Whether it is the epic blaring horns of Inception (2010) or John William’s adventurous, inspiring themes in Star Wars (1977), music arguably becomes the heart and soul of a film. It also plays an integral part in TV shows, as demonstrated by Ramin Djawadi, the composer for the hit TV series Game of Thrones (2011-). As evident from his time studying under Hans Zimmer to his tenacious consultations with the producers of Game of Thrones , Djawadi’s unique sensibilities have helped break new musical ground.
Who could have gifted the world with the relentless score of Iron Man (2008) and the stirring tune that played during Idris Elba’s motivational speech in Pacific Rim (2013)? Look no further than Ramin Djawadi, the marvelous German-Iranian soundtrack composer. Initially working as an apprentice under Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt, Djawadi’s breakout composition was 2008’s Iron Man, for which he won a Grammy award. His success in the film industry compelled him to start working on his unparalleled TV show music, with the score for shows like Persons of Interest (2011-2016) and particularly Game of Thrones garnering much deserved praise along with a few Emmy nominations.
Although his music in films and other TV shows are sublime in their own right, it is in his composition for Game of Thrones that Djawadi truly comes into his own. Djawadi, like many other TV composers, makes frequent use of recurring themes. A character that lost her family and wanders around with a known war criminal is assigned a fast-paced, but often somber motif, while a creeping, ominous piece is used to establish another character’s duplicitous and conniving nature.
▲ Composer Ramin Djawadi.Provided by watchersonthewall.com
Djawadi, unbeknownst to the audience, tends to subtly plant character themes several seasons before the themes come to the forefront of the show, making their introduction later on much more natural. Famously, Tyrion Lannister, one of the show’s major characters, was shown whistling his family’s theme a season before it was completed. Another one of Djawadi’s signature musical quirks is that he puts his unique spin on pre-established themes. For instance, in the season six finale where two previously opposed factions join forces, Djawadi made sure to amalgamate the factions’ motifs, crafting an original but still recognizable piece of music.
Game of Thrones audiences are amazed time and time again not only by Djawadi’s awe-inducing compositions, but by the way he incorporates each piece of music in a way that perfectly matches the onscreen visuals. Such harmony owes itself to Djawadi’s frequent collaborations with the show’s producers, where they discuss everything from broad character motifs to specific instrument choices. One of the many fruits of Djawadi’s struggles is the memorable opening theme, which imbues the opening with a sense of excitement but, at the same time, does not compromise the show’s foreboding tone.
Djawadi also screens each episode before it airs in order to get the music just right. “Djawadi estimates he watches each scene at least a thousand times throughout the entire (composing) process,” Vanity Fair reported, demonstrating the composer’s unrelenting passion. It might not be an exaggeration to say that Djawadi has a better grasp of the characters in Game of Thrones than anyone else, as he professed to Tech Insider that he spends hours on end analyzing each character while fine-tuning their individual motifs.
It is not hard to see how Djawadi’s fantastic work on TV has earned him worldwide fame; he is even planning to stage a Game of Thrones soundtrack concert early next year. However, it is his ardor for composition that is the true source of his success. To Djawadi, music is literally a form of art; “I can now paint with music,” he confided to fans on his Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) page. One can only hope that he continues to enrich the world of film and TV with his splendid compositions.