'Andor' composer Nicholas Britell conjures up 'Star Wars' magic with soundtrack (exclusive)

Still from "Andor" on Disney+.
Still from "Andor" on Disney+. (Image credit: Disney+)

The music of "Star Wars" is indelibly rooted in the sweeping operatic scores of multiple Academy Award-winning composer John Williams and has always amplified the rousing space opera franchise in myriad ways.  

From Jedi lightsaber duels and daring rescue missions, to outer space dogfights and diabolical Sith Lord deeds, these "Star Wars" soundtracks heard from the galaxy far, far away resonate on every cinematic level.

To add to this rich legacy of musical accompaniment, Academy Award-nominated composer Nicholas Britell ("Moonlight") has performed a minor miracle by conjuring up fresh sonic magic for the Disney+ "Rogue One" prequel series, "Andor." 

Related: 'Andor' episode 8 continues its amazing world-building and paints a terrifying view in 'Narkina 5'

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"Andor" composer Nicholas Britell. (Image credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Britell's innovative fusion of orchestral and synthesizer music has given this impressive 12-episode series an air of dignity and distinction by presenting an ear-pleasing array of tracks that capture the show's rebellious themes. Working closely with "Andor" writer/creator Tony Gilroy allowed for a unique sonic palette that evolved over time to discover rare emotional depths.

"It's not a science," Britell explained in a recent "Andor" press roundtable. "Every episode teaches you things. You might try a theme out in one episode and it really feels right. Then you might try the same theme out in another episode and it doesn't work at all. The film just rejects it."

The spectacular Eye of Aldhani meteor storm seen in "Andor." (Image credit: Disney+)

Regarding the challenges of crafting something simultaneously epic and intimate, Britell's vision was to enhance "Andor's" visuals by tapping into a feeling of nostalgia that all fans bring to the franchise. His recipe for nailing the desired tone brought him back to childhood and his very first "Star Wars" film.

"I don't if you ever know if you nail something," he told Space.com. "You're always putting in the time and the effort and you’re going on your instinct that if it's working for me, my hope is that it resonates for other people. And if it works for me and Tony, then I get even more confident."

From the very start, Britell recalled that Tony Gilroy and Kathleen Kennedy were so supportive and clear about wanting a unique soundscape for "Andor," and hoping that it could have its own unique sound palette and new themes and textures.  

"That really gave me a sense of freedom to explore things. Obviously I love working with orchestras and one of the greatest joys of being a composer is getting to write for orchestra. But at the same time there was something with 'Andor' that I was immediately drawn to these older analog synthesizers. And I don't often get to write with a sound palette like that."

Promotional art for "Andor" on Disney+. (Image credit: Disney+)

Britell grew up loving "Star Wars" and "Return of the Jedi" was the first movie his parents took him to when he was three years old. 

"It's the idea that this comes before that trilogy and before 'Rogue One,' he noted. "There was something almost retro about it. To me, this retro analog synthesizer felt like we were going to the before stages that could then grow into the majesty of what we all know 'Star Wars' is. And not everything is synthesizer. We recorded with this huge strings orchestra, and brass and percussion and amazing musicians.  

"I think the actual orchestration itself really varies from episode to episode. We're in different planets and places and different parts of the story, so it felt like each episode had to have its own unique thought process, which certainly added to the work that Tony and I gave ourselves."

"Andor" is currently streaming exclusively on Disney+.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.