Star Wars animation has been branching out a lot lately, including the upcoming reboot of The Clone Wars; a main full-length animated show, Star Wars Resistance; and short shows released on YouTube. To write the music for these stories, a composer has to live in the shadow of John Williams, as well as to lift his epic scores up into the light for a new generation of Star Wars fans. For the YouTube shows, that baton has been passed to Ryan Shore, who composed the music for both shows, Forces of Destiny and Galaxy of Adventures.
Of course, John Williams’ music is one of the many iconic elements of Star Wars, and Shore is playing in that sandbox. Galaxy of Adventures is a YouTube series which remixes scenes from the movies, presenting them in a bold animation style and with a short runtime. They’re especially suitable for young kids who might want to watch lightsabers and Force users without sitting down for a whole movie, or new fans wanting a quick introduction to the classic characters. Meanwhile, the Forces of Destiny YouTube series, which now has two seasons, tells original, short Star Wars stories about the female characters of the saga.
Some episodes use completely original music composed by Shore, while others are a mix of his work and Williams’. “In Forces of Destiny I was really given a lot of leeway on how to score them,” Shore said. “Because I was just starting everything from scratch it really gave me the opportunity to blue sky the episodes. I find Galaxy of Adventures to bring its own set of challenges because we’re trying to utilize the John Williams original recordings.”
He needed to replicate the music using entirely digital sounds, not live performances, while making it sound as rich as the original scores. Doing this involved considering how to replicate the physical placement of an orchestra using recorded sounds. “One of the things that I work really hard to do is [to make sure instruments] are placed properly in this room, within this virtual recording studio,” he said. “If I have a brass section, for example, I make sure that they, sonically, are heard further back in the room and to the right, because that’s where the brass would normally live in a recording session or at a concert.” These and other techniques make the sound match what would be heard in a live performance.
One major technical challenge was to cut the music at the right place. “The challenging part is getting out after a minute and trying to make it sound like you didn’t just clip it in the middle,” Shore said. Each episode needs to sound natural in such a small period of time, and Shore payed especial attention to the endings.
“Because the timings of the scenes have changed, you can’t necessarily just hit play and it synchronizes perfectly to the scene,” Shore said. “So, with those, I’m taking those original recordings and making edits to them and then also composing my own music to either help with those transitions or to help score areas in which we were not able to have the original recordings work in those spots.”
In Forces of Destiny, Shore did not use any samples of John Williams’ original recordings. Instead he would quote them in order to evoke certain moments, or modify or play with them. “Where he’s established the language of the Star Wars universe, and the musical vocabulary and themes, I would use those themes and write my own score for them.”
As with many artists brought on to work in the Star Wars universe decades after its inception, Shore was excited about the work as well as challenged by it. He waxed enthusiastic about many of the episodes of Forces of Destiny. “It was the first time that all of these female characters were brought together into one series, because many of these characters wouldn’t necessarily even be interacting, they’re from different Episodes within the films. So honestly I loved scoring all of it. Every time they would send a new episode it was like ‘Yes! I get to write for that character!’” The series came with a lot of variety, from Princess Leia’s iconic theme to new music for Sequel Trilogy characters like Maz Kanata. It also features a lot of different tones, from serious and action-packed to more comedic and light episodes.
Shore also works on original soundtracks, one of which he can be heard speaking about on the podcast. And working on Star Wars has been a dream experience, he said. “I loved scoring all of it.”