Ludwig Göransson still remembers crying during Edward Scissorhands.

“I was a teenager, and I realized why I was so emotional about the movie,” he says. Göransson’s eyes glaze momentarily as he reminisces on the 1990 film, before snapping back to the present: “I understood it’s because of the music.” Years later, his realization about the responsibility and power of a film score informs his mission on each project. He explains, “If you’re a film composer, you have the music tell the story of the character.”

That mindset is present in Göransson’s latest work, the Rocky franchise’s new entry Creed II. Applause bait is packed into the third act, as at should be in any self-respecting sports movie, but the moment that garners the biggest crowd reaction isn’t the climactic, Shakespearean fight between Adonis Creed and Viktor Drago. It’s the near-wordless training montage that precedes it—complete with a rousing score to make the audience double down in rooting for our hero (and inspire us to run home after the movie).

In a scene almost entirely bereft of dialogue, Göransson is left to his own devices to capture all the emotions, the stakes, and the try-fail-try-succeed process with every trick in his arsenal. The result is a tour de force that’s a mini-film unto itself, featuring a composition that blends sweeping orchestral swells with electronic elements, operatic vocals, and, as the tide turns to success, hip-hop. Which is to say, it’s a definitive Ludwig Göransson piece of music. Michael B. Jordan makes the B stand for bionic, running so fast he looks like he’s about to break the sound barrier, his energy and the score engaging in a symbiotic crescendo.

Two weeks before Creed II’s world premiere in New York, this is the sequence the 34-year-old musician is most excited for us all to see. “There’s no dialogue; it’s, like, a six-minute short film,” Göransson teases. “There’s a start and an end to it, and that was the most fun part of the score. It’s also the most challenging because it goes in between all the themes.”

We’re in Göransson’s studio in Glendale, California, in a windowless, soundproof recording space. It’s where Göransson has been working for three years, composing, scoring, and producing—making crucial contributions to some of the most important, influential pieces of entertainment of the last several years.

A modest hallway adorned with some of Göransson’s plaques separates the lobby and the studio, but expansion is underway, and in a few months the square footage will double, with more space to create and relax. There’s even talk of adding a Ping-Pong table that will rise up from the floor. After the year Göransson’s had, his 10th in the industry, a bigger space to create is necessary. His fingerprints have been on some of the buzziest movies, TV, and music released in the past decade, but in 2018 he reached new heights. His year began with a massive blockbuster named Black Panther (which featured some of his most involved work to date on both the score and its original soundtrack), was anchored by co-production on the most arresting song-and-video combination of the year in Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” and ended with Creed II. Until now, Ludwig Göransson’s name was recognized on a mostly “if you know, you know” basis, but as 2018 draws to a close, his anonymity is drawing its last breath.

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