Music of Game of Thrones
The music for the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The music is primarily instrumental with the occasional vocal performances, and is created to support musically the characters and plots of the show. It features various themes, the most prominent being the Main Title that accompanies the series' title sequence. In every season, a soundtrack album would be released.
The music of Game of Thrones has inspired many cover versions; the main title theme is particularly popular. There are also decidedly non-medieval renditions of songs from the series's source novels by indie bands. These adaptations, according to Wired, create attention for the series in media that wouldn't normally cover it, but are also notable for their musical merits independent of the series.
A series of concerts which featured Game of Thrones music, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience with composer Ramin Djawadi, took place in 2017. First to be performed in Saint Paul, Minnesota, it then went on to tour across the United States and Canada. A world tour to be held starting May 2018 in Madrid was announced in September 2017.
Initially a different composer, Stephen Warbeck, was hired for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones but he left the project. The music consultant for HBO and music supervisor of Game of Thrones Evyen Klean then suggested Ramin Djawadi to David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Djawadi, although initially interested, declined the offer three days later as the schedule conflicted with a film he was working on. Djawadi was nevertheless persuaded to take on the project after a few meetings. The showrunners Benioff and Weiss sent Djawadi the first two episodes of the series, which Djawadi was impressed by, and so arranged a meeting with Benioff and Weiss to discuss the concept of the series, after which he began to compose the music for the series. According to Djawadi, Benioff and Weiss wanted the different characters and plots to be musically supported. They decided that the music would be used to express the emotion and mood of each scene in the series, and that distinct themes would be created for some of the main characters. Benioff and Weiss also wanted a soundscape that is distinct from other productions in the fantasy genre, therefore flutes and solo vocals were initially avoided, and cello became a prominent feature of the music of Game of Thrones, notably in its title theme.
The process of composition is essentially the same throughout the series. Once the filming is nearly completed, episodes are sent to Djawadi in batches as they're being edited together but often before any special effects added in the footage, and these episodes may be sent singly or in set of multiple episodes. Benioff and Weiss would also inform Djawadi in advance of the need to expand a theme or create new themes for characters. Asked in interview about the overall process of composing the music and how it is used in the series, Djawadi said: "I sit with David and Dan and we do what's called a spotting session where we watch the entire episode and then discuss when music should start and stop. Everybody's very involved with that. And it constantly gets played with. What I love about Game of Thrones is that the positioning of the music is so well done, because it's not overdone. When the music cuts in, it really has something to say."
The recordings of most of the soundtracks were conducted in Prague with The Czech Film Orchestra and Choir. Djawadi interacted with the orchestra over the internet and would be present during the entire recording session, giving comments on the recordings via the internet.
Sample of "Main Title", the series's musical theme tune, illustrating the melody played with cello and variations of the riff in strings
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According to Djawadi, the series creators wanted the main title theme that accompany the Game of Thrones title sequence to be about a journey as there are many locations, characters in the series and involves much traveling. After Djawadi had seen the preliminary animated title sequence the visual effect artists were still working on, he was inspired to write the piece. Djawadi said he intended to capture the overall impression of the series with the theme tune. The title theme is unusually long for a television series at nearly two minutes long, and cello was chosen as the main instrument for the music as he thought it has a "darker sound" that suited the series. The main title theme may also be incorporated into other music segments within the show, particularly at climactic moments.
Houses and characters
Djawadi composed leitmotifs for each of the major houses, some locations and some of the characters, which are often played in scenes involving them and these themes can be used to tell a story. Not all characters would have their own themes due to the large number of characters in the series. The theme for House Stark is the first theme to be composed and is played on a cello. Most of the Stark characters only have variations on the same theme on cello. Arya Stark is the first of the house to have her own theme, first heard when she started her lesson on swordplay in episode three of season one, with the music featuring a hammered dulcimer. A new theme for Jon Snow, previously using only the House Stark theme, was created in the sixth season and prominently featured in the episode "Battle of the Bastards". It was first heard at the end of episode three when he said "My watch is ended", signifying a shift in the character after he had been resurrected.
Due to the large number of themes, the introductions of different themes are also deliberately spaced over a longer period so as not to confuse audience, for example, the theme for Theon Greyjoy was not introduced until the second season even though he first appeared in the first season. House Lannister has an associated song, "The Rains of Castamere". The song was played at the Red Wedding, but first heard when Tyrion Lannister whistled a small part in the first episode of the second season.
Djawadi may choose distinctive sounds and instruments for different themes, for example, didgeridoos are used for the wildlings, while the Armenian duduk flute is used for the Dothrakis. The duduk flute has a different sound from other flutes, which were deliberately avoided as they are frequently used in other fantasy films. The themes for the White Walkers and the Night King are more of sound designs rather than regular themes; the White Walker theme initially employed a glass harmonica for a "really high, eerie, icy sound", but became fully orchestral when the army of the dead was revealed in the season two finale. The theme music for the White Walker extended over time into the music of the Army of the Dead, representing the gathering strength of Army of the Dead, which was only introduced in full in the finale of the seventh season when the Wall fell.
The themes may evolve over time in the series. The theme for Daenerys Targaryen started small, but became grander as she became more powerful. Her theme was initially played with a single instrument such as a processed cello, but later began incorporating more instruments, including Japanese taiko-inspired drums, Indonesian bedug drums, and an Armenian duduk flute. Syllables and words in Valyrian, a fictional language of Game of Thrones, were also used in her theme music, although not as whole sentences. The instrumentations for her theme are also used for dragon attacks.
