Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures: Composer Ryan Shore discusses score to animated series & more

Ryan Shore Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures

After reading Ryan Shore’s resume, one can’t help but be impressed. The Emmy and Grammy-nominated composer has scored everything from video games, documentaries, TV series, films and VR projects. 2019 is already shaping up to be a pretty good year for the musician. He received the Thailand Academy Award for ‘Best Score’ for the animated feature The Legend of Muay Thai: 9 Satra, and it was just announced that his recently scored VR film, Cave, will be premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. His other current title is part of one of the most famous franchises in the world, Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures. The series reintroduces key moments and characters of the Star Wars saga through short animations and can be seen on Disney’s StarWarsKids.com. We decided to speak with Shore about these projects and much more in the below exclusive interview.

Are there any specific challenges scoring Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures?

One of the specific challenges is finding ways of seamlessly transitioning from original John Williams recordings from the original Star Wars films in and out of original music that I compose. Accompanied with that is also the challenge of making new recordings which I create to match the sonic quality of recording sessions from the 1970s and 1980s.

Some of John William’s Star Wars themes are interwoven in Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures. Does that add any extra pressure on you?

It doesn’t present any extra pressures per se. It’s actually more of the contrary! When I’m able to quote one of John Williams’ iconic Star Wars themes, it immediately establishes the musical vocabulary for the moment and it’s just pure joy working with his themes from there.

How would you say that you have put your own spin on the Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures score?

For Galaxy of Adventures I don’t intentionally try to change the musical direction or compositional approach from the original films, so hopefully, if I haven’t put my own spin on it then I’ve succeeded!

What was your favorite part of scoring Star Wars Forces of Destiny?

All of the music for every episode of Forces of Destiny was composed originally for that episode, and so I beyond loved the trust and freedom that Lucasfilm placed in me to explore each episode musically.

You scored a VR film called Cave which is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. How would you describe your compositions for that film?

In Cave, the audience is transported back to 10,000 BC, when stories were told around a campfire and the history of our ancestors was written on the walls of the caves. The story follows the journey of Ayara, a young woman who is struggling to decide whether to accept her role as Shaman, her tribe’s only emissary to the spirit world.

I began my process by researching Scandinavian folk songs, their musical forms, the way the melodies are constructed, and the instruments that would have played them at the time. I then composed my own folk melodies and compositions which I later used as the musical foundation for additional orchestral elements that I later added into the instrumentation. It is a very melodic and accessible score, which at times is very small and intimate, and at other times grows to encompass a sense of wonderment and spirituality.

Were you given freedom to choose the sound for Cave or were you under specific parameters to work within?

I worked very closely with director Kris Layng to establish the sound of the music. Kris had very clear ideas and great insights about the type of score that he wanted to have for the film. We had many conversations about it, we listened to various types of Scandinavian folk music, and we discussed in excellent detail about each of the characters in the film and the emotions we would want the audience to feel.

How different is it to score a VR film than a television show?

In some ways they are the same in that I’m composing music as a storyteller. Both mediums provide a set of locked timings for which the story plays, and so I compose the score to be in exact synchronization with the story at all times and in the same way for every viewing. I’m always thinking of many of the same concepts for both mediums, such as using the music to establish time and place and to underscore the narrative arc of the story.

One of the two main differences I find with VR is that VR isn’t made in frames in the same way film or TV is. Frame rates for VR are determined by processor speeds, graphics hardware, the complexity of the visuals at any given moment, and any other tasks which may be taxing on the processor at the same time. So I find that referencing synchronization has presented new challenges when working in VR.

The other main difference I find with VR is how unbelievably immersive an experience it is to view. VR completely takes the audience into an entirely new world and experience. This interestingly creates an additional challenge when scoring, since my preference would be to wear the VR headset while I’m composing the music for the film so that I can be completely immersed in the experience and inspired by it while I’m writing. However, if I’m wearing the headset then I can’t see my piano keys and all of my computer programs I use for composing. So I find that I need to watch the VR film in 2D, with multiple angles showing at the same time, while I’m scoring. I then periodically put the VR headset on from time to time to re-experience the story in its final format.

I believe VR will have a massive place in the future of entertainment, storytelling, news, social interactivity and medicine. It is beyond incredibly inspiring to be able to compose music within this exciting and revolutionary medium.

Cave marks the fourth VR film I’ve had the opportunity to score. The first three VR films are for Penrose Studios’ and are the films The Rose and I, Allumette, and Arden’s Wake: Tides Fall. The latter of which recently won Best Virtual Reality Film (Lion) at the Venice Film Festival. I’m told this is the first time a VR film has won an award at the festival.

I’m in discussions for some more VR films as we speak, and I truly can’t wait to dive into scoring more virtual reality!

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