Music of Game of Thrones
The music for the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The music is primarily non-diegetic and 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 theme" that accompanies the series' title sequence. In every season, a soundtrack album was released. The music for the show has won a number of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in 2018.
A series of concerts which featured Game of Thrones music, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience with composer Ramin Djawadi, took place in 2017–2018. First to be performed in Saint Paul, Minnesota, it then went on to tour across the United States, Canada and Europe. This is followed by a world tour starting May 2018 in Madrid.
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.
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 project he was working on. However, after a few meetings, Djawadi was persuaded to take on the project. The showrunners Benioff and Weiss sent Djawadi the first two episodes of the series, which impressed Djawadi. He 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 were interested in using music to support the different characters and plots. They wanted the music to express the emotion and mood of each scene in the series, and that distinct themes should be created for 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. Cello became a prominent feature of the music of Game of Thrones, notably in its title theme.
Composition and recording
The process of composition is essentially the same throughout the series. Once the filming is nearly completed, episodes are sent to Djawadi either singly or in batches of multiple episodes as they were being edited together but often before any special effects added to the footage. Benioff and Weiss would also inform Djawadi in advance of the need to expand a theme or create new themes for characters. Djawadi wrote all the music in Santa Monica, California. 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 was present during the entire recording session, giving comments on the recordings via the internet.
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 an individual leitmotif or theme for each of the major houses, as well as for some locations and some characters. These themes are often played in scenes involving them and they 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 the audience, for example, the theme for Theon Greyjoy or House 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", which became their theme. 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. When a theme has become established, different versions that are darker or lighter are then introduced, and concepts such as honor and conspiracy are also represented in themes.
Djawadi chose distinctive sounds and instruments for different leitmotifs and 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, are also used in her theme music, although not as whole sentences. The instrumentation for her theme are also used for dragon attacks. For the dragons, the theme was first heard when they hatched at the end of season one as a quiet high-pitched melody, but developed into something more powerful by the time they became fully grown, for example it was played with French horns in the loot train attack scene in the seventh season.
Different themes may also be combined in some themes and scenes. For example, in Season 5, the music for House of Black and White is an extension from the themes for Arya and Jaqen H'ghar. 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. 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
- House Baratheon ("The King's Arrival")
- House Bolton ("Reek", "Let's Play a Game")
- House Greyjoy ("What Is Dead May Never Die", "Ironborn")
- House Lannister ("A Lannister Always Pays His Debts")
- House Martell ("Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", "Jaws of the Viper")
- House Stark ("Goodbye Brother", "Home", "The Last of the Starks")
- House Targaryen ("Fire and Blood")
- House Tyrell ("Service of the Gods")
- Army of the Dead ("Army of the Dead")
- Children of the Forest ("He Is Lost")
- Dothraki ("To Vaes Dothrak")
- Dragons ("Braker of Chains", "Blood of the Dragon")
- The Living ("The Night King")
- Night's Watch ("The Night's Watch")
- Red Priests ("Warrior of Light", "The Red Woman")
- Sons of the Harpy ("Sons of the Harpy")
- Thenns ("Thenns", "Let's Kill Some Crows")
- The Undying ("Pyat Pree")
- Unsullied ("Dracarys", "Casterly Rock")
- White Walkers ("White Walkers")
- Wildlings ("We Are the Watchers on the Wall")
- Characters (with themes different than their House theme)
- Arya Stark ("The Pointy End", "Needle", "The Children")
- Brienne of Tarth ("The Old Gods and the New", "Feed the Hounds", used as a theme for Catelyn Stark in season 1)
- Cersei Lannister ("Light of the Seven")
- Daenerys Targaryen ("Finale", "Mhysa")
- Euron Greyjoy ("Coronation")
- High Sparrow ("High Sparrow")
- Jaime Lannister ("Kingslayer")
- Jaqen H'ghar ("Valar Morghulis")
- Joffrey Baratheon ("You Win or You Die")
- Jon Snow ("My Watch Has Ended", "Bastard")
- The Mountain ("I Choose Violence")
- Night King ("The Night King", "Farewell")
- Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish ("Chaos Is a Ladder", "The Dagger")
- Three-Eyed Raven ("Three-Eyed Raven")
- Samwell Tarly ("Maester")
- The Citadel ("Maester")
- House of Black and White ("Valar Morghulis", "House of Black and White")
- Meereen ("Meereen")
- Qarth ("Qarth")
- The Wall ("The Wall")
- Winterfell ("Winterfell")
- Daenerys and Khal Drogo ("Love in the Eyes")
- Daenerys and Jon Snow ("Truth", "The Iron Throne")
- Greyworm and Missandei ("I'm Sorry for Today")
- Jon Snow and Ygritte ("You Know Nothing", "The Real North")
- Robb Stark and Talisa ("I Am Hers, She Is Mine", also used as a love theme in general)
- Dragonglass ("Dragonglass")
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 season 6, "The Winds of Winter". This piece, which is over nine minutes long, is unusual in its choice of piano as that instrument had not been used before on the series. Additionally, such long pieces are seldom used, although in season 6 soundtracks 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.
