The Good, the Bad, and the Mandalorian

“One of the first things I did when I started this project was to order a kit of recorders” – Ludwig Göransson on scoring the Mandalorian

Ask most people to imagine a theme song for an action hero and the sound of the recorder isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  In the US, at least, if you mention the recorder to people who’ve heard of it the reaction you’re most likely to get from them is a PTSD flashback to a horribly out of tune elementary school concert. Prior to being the instrument of torture for parents of elementary school age kids, however, recorders were and are considered a serious instrument in renaissance and Baroque music and they come in a variety of sizes.

So why did Ludwig Göransson choose this instrument for the Mandalorian’s main theme?

“We talked about Morricone” – Jon Favreau

When Jon Favreau hired Ludwig Göransson to score the Mandalorian they discussed the films that would be inspiring the show.  Specifically Jon Favreau mentioned talking to Ludwig Göransson about Ennio Morricone, the legendary film composer perhaps best known for his Spaghetti Western scores. 

One of these scores in particular seems to have provided a special inspiration to Ludwig Göransson when he was scoring the Mandalorian: 

The theme for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has become so indelibly associated with “Western” that it has grown beyond the film that it was written for and essentially become a pop culture leitmotif.  Want your audience to think of classic western tropes?  All you have to do is play the opening from the theme for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and even people who have never seen the film are likely to pick up on your intended meaning. And what instrument is it that plays that iconic opening trill? It just so happens to be a recorder.

If a recorder trill causes the audience to automatically think “Western,” it would appear that Ludwig Göransson decided that a similar sound would be perfect for invoking the idea of “Space Western” for the Mandalorian.  He didn’t want the sound to be too similar though so he went with the lower sound of a bass recorder as opposed to the soprano recorder used in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  He also slowed the trill down a little bit.  And thus the now iconic theme for the Mandalorian was born. 

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