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‘Game of Thrones’ Composer Pens Minimalist Score for ‘Mountain Between Us’

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.”

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