Djawadi composed a number of songs 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 season 2, and Sigur Rós recorded it in season 4 for a cameo appearance. In season 3, Gary Lightbody appeared in a cameo amongst other captors of Brienne of Tarth and Jamie Lannister in season 3 episode 4 to sing "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", and a recording of the song performed by The Hold Steady was played over that episode's closing credits. The same season Kerry Ingram, who played the character Shireen Baratheon, sang "It's Always Summer Under the Sea". The character Bronn, played by Jerome Flynn, sang "The Dornishman's Wife" in season 5, and Ed Sheeran appeared in a cameo to perform "Hands of Gold" in season 7. However, neither of the latter two songs was used in the soundtrack albums.
In season 8, Daniel Portman who played the character Podrick Payne sang "Jenny's Song", a song from the book A Storm of Swords but with additional lyrics by David Benioff and Dan Weiss. The full version of the song titled "Jenny of Oldstones" was sung by Florence Welch, and played over the closing credits of the second episode "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms". It was released as a single of Florence + the Machine.
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|||
A companion album, 'For the Throne: Music Inspired by the HBO Series Game of Thrones, comprising songs that are inspired by the show but not featured in it. A single, "Power Is Power" by SZA, The Weeknd and Travis Scott, was released as the lead single from the album. The title of the song quotes a line spoken by Cersei.
|2019||For the Throne: Music Inspired by the HBO Series 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 the Throne: Music Inspired by the HBO Series Game of Thrones (2019)
- For other music based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, see Works based on A Song of Ice and Fire.
- "Game of Thrones concert experience hits the road in 2017". The Guardian. August 8, 2016. Archived from the original on August 21, 2016. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Selcke, Dan (February 21, 2017). "The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience has begun, and fans love it". Winteriscoming.net. Archived from the original on February 22, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- Tenreyro, Tatiana (September 26, 2017). "'Game of Thrones' Live Concert Experience Announces 2018 World Tour". Billboard.
- Lynch, Joe (August 22, 2016). "These Are the 10 Most Popular 'Game of Thrones' Cover Songs on YouTube: Exclusive". Billboard.
- Watercutter, Angela (April 15, 2013). "Why HBO Turned to Indie Bands for the Medieval Tunes of Game of Thrones". Wired. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- "Thrones Switches Composer". Winter is Coming. February 2, 2011.
- Kawashima, Dale (February 24, 2016). "Interview With Evyen Klean, Top Music Supervisor and Owner of Neophonic". Songwriter Universe.
- Davis, Cindy (September 12, 2016). "Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts About "Game of Thrones" That Might Leave You Crippled, a Bastard or a Broken Thing". Pajiba.
- Renfro, Kim (July 7, 2016). "Meet the musical genius behind the Game of Thrones soundtrack who watches each season before anyone else". Tech Insider. Archived from the original on July 8, 2016.
- Mahoney, Lesley (September 20, 2013). "Behind the Scenes with Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi". Berklee College of Music.
- Ferreiro, Laura (April 25, 2013). "Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi Talks Epic Score, Daenerys' Dragons, and Metal 'Thrones' Theme". Yahoo! Music.
- "Composer Interview: Ramin Djawadi". Filmmusicmedia.com. December 22, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Woo, Kelly (June 26, 2017). "'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi Explains How the Music Gets Made". Movie Fone.
- Blickley, Leigh (June 29, 2016). "'Game Of Thrones' Composer Breaks Down The Season Finale's Opening Sequence". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
- Hirway, Hrishikesh; Djawadi, Ramin (June 11, 2015). "Here's Why Game of Thrones Theme Song Is as Treacherous as Westeros". The Creators Project.
- Hirway, Hrishikesh. "Song Exploder 40: RAMIN DJAWADI ("Game of Thrones")". Soundcloud.
- Bell, Crystal (February 17, 2017). "Inside the Epic Game of Thrones Tour That's Bringing Westeros to Life". MTV.
- Vineyard, Jennifer. "Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi on the Show's Key Musical Elements, and That Godfather-esque Finale Tune". Vulture.
- Morton, Ashley (February 17, 2017). "Ramin Djawadi Shares Secrets of GoT Composing, Characters and Concerts". Making Game of Thrones (HBO).
- Selcke, Dan. "Video: Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi on Writing the Show's Music". Winter Is Coming.
