Brian LaGuardia


Composer, Orchestrator, Arranger

Heir to the Empire

A companion album to the Star Wars: Legends book that first introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn, Heir to the Empire answers the question possibly nobody but me wanted the answer to: what would a soundtrack sound like if this had been adapted into a film? A wildly fun, ongoing side project that I am working on for free, this also has served to push my composition, orchestration and mockup skills significantly. Hopefully, fans of the book will appreciate the level of care I’ve put into it.



More coming soon! I’m releasing on a track-by-track basis as I can manage due to how time-intensive and lacking in compensation the project is. It’s truly a labor of love.

Track Descriptions

We begin this monolithic side project with the Star Wars main title crawl, painstakingly reconstructed. If we are truly reconstructing this more or less as it would have been presented, it’s a must. It was also a joy to bring to life with samples, and I really must say that they have come quite a long way.

This gives way to a pan down to reveal the Chimaera. Here, the horns carry a small taste of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s new theme in its most bellicose form, with not-so-subtle shades of the Imperial March. I do linger here for a bit, assuming that we’d be treated to several beauty shots of the vessel, complete with TIEs zooming about. The final quiet battery is meant to be the cut to the bridge interior, before any dialogue is spoken.

Chapter 1 establishes quite a lot and, in my view, warrants three distinct cues. A lot of Zahn’s writing is a bit less fantastical than what we’ve come to expect of Star Wars, so there are whole minutes where I don’t think music should actually be. The dressing-down of the cadet by Pellaeon, for example, needs to accompaniment. Even the Captain’s initial approach to Thrawn’s chambers should be dead quiet, which adds to the sudden feeling of unease. Then, suddenly, Rukh appears, having approached so stealthily that he managed to get right up next to the officer without being detected. Obviously, this gives Pellaeon a start. That’s where this cue begins, on the reveal of Rukh, Thrawn’s Noghri bodyguard and assassin. Described as “even more of a nightmare in the shadows”, I obviously wanted a menacing air to this startling moment, but also I had to come up with an appropriate identity for him. I researched what cultures on Earth would be a close analogy before finally giving up, as there seemed to be no good comparison. So I settled on a simple percussion bonanza with all kinds of auxiliary and world percussion, playing out of time, and flutes with flutter tongue. After the initial shock dies down and dialogue creeps in, we have a lone Bass Flute carry a little motif for Rukh.

Then, with a small harp and celeste flourish, we cut to Thrawn’s Museum. Here I get meditative, with an ostinato carried by more aux percussion and celeste (most notably Tibetan Prayer Bowls). Not only did I find this a perfect accompaniment to a series of artwork close-ups in this “softly-lit art museum,” but it also serves as a perfect introduction to his character. To me, Thrawn is no typical Star Wars villain. Yes, the initial presentation of his theme in the previous track was very overt and bellicose, as he is a military leader in command of a warship, but there is so much more to him than that. Here we get a glimpse of his more contemplative side, and importantly his appreciation for art – and how that insight and appreciation helps him understand his enemies and allies. Thrawn calls for the Captain to come in, and when the solo violin enters, we get our first full-on glimpse of our villain, red eyes and all.

The violin here is the only live element in the soundtrack so far, played by my very own mother Tracy LaGuardia! I have a link to her website here. One of the joys of my composing career is that I get to use her on several of my projects where appropriate, and she is quite versatile, able to improvise and play in nearly any style imaginable. Here, I have her play softly, meditatively, without too much expression, mirroring the current mental state of the character. The violin was also the perfect choice here because it was easily the most “artsy” presentation I could think of for Thrawn’s theme without being too ridiculous or cartoonish about it. I also like the idea of the only violin solos in the OST being for the villain; it’s a nice departure of expectation. Usually that’s reserved for a female protagonist in scores like this. Also, a friend pointed out that it’s a nice nod to the character’s Holmsien similarities.

Then the strings take over with our first taste of the B section of Thrawn’s theme. I love a good theme, particularly one crafted in the style of John Williams. This one took me quite a while to nail down, but I’m very pleased with it. It manages to be elegant while carrying a certain air of menace and evil at the same time. We truly feel like we’re watching a villain, albeit a complex one. He insists on having Pellaeon share in his experience in spite of potential approaching danger. Art is truly a passion of his, as readers can attest to given his final scene.

Blog Posts

Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire I’ve been following along with the new Star Wars material by Disney as a life-long fan of the franchise. As a result, it has not gone unnoticed that they are dropping a lot of hints for fans of the Expanded Universe novels (now called Star Wars: …