CHORDS AND SOR­CERY

Game Of Thrones com­poser Ramin Djawadi on the se­ries’ stand­out tracks

Empire (UK) - - REVIEW - WORDS JAMES DYER

MAIN TI­TLE

Cov­ered by ev­ery­one from South Park to the Buck­ing­ham Palace guards, the blood-stir­ring Game Of Thrones theme is as sweep­ing and epic as its con­ti­nent-hop­ping ti­tle se­quence. Djawadi — who has com­posed the mu­sic for all 60 episodes of Game Of Thrones to date — only had two di­rec­tions from showrunners David Be­nioff and DB Weiss when putting the theme to­gether. First, it needed to evoke the mood of a jour­ney. Sec­ond, no flutes. “That was the rule,” laughs Djawadi. “It’s some­thing you might ex­pect from a genre like this and they re­ally didn’t want that. So I went with the cello, be­cause it’s a dark show and the cello is re­ally ex­pres­sive. Then the solo vi­olin joins it and at the end the all-fe­male choir kicks in. It’s nice how it ex­pands over the course of the piece.”

KILL THEM ALL (SEA­SON 1)

“The Stark theme is a very emo­tional one, mainly cello and vi­olin.” And the scene where a dev­as­tated Robb and Cate­lyn Stark swear ret­ri­bu­tion for the pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion of Ned (Sean Bean, dy­ing on screen for a change), is one of its most poignant uses. “It seems like ev­ery­body dies in Game Of Thrones,” says Djawadi, who has also scored movies like Iron Man and Pa­cific Rim, “but most of them are Starks.”

THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE (SEA­SON 2)

Per­haps fa­mous more for its per­for­mance by The Na­tional, The Rains Of Castamere be­came syn­ony­mous with the Lan­nis­ters af­ter the in­fa­mous Red Wed­ding, dur­ing which a whole bunch of Starks have a very bad day (“The Lan­nis­ters send their re­gards,” sneers Michael Mcel­hat­ton’s Roose Bolton, be­fore stab­bing Robb Stark). “We wanted to es­tab­lish that very early on in Sea­son 2,” says Djawadi, “so I wrote the melody to the lyrics from the book. When we get to the Red Wed­ding and you hear that melody, you know some­thing’s gonna hap­pen.”

MOTHER OF DRAG­ONS (SEA­SON 2)

The leit­mo­tif of Emilia Clarke’s Daen­erys Tar­garyen, first in­tro­duced so qui­etly it’s al­most

over­pow­ered by the Dothraki theme, as­serts it­self more as time goes on, par­tic­u­larly with the in­cin­er­a­tion of the war­lock, and Right Said Fred wannabe Pyat Pree. “This is a good ex­am­ple of how we es­tab­lish some­thing in a mod­est way, and then build on it. With the drag­ons growing ev­ery sea­son, I have to find a way to make it big­ger and more epic ev­ery time.”

VALAR MORGHULIS (SEA­SON 2)

Where other Starks have the cello, Arya’s in­stru­ment is the dul­cimer — a type of zither. While it was first heard in Sea­son 1, it re­ally comes into play here, as Maisie Wil­liams’ young war­rior is in­tro­duced to the key phrase, “Valar morghulis” (roughly trans­lated, “All men must die”). “It has a great, tingly sound that just felt right for her. It lends an eth­nic feel, which works for the jour­ney she’s about to em­bark upon.”

HOLD THE DOOR (SEA­SON 6)

The most heart-rend­ing it­er­a­tion of the Stark theme ac­com­pa­nies one of Sea­son 6’s most dra­matic mo­ments: the death of Hodor (Kris­tian Nairn), whose sin­gle-word vo­cab­u­lary takes on a new level of sig­nif­i­cance. “I got re­ally emo­tional writ­ing this. Hodor was such a like­able char­ac­ter and it’s a very pow­er­ful scene. It starts out with the White Walker ticker — that click­ing sound, which is the idea of bones. Then it turns into this dra­matic chase un­til we get rid of all the ac­tion and are left with just emo­tion at the end.”

BAS­TARD (SEA­SON 6)

Jon Snow’s re­turn this year may have sur­prised pre­cisely no-one but it did sig­nify a turn­ing point for the char­ac­ter, one that fi­nally made him wor­thy of his own theme, which de­buts dur­ing his res­ur­rec­tion and con­tin­ues as a dom­i­nant theme in the sea­son’s bloody bat­tle for Win­ter­fell. “The en­tire scene is maybe 22 min­utes and most of it has mu­sic. We wanted to make sure it didn’t get tire­some so we were very care­ful of when to take the mu­sic out. When the horses fi­nally hit and all the sol­diers clash, we said, ‘Let’s pull out and have the sound ef­fects play out.’”

LIGHT OF THE SEVEN (SEA­SON 6)

With al­most no di­a­logue, the ten min­utes as we build to Cer­sei’s (Lena Headey) vol­canic re­venge on Jonathan Pryce’s High Spar­row (as she re­leases a wild­fire ex­plo­sion be­neath King’s Land­ing) re­lies al­most en­tirely on score to build the ten­sion. If Sea­son 6 has a stand­out se­quence, then this is un­doubt­edly it. “That was the first time we’ve ever used the pi­ano; it’s just not part of the lan­guage of the score,” says Djawadi, who had writ­ten him­self into a cor­ner. “We couldn’t use the Lan­nis­ter theme [The Rains

Of Castamere] or the Spar­row theme [High Spar­row, from Sea­son 5] be­cause we didn’t want to give away what was go­ing to hap­pen. I had to write a com­pletely new piece of mu­sic that wouldn’t tip peo­ple off.”

THE WINDS OF WINTER (SEA­SON 6)

The sea­son reaches its cli­max to the back­drop of a tri­umphant med­ley. “There are so many the­matic el­e­ments there. I put Theon’s theme in, Daen­erys’ theme, the drag­ons’ theme, the Un­sul­lied theme and then the main ti­tle kicks in, which is some­thing we al­ways hold off on un­til episode nine or ten, when the re­ally big things hap­pen. In ev­ery sea­son, I try to come up with new ways of play­ing with that main ti­tle.” He’s got two more sea­sons, at least, to come up with a cou­ple of in­ter­est­ing new quirks.

GAME OF THRONES SEA­SON 6 SOUND­TRACK IS OUT NOW ON DOWN­LOAD, CD AND AS A THREE-DISC VINYL SET

Clock­wise from here: Daen­erys (Emilia Clarke) and her drag­ons burn down the House Of The Undy­ing; The death of Hodor (Kris­tian Nairn); The in­va­sion of Wes­teros be­gins as Sea­son 6 ends; Jon Snow (Kit Har­ing­ton) is back from the dead — who’d have pre­dicted that?!; Cer­sei’s (Lena Headey) spec­tac­u­lar re­venge.

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