- Ellison, Victoria (April 15, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Just Trying to Create Something Magical". Hollywood Reporter.
- Kalus, Ruben (April 22, 2016). "No flutes allowed: Composer Ramin Djawadi on the music of 'Game of Thrones'". Deutsche Welle.
- Li, Shirley (August 29, 2017). "Game of Thrones composer breaks down season 7 finale score". Entertainment Weekley.
- Kornhaber, Spencer (April 2019). "Game of Thrones Turned Its Composer Into a Rock Star Ramin Djawadi's score helped make the show a hit—and brought unlikely fame to the composer". The Atlantic.
- Misra, Sulagna (June 12, 2015). "Inside the Music of Game of Thrones Season 5". Vanity Fair.
- Wigler, Josh (June 28, 2016). "'Game of Thrones' Composer Discusses "Light of the Seven," the Finale's "Haunting" King's Landing Score". Hollywood Reporter.
- Cooper, Leonie (April 4, 2014). "Sigur Ros to cover The National for 'Game Of Thrones' soundtrack". NME.
- "8 Musicians You Didn't Know Appeared on Game of Thrones". Moshcam. June 27, 2016.
- March 5, 2013, James. "'Game of Thrones' and the Hold Steady team for season 3 song". EW.com.
- Vincent, Alice (July 18, 2017). "The secret meaning of Ed Sheeran's Game of Thrones character - and the song he sings". The Daily Telegraph.
- Robinson, Joanna (April 21, 2019). "The Hidden Meaning Behind Podrick's Song". Vanity Fair. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
- Goslin, Austen (April 21, 2019). "Podrick's song has ties to the books and a Game of Thrones prophecy". Polygon. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
- Wigler, Josh (April 22, 2019). "'Game of Thrones': How Florence and the Machine's Song Teases the Iron Throne Endgame".
- Vineyard, Jennifer (April 21, 2019). "'Game of Thrones': Florence and the Machine's Frontwoman on That Haunting Closing Song". New York Times.
- "Game of Thrones releases 'Jenny of Oldstones' by Florence + the Machine". Entertainment Weekly. April 21, 2019.
- Battan, Carrie (March 5, 2014). "Game of Thrones" Official HBO Mixtape to Feature Big Boi, Common, Wale, More". Pitchfork.
- Camp, Zoe (March 17, 2015). "Stream Catch the Throne Vol. 2, Official "Game of Thrones" Mixtape". Pitchfork.
- "Game of Thrones by Ramin Djawadi". AllMusic. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 2 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 3 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved July 20, 2013.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 4 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved July 20, 2014.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 5 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved July 20, 2015.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 6 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved July 29, 2016.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 7 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "Game of Thrones: Season 8 by Ramin Djawadi". Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- Aswad, Jem. "SZA, The Weeknd and Travis Scott Drop Video for 'Game of Thrones'-Inspired Song 'Power Is Power'". Variety.
- Kaufman, Gil (June 4, 2018). "Columbia Records Teaming With HBO for 'Music Inspired by Game of Thrones' Album". Billboard. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Beauchemin, Molly; Battan, Carrie (March 7, 2014). "Listen to the "Game Of Thrones" Mixtape, Catch the Throne". Pitchfork.
- Blistein, Jon (March 17, 2015). "Hear the Second 'Game of Thrones' Mixtape Now". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
- Pfleegor, Dan (February 23, 2017). "Behind the Scenes of The Game of Thrones Live Experience". Consequence of Sound.
- Tenreyro, Tatiana (September 18, 2017). "'Game of Thrones' Live Concert Experience Announces 2018 World Tour". Billboard.
- "IFMCA Award Nominations 2011 - IFMCA: the International Film Music Critics Association".
- "ASCAP Honors Top Film and Television Music Composers at 27th Annual Awards Celebration". www.ascap.com.
- "ASCAP Honors Top Film and Television Music Composers at 28th Annual Awards Celebration". www.ascap.com.
- "IFMCA Award Nominations 2013 - IFMCA: the International Film Music Critics Association".
- "Emmy Awards 2014: the nominations in full". Daily Telegraph. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- "Hollywood Music in Media Awards Nominations Announced". International Film Music Critics Association. October 8, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Gent, Film Fest. "16th World Soundtrack Awards announces first wave of nominees". Film Fest Gent. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
- "IFMCA Award Winners 2016 | IFMCA: International Film Music Critics Association". International Film Music Critics Association. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- "IFMCA Award Nominations 2016 | IFMCA: International Film Music Critics Association". International Film Music Critics Association. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- "Grammys 2018: See the Complete List of Nominees". Billboard. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
- "2018 Emmy Awards Nominations" (PDF). Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 12, 2018.