“Loki”); and the eight-part third season of “The Mandalorian,” with music by Joseph Shirley. All aired on Disney+.
Britell spent more than two years on “Andor,” the backstory of “Rogue One” hero Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), including several months creating music that was played on the set during filming – from the Time Grappler’s hammer-banging signals on Ferrix to the alien electronica in the clubs on Morlana and the amateur funeral band playing a dirge for Cassian’s mother in the finale.
“The role of music was really evolving throughout the series, as Cassian learns about himself,” Britell says. “It really grows in scope over the course of the 12 episodes.” The score combined traditional orchestra (as many as 80 players), synthesizers, sampled sounds and advanced production techniques.
Unlike most series, the main-title music changed every week depending on where the story was taking place and what was happening in Cassian’s life. “It was a constant sense of discovery, because each new episode was often a new planet, a new chapter unfolding,” Britell says.
Cassian’s home world of Kenari, for example, needed “a forest texture, percussion, the sound of rustling leaves.” Ultimately, Britell wrote seven and a half hours of music, recorded over the course of a year in London – “more work than I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. He is now working on season 2, slated to debut next year.
For “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy persuaded Williams to return one last time to the “Star Wars” universe he helped to originate. “As it turned out, Obi-Wan was the only major ‘Star Wars’ character for whom I hadn’t composed a theme,” the five-time Oscar winner says (although Williams’ Force theme doubled as music for the original Obi-Wan as played by Alec Guinness in the 1977 film).
The challenge, Williams adds, was to create “a musical signature that captured the essence of this great Jedi warrior, mentor, friend and spirit guide – one of George Lucas’ most brilliant and enduring characters.”
He wrote a four-minute piece that hints at Obi-Wan’s loneliness and his restlessness, and an Emmy nomination in the main-title theme category may be the only sure thing among any of these entries.
This complicated Holt’s assignment, as she had already begun the score weeks before Williams signed on. “His involvement unlocked the use of those heritage themes,” she explains, referring to key Williams pieces from the original trilogy including music for a young Darth Vader, which became especially appropriate later in the series.
But new characters such as The Inquisitors offered the chance to write something fresh, she adds, “making them really edgy, with synths and a driving rhythmic element underneath.” Similarly, the young Princess Leia as depicted was a gutsy little girl and not the elegant diplomat we remember from the movies, so she earned her own new musical motif.
Holt enlisted two of the world’s great classical soloists, violinist James Ehnes and cellist Caroline Dale, to contribute solos, and while she started work in London, she flew to America to write and record most of it with a 75-piece L.A. orchestra. Swedish folk musician Ale Möller played “a huge ancient hunting horn” in parts of the score as well.
“Mandalorian” season 3 composer Shirley assisted Ludwig Göransson throughout both previous seasons (each of which won music Emmys) and scored “The Book of Boba Fett” using Göransson’s themes. So he was poised to assume the mantle for the final adventures of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) as they prepare to retake their home world.
“Bo-Katan has a theme that follows her throughout the season, and she plays a pivotal role. Jon [Favreau, showrunner] wanted more of a substantial sound to accompany her journey.” Little Grogu – once better known as “Baby Yoda” – has two themes: one, “a day in the life,” and the other, “Grogu saving the day,” Shirley points out.
“This season has a bit more of a robust orchestral underpinning” than the previous seasons, the composer says. “As we get deeper into episodes 7 and 8, it’s a bigger orchestral sound.” Mandalore has its own music: “a sad, rundown, forlorn aesthetic, musically,” he says. “It’s a very dark place.”
Shirley even wrote songs for the pubs, including “a weird little blues song, me singing in this robot voice,” in the classic “Star Wars” Corellian language, “music that maybe they would be listening to while they were having a beer.”