Though he’s not a household name like Drake or Rihanna, the music of Ramin Djawadi might be just as ubiquitous. His spare piano renditions of songs like “Paint it Black” and “Black Hole Sun” help to build suspense and guide viewers to moments of revelation in Westworld.
But years before he began composing motifs to accompany the human-android interactions on HBO’s prestige sci-fi drama, he landed his first big hit when he was tapped to score the premium cable network’s massively popular fantasy epic, Game of Thrones.
Over the course of the show’s six seasons, he has pulled at fans’ heartstrings from behind the scenes. Beginning with the main GoT theme—that snarling cello line, the swelling strings and thundering timpanies—Djawadi sets the tone for delicious treachery, bloody battles and political maneuvering. And he continues throughout each episode to gently nudge the audience in various emotional directions with his carefully crafted sonic palate.
This week, Djawadi will lead a full orchestra, choir and percussion ensemble, in the “Game of Thrones: Live Concert Experience” at SAP Center. This time, the music will take center stage, while clips from all six seasons of the show will be projected onto a variety of screens above and surrounding the players.
“It’s really amazing to look back at how this show has expanded,” Djawadi says, adding that he couldn’t possibly have conceived of his work on GoT turning into anything like the “Live Concert Experience.”
It all began back in 2011, when Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss reached out to Djawadi and asked him if he would consider helping them score the show. “I watched the first two episodes and my jaw dropped,” he says. “It was amazing.”
The three quickly developed a rapport and dove into the show. Djawadi credits Benioff and Weiss for their well-articulated vision of what the TV version of Game of Thrones should be. They wanted it to be a timeless show, set in a very specific universe.
Indeed, GoT deals with themes that have been ever-present across the sweep of human history: love, deceit, manipulation, power, violence.
And just as in real life, the show’s characters are multifaceted. They are capable of kindness and wrath, pity and pride, and often seek to do what’s honorable at one moment before turning around and acting out of naked self-interest in the next.
Depicting the motivations behind the actions of each character does not simply fall to the show’s producers, directors or actors. Djawadi and his team also have a major role to play. When composing the music for the show, Djawadi engages in lengthy conversations about how to conjure the right feeling with his music. Those talks have led to the creation of a collection of themes.
“We have a Daenerys theme and a Lannister theme,” he explains. “We have a ‘conspiracy’ theme that gets used a lot with Little Finger” and which made its first appearance in season one when Ned Stark had his ah-ha moment thumbing through the history of the great houses of Westeros. There is also an “honor” theme—often played with a French horn. “It feels very noble to me,” Djawadi says.
All of these themes and more will be visited during the “Game of Thones: Live Concert Experience,” as important passages from the show are shown. “It really hits upon all the key parts,” Djawadi says of the concert, noting that he has enjoyed fan reactions in every city on the tour so far. Many have told him that the experience reminded them of many plot points they had forgotten.
“It’s been so much fun to do,” he says. “A lot of people have come up to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh! I want to watch all six seasons again.”
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Mar 29, 8pm, $38+
SAP Center, San Jose