Ramin Djawadi is currently touring the country with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, so we thought it’d be a good time to discuss his work on the show. Which of his many compositions do you find more memorable? Most stirring, nail-biting, joyful, etc? Read our takes, tell us yours, and vote in the poll!
DAN: It’s hard to overstate Ramin Djawadi’s contributions to the success of Game of Thrones. Obviously, there’s more to the show than its music, but when you hear the words “Game of Thrones,” one of the first things you think of is the percussive opening theme. DUH-duh-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh…Djawadi’s music is part of the show’s DNA, and it’s impossible to imagine Game of Thrones without it.
Djawadi has written a lot of stand-out pieces over the years. I still get chills when I hear “Dracarys” and think back on Daenerys sacking Astapor, and I love the eerie tone set by pieces like “House of Black and White.” Djawadi manages to strike a difficult balance, writing music that’s memorable but doesn’t overpower what’s happening on screen. His music complements the show, rather than stealing it.
My favorite melody of Djawadi’s, or at least the one most guaranteed to get me emotional, is “Goodbye Brother,” first played in “The Kingsroad” when Jon Snow and Ned Stark bid farewell to their family. Like many of Djawadi’s pieces for the show, “Goodbye Brother” is repurposed and reworked for lots of other scenes. For all intents and purposes, this song is the Stark family theme. It crops up whenever one of the Stark children is having a significant moment, from that first parting in season 1 all the way to “The Winds of Winter,” when Sansa tells Jon Snow that winter has come.
That means that, by this point, I associate “Goodbye Brother” with pain, change, and the hard-won wisdom gained by the Stark children after seasons of suffering. For me, the song is inextricably bound up with their struggles, and they’ve struggled a LOT. No wonder it’s an emotional trigger.
Slow and plaintive, the song is beautiful on its own, too. Djawadi incorporates the cello into a lot of his compositions — it has a dark, rich sound that’s a perfect fit for the show, and a perfect fit for this theme.
COREY: This is an incredibly hard decision to make. I will go a step further than Dan and say that after George R.R. Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Ramin Djawadi is one of the most important people to the success of Game of Thrones. His scores are downright legendary. I have a playlist entirely composed of Djawadi’s work.
As a soundtrack junkie, what Dan said about Djawadi’s music is spot on; it adds to the scenes without overpowering what we see. Right now, as I listen to his playlist on my phone, I can recall each scene that accompanies the music.
Choosing a favorite piece by Djawadi music is like asking me to choose my favorite child. But if I was forced to choose one or wrestle Drogon, I suppose I would have to choose “Dance of Dragons,” from the season 5 episode of the same name. I may not always be the biggest fan of Daenerys’ storyline, but her music is usually downright stunning. From like “Dracarys” to “Dance of Dragons,” there is an underlying tone to Djawadi’s pieces for Daenerys that elicit an eerie power. It fits the Targaryen mystique perfectly.
“Dance of Dragons” almost always makes the hair on my arms stand on end. From the moment those thudding drums kick in and the arrival of a pissed-off fire-breathing dragon, my heart is pumping. When the music slows down for Dany and Drogon’s tender moment, it’s hard to imagine anyone not being touched. Thanks for melting my ice cold heart, Djawadi.
Before the piece ends, Djawadi manages to get your heart racing with an evocation of the love between a mother and her child, and finally, brings the awe and wonder of seeing a woman flying across the sky. That’s a lot of emotions in just over three minutes of music. That’s why Djawadi is one of the most important facets to the success of Game of Thrones.
RAZOR: It’s hard for me to pinpoint my absolute favorite musical piece from the six seasons of Game of Thrones. Composer Ramin Djwadi has masterfully created musical artwork that has taken on a life of its own throughout each season, enriching the story and helping to bring George R.R. Martin’s literary works to the television screen. If I had to choose one song that has struck a deeply personal chord with me, making it my favorite Game of Thrones piece of music, I would have to agree with Dan and say “Goodbye Brother” from the season 1 soundtrack would be it.
The track first played during Game of Thrones season 1, episode 2, “The Kingsroad,” when Jon Snow says goodbye to his half-brother, Robb. The scene marks the last time Jon and Robb would see each other, as Jon heads for his post at the Wall, and eventually, Robb would call his father’s banners and march toward King’s Landing. As you know, Robb is later betrayed and murdered at the Red Wedding. The reason this song means so much to me is I had to say goodbye to my own brother a few months before this episode first aired in 2011.
My brother and I shared an abiding love for literature, and when he was diagnosed with cancer, his love of fantasy literature, in particular, helped him get through some rough times during his treatments. After many years of battling cancer, he passed away, and during those final days, I sat by his bedside and read different passages from A Song of Ice and Fire to him. One of those passages — from A Game of Thrones — plays out exactly as it did on screen, with Jon telling Robb goodbye for the last time:
Robb: “Next time I see you, you’ll be all in black.”
Jon: “It was always my color.”
Robb: “Farewell, Snow.”
Jon: “And you, Stark.”
I’ve always loved the Starks, as well as the Stark theme music created by Ramin Djwadi. I think the strong family bond the Starks share is why I love them so much, and it’s pieces of music like this that take me back to a time when my own brother was still with me.
If you’re having trouble remembering all the wonderful tracks from Game of Thrones, here’s a quick primer from seasons one through six.
A note on the poll: It was hard to decide which tracks to include on the poll since so many are variations on or combinations of other, earlier tracks. We erred on the side of caution and included a lot of choices. You can choose up to three.