The task of scoring Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s love theme was a tricky one for “Game of Thrones” composer Ramin Djawadi, who had to create a recognizable tune for their scenes together without spoiling the love affair that emerged as the top water-cooler moment of the Season 7 finale.
“When we first play it during one of their meetings, you sort of pick it up as a new theme, but it really doesn’t put, in one way or another, of what’s to come,” Djawadi told Variety as part of its Artisans series. “We definitely didn’t want to establish right away that there’s going to be this love relationship coming out of it, so it gets played differently — a lot less emotional — until there’s more and more hints of their relationship. Then the melody develops further.”
HBO’s resident composer, Djawadi has lent his talents to several films and series throughout his career, including “Thrones” and the sci-fi hit “Westworld.” When creating musical landscapes for the network’s buzziest genre programs, Djawadi said his job is to discover “what is it that makes you feel angry or sad or emotional” through melodies.
For Daenarys and Jon, Djawadi skipped ahead in the season in order to find the appropriate sound for their relationship, which he then customized to fit the contexts of each of their scenes throughout the episodes.
“What I actually did was, I went all the way to the seventh episode and wrote the boat scene first, and that’s where I established this theme,” he said.
Djawadi also discussed crafting the eerie main title theme for “Westworld,” in which he tried to bridge the show’s competing genres through his instrument choices. The beginning features only a solo violin, but as more sounds pile on, eventually the score builds — like a robot cowboy in a lab.
“There’s an element of synthesizers and organic instruments, so the acoustic guitar representing the Western world, and then the piano actually, I feel, is always the glue between the two sounds,” Djawadi said. “But the main title really captures the overall mood of that by having all those kinds of instruments play together.”
For Djawadi, the score of any film or show can be as important as its characters, even if viewers may not register it fully while watching. Between “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld,” Djawadi has nabbed six Emmy nominations — including one for each series in 2018.
“It really is a big part of storytelling — be it either in the background, under dialogue, or when there’s no dialogue, and you really have music in the foreground,” Djawadi said. “Both those approaches are a way of storytelling and pushing the story forward. I always like to think of music as if you were to turn the picture off, actually. Just by listening to the piece of music, there’s a story there and a connection to the characters and the plots and all of that.”