Ramin Djawadi created the iconic “Game of Thrones” theme song that prevents most viewers from skipping over the opening credits. The Iranian-German
composer has scored many other high-volume projects, such as “Westworld,” “Pacific Rim” and “Iron Man,” but with “The Mountain Between Us” — Fox’s plane-crash thriller starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, in theaters Oct. 6 — he’s quieting down a bit.
“It’s a big departure,” says Djawadi, who played his first notes on the piano when he was 4, trying to emulate a melody he’d heard on TV. “It’s a side of me that people haven’t heard. I’m excited to have written this kind of score, because it’s the type of music I love, perhaps even more than action music.”
After nearly a decade practicing piano, Djawadi picked up the guitar when he was 13 and things took off. He composed constantly, working up to eight hours a day. “I don’t feel very articulate with words,” he says. “All music I write is instrumental, so that lent itself naturally to writing film music. I feel like with just notes I can hide better and leave it up to other people to interpret what they feel from my music.”
Djawadi’s art is enhanced by a genetic factor called synesthesia whereby he sees music as color. He didn’t realize he had the ability until a few years ago, when his wife asked him about his inspirations for composing. “I told her that I hear music in my head all day long,” he says. “It’s just always there. But when I write, I see colors that turn into notes for me. A couple of days later she told me that there’s a word for that: synesthesia.”
Djawadi explains the complexities of seeing notes as colors and how one color pertains to one note — for him, a G is green — but there’s never a single picture that is just one color, so music is his way of painting, in a sense. This made scoring “The Mountain Between Us,” with its mostly white, snow-laden backdrops, unique. Djawadi believes that maybe this is why he ended up with a minimalist score of mostly piano and strings.
“The plane has certain colors, the clothing, the scarves — the sky has a blue tone too, so it’s not completely colorless,” he says. “Also, that’s what [director] Hany [Abu-Assad] and I felt the majority of the score should be — that’s all it needed. We’re dealing with two characters for most of the time in a very particular place, and we felt like that was really fitting to bring it very close and make it very personal.”