Different themes may also be combined in some themes and scenes. Several examples exist: during the first scene of the fourth season, as Ice, the Stark sword, is reforged by Tywin Lannister, the Starks' and Lannisters' themes are clearly played simultaneously, to finally end with the Lannister theme only. Also, in Season 5, the music for House of Black and White is an extension from the themes for Arya and Jaqen H'ghar. In the finale of Season 6 with the shot of the armada at the end, at least five themes were combined – themes for Daenerys, Theon, the Unsullied, the dragons, and the main title.
List of themes
The themes and their locations in the soundtracks (seasons 1–7):
- Game of Thrones ("Main Title", "Winter Has Come"),
- White Walkers ("White Walkers"),
- House Stark ("Goodbye Brother", "Home"),
- House Baratheon ("The King’s Arrival"),
- Daenerys and Khal Drogo ("Love In The Eyes"),
- Dragons ("Mother of Dragons", "Breaker of Chains"),
- Daenerys Targaryen ("Finale", "Mhysa")
- Night’s Watch ("The Wall"),
- Water Dancing ("The Pointy End"),
- Viserys Targaryen ("A Golden Crown")
- Dothraki ("To Vaes Dothrak"),
- Joffrey Baratheon ("You Win Or You Die")
- House Greyjoy ("What Is Dead May Never Die", "Pay the Iron Price"),
- R’hllor Religion ("Warrior of Light", "The Red Woman"),
- Arya Stark ("Valar Morghulis", "Needle"),
- Qarth ("Qarth"),
- Love ("I Am Hers, She Is Mine"),
- Pyat Pree ("Pyat Pree"),
- Craster’s Keep ("Craster’s Keep"),
- Wildlings ("We Are the Watchers On the Wall"),
- House Lannister ("A Lannister Always Pays His Debts", "The Queen’s Justice"),
- White Walker March ("White Walkers"),
- Dracarys ("Dracarys"),
- Jon and Ygritte ("You Know Nothing", "The Real North")
- Night’s Watch Adventure ("Wall of Ice"),
- Jaime Lannister ("Kingslayer"),
- White Walker Arrival ("White Walkers"),
- Ramsay Bolton ("Reek"),
- The Red Wedding ("The Lannisters Send Their Regards"),
- Dragon Flight ("Blood of the Dragon"),
- Grey Worm and Missandei ("I’m Sorry For Today"),
- Thenns ("Thenns"),
- Battle of Castle Black ("Let’s Kill Some Crows"),
- Meereen ("Meereen"),
- Three-Eyed Raven ("Three-Eyed Raven"),
- The Hound ("Oathkeeper"),
- Battle at the Cave of the Three-Eyed Raven ("He Is Lost"),
- The Children ("He Is Lost"),
- Faceless Men ("House of Black and White"),
- House Martell ("Jaws of the Viper")
- The Night King ("Hardhome, Pt. 2")
- High Sparrow ("High Sparrow"),
- House Bolton ("Let’s Play a Game"),
- Sons of the Harpy ("Sons of the Harpy"),
- Queen Cersei ("Light of the Seven"),
- Euron Greyjoy ("Coronation"),
- Jon Snow ("My Watch Has Ended"),
- The Citadel ("Maester"),
- Dragon Landing ("Reign"),
- Dragon Awe ("Reign"),
- House Tyrell ("Service of the Gods"),
- The Mountain ("I Choose Violence"),
- Dragonglass ("Dragonglass"),
- Jon and Daenerys ("Dragonglass", "Truth")
Other compositions and songs
Various pieces of music are also composed for particular plot lines in the series. A notable piece is the "Light of the Seven" which is played at the beginning of the final episode of the sixth season, "The Winds of Winter". This piece, which is over nine minutes long, is unusual in its choice of piano which is not an instrument used before on the series. Such long pieces are seldom used, although in the sixth season there are soundtracks that cover a 10-minute section in the Hodor scenes in "The Door" episode and a 22-minute sequence in the "Battle of the Bastards" episode.
A number of songs have been composed by Djawadi for the show using lyrics from the books A Song of Ice and Fire, the most prominent of which is "The Rains of Castamere". The National recorded the song in the second season, while Sigur Rós also recorded it in the fourth season for a cameo appearance. In season 3, Kerry Ingram who played the character Shireen Baratheon sang "It's Always Summer Under the Sea", while The Bear and the Maiden Fair" was performed by The Hold Steady (but first sung on the episode by the captors of Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister). The character Bronn played by Jerome Flynn sang "The Dornishman's Wife" in season 5, while Ed Sheeran also appeared in a cameo to perform "Hands of Gold" in season 7. However, neither of the latter two songs appear in the soundtrack albums.
In every season, a soundtrack album of the music used in that season was released toward the end of the season. The first two were released by Varèse Sarabande, while all subsequent releases were by WaterTower Music. Mixtapes were also released in 2014 and 2015 before the start of the fourth and fifth season respectively and they were available as free downloads to promote the season.
|2011||Game of Thrones (season 1)||Ramin Djawadi|||
|2012||Game of Thrones (season 2)|||
|2013||Game of Thrones (season 3)|||
|2014||Game of Thrones (season 4)|||
|2015||Game of Thrones (season 5)|||
|2016||Game of Thrones (season 6)|||
|2017||Game of Thrones (season 7)|||
|2019||Game of Thrones (season 8)|
|2019||Music Inspired by Game of Thrones||Various|||
|2014||Catch the Throne: Volume I||Various|||
|2015||Catch the Throne: Volume II||Various|||
A concert tour featuring the music of Game of Thrones was produced in 2017. The tour involved an 80-piece orchestra, a choir, and seven custom 360-degree stages. Instruments were specially created for the tour, such as a 12-foot Wildling horn played during the Wildling attack on the Wall section. A world tour was also arranged for cities in Europe and North America in 2018, with new music from season 7 added.
Awards and nominations
- For other music based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, see Works based on A Song of Ice and Fire.
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