Ramin Djawadi almost passed on composing for Game of Thrones


Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score) for his work on season 8, particularly on “The Night King” theme from “The Long Night.” Should Djawadi win, it’ll be his second Emmy Award; he also won for his work on season 7.

Djawadi’s music has helped make Game of Thrones the worldwide phenomenon it is today, and it’s hard to believe that he nearly turned down showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss when they offered him the job of composer for the series. Nevertheless, he told SyFy Wire that he almost turned the Thrones gig down in favor of a film. “I’m trying to think what film that was,” he told SyFy Wire. “I’m blanking on it now. It was so long ago. But yeah, I was just slammed, and I originally thought, ‘You know, I don’t know if there will be enough hours in the day to do this.’ But somehow I pulled through. And now I can’t even imagine not doing it.”

Apparently, there’s a rumor out there that Benioff and Weiss wanted Djawadi to write “The Rains of Castamere” as the opening theme to Game of Thrones. Djawadi admits that it may have been discussed in passing, but doesn’t say anything definitive. What he does remember is that he was asked to put the lyrics to that song to melody after season one, so he knew the Red Wedding was coming.

However it came about, “Rains” is now a classic Thrones song beloved and known by many. During a performance of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, it was even performed by System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian:

“The thing with Serj was just that he made a surprise guest appearance at the L.A. show on the first tour in 2017, and the response was so positive,” Djawadi remembered. “They kept wanting us to release a recording, but you know, he’s busy, I was busy, and we never got around to it.”

That rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” is one of my favorites, but Djawadi sounds like he has something else up his sleeve for this year’s concert tour. “I don’t know if I can tease yet who’ll be coming up for guest appearances for the upcoming tour, other than George R.R. Martin at the Santa Fe show, which is a special show for charity.”

The composer also confirmed that “Jenny of Oldstones” will be a new addition to this year’s tour, but he won’t say if Florence + the Machine is stopping by to sing the version that played over the credits of “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

"The version we’re going to do is more of an in-between version combining Podrick’s take and her take, because Pod’s was very toned-down, almost a capella. The tour version is a longer, more arranged version of the song on the Season 8 soundtrack, although that version is an instrumental. It’s closer to that, but it will be sung."

The other big musical moment of season 8 — and the one that snagged Djawadi his Emmy nomination — is “The Night King.” Djawadi was excited to write a piece of piano music for the show for only the second time since he wroteThe Light of the Seven.

How did he create a song that let the audience know just how dire the situation was without giving away that amazing twist of Arya killing the Night King? “That’s a good question. David, Dan, and Miguel Sapochnik, the director of the episode, gave me the scene very early, and I just walked it around in my head,” Djawadi said. “And I started thinking, ‘Okay, we have another opportunity to do a piano piece here.'”

"It’s a substantial story moment, but there’s even less dialogue in this scene than in “Light of the Seven.” Just Theon and Bran, for a bit. So I had a lot of room for the music to really lead you. The sneaky part was, because of “Light of the Seven,” you kind of look at the Night King the way you looked at Cersei, where she was the one winning. When the piano plays, you think all of our heroes are going to die — this is it. But it has the reverse effect at the end, when Arya shows up."

Benioff and Weiss asked Djawadi to push the pitch of the battle by adding electronic music, which he did. “I’ve used electronic elements in the show, but not to this extent before,” he said. “It was a real struggle in this episode. Whenever it became too orchestral, it felt too safe, so David and Dan kept asking for the music to be more abstract and weird.” I think it paid off.

The North American leg of the Game of Thrones Live Experience kicks off in Toronto, Ontario on September 6. Here are the rest of the dates:

  • 9/8 – Chicago, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
  • 9/10 – Boston, MA – Xfinity Center
  • 9/12 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann
  • 9/14 – New York, NY – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater*
  • 9/15 – Washington, DC – Jiffy Lube Live
  • 9/20 – Jacksonville, FL – Daily’s Place
  • 9/21 – West Palm Beach, FL – Coral Sky Amphitheater
  • 9/22 – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
  • 9/24 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
  • 9/26 – Dallas, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
  • 9/27 – Houston, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
  • 9/30 – Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe Opera
  • 10/1 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre
  • 10/3 – San Francisco, CA – Shoreline Amphitheater
  • 10/4 – Irvine, CA – FivePoint Amphitheater
  • 10/5 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Bowl

Unfortunately, Djawadi himself will only appear in person on those last two dates, plus the Santa Fe one.

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