Ramin Djawadi: Game of Thrones Main Title
Iranian-German film composer Ramin Djawadi (1974-) is currently best-known for his music for the HBO series Game of Thrones, the 2008 Marvel film Iron Man and television series Prison Break. He has been nominated for numerous awards including a Grammy for Game of Thrones (Season 7) and an Emmy for Game of Thrones (Season 8). Djawadi won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in 2018.
Initially, British composer Stephen Warbeck was hired to compose music for Game of Thrones. During the pilot episode Warbeck left, which led the head music consultant for HBO on the lookout for a new composer. Ramin Djawadi was then suggested to writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. After initially being interested in the project, Djawadi declined the offer from HBO due to other commitments. After some sweet talking from the HBO team, Djawadi was won round and became the composer-in-residence for the new fantasy series.
For each series Benioff and Weiss would send Djawadi the next season of filmed episodes so that he could compose music to match the atmospheres, characters and plot lines. Each season of Game of Thrones has its own unique soundtrack, however one thing that has stayed constant throughout is the Main Title music.
According to Djawadi, Benioff and Weiss wanted musical themes for each of the main characters that would follow them around the seasons. Djawadi thus composed themes for each house in the series, as well as the people within them. Djawadi also wanted to create a Main Title theme that was instantly recognisable, but stood alone against other big fantasy series. For this reason he omitted the use of solo flutes and voices. Djawadi decided on the cello to be the prominent feature of the iconic title music due to its low timbre and rugged sound.
When asked about the long process of composing music for television, Djawadi talked about how they did it for each episode of Game of Thrones:
“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. 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.”
With a large amount of the music conducted in Prague with the Czech Film Orchestra and Choir. Djawadi was present at these sessions via the internet, with him listening to recording sessions and commenting on the score and the performance.
Inspired by a very early version of the series’ computer-generated title sequence, Djawadi was inspired to compose the Main Title for the fantasy series. Based around a pulsating and driving 3/4 motif, the music is powerful and bold.
Game of Thrones theme. Picture: IMSLP/Ramin Djawadi
As previously mentioned, Djawadi avoided using flutes, voices and violins so that the music would stand away from its competitors. Djawadi described the main theme in a recent interview:
“It can be very dark and moody, but also beautiful and emotional at the same time. It’s just perfect for the show. Because it’s such a dark show. Obviously, because all these families have their problems.”
The use of the cello as the primary instrument and the use of percussion gives the Main Title the rustic and medieval atmosphere. The relentless melody pushes through the rhythmic drumming until the unusually long title music comes to an epic close. The dark undertones of the music creates the fantastical atmosphere which is represented through the computer-generated opening credits. The rather sparse orchestration makes it even more believable for the period that it might be set in as it corresponds with what we know to be medieval music.
After winning numerous awards for his music for Game of Thrones, Ramin Djawadi is currently one of the most in-demand film and television composers. His extensive catalogue of work highlights his ability to write creatively and uniquely for each project he undertakes. His Main Title from the fantasy series Game of Thrones is no different. His period approach has made it one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of TV music ever composed.