How the Game of Thrones score carried its high fantasy storytelling


From “The Rains of Castamere” and the opening titles to “The Long Night,” the Game of Thrones score was essential to its storytelling.

From Star Wars and Jaws to Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, there are some film scores that are instantly recognizable and revered for their ability to evoke emotion. But there aren’t as many television shows boasting scores that unique. Game of Thrones is one of the few series that can compete, and the music is essential to the show’s epic storytelling.

Composer Ramin Djawadi is the man behind the music of Game of Thrones. He crafted the sound for the entire series, from the sweeping of the opening title theme to the mournful “Rains of Castamere.” All the main characters have their own unique themes as well, which evolve over the course of the series as the characters change.

Winter Is Coming

The cello-filled opening credits sequence perfectly complements the intricate 3D map that takes viewers soaring across locations in Westeros, highlighting cities and castles that play key roles in each episode. Though the vistas change both subtly and dramatically with each episode, the opening credits quickly became a consistent anchor for the show. The title theme effectively captures the mood of the series, not focusing on one family or city but rather taking viewers on a journey across the map.

Then there’s the ominous “Winter Is Coming” track from the first season, which juxtaposes nicely with the grand “The Winds of Winter” at the end of season 6. While “Winter Is Coming” is an eerie, quiet track that befits the mysterious opening moments of the show, “The Winds of Winter” plays as characters and events collide, signaling the culmination of triumphs and tragedies for the Lannisters, Starks and Targaryens.

The Rains of Castamere

Perhaps the two most popular tracks from Game of Thrones aside from the title theme are the haunting “The Rains of Castamere” and “Light of the Seven.” Both directly relate to the Lannister family, and their catchphrase, “a Lannister always pays his debts.”

“The Rains of Castamere” is also titled “A Lannister Always Pays His Debts” and is the unofficial theme for the family as well as the bloody and heartbreaking Red Wedding scene in season 3. Ahead of the final season premiere, composer Djawadi told The Hollywood Reporter that he was told of the events of the Red Wedding after season 1 in order to craft a new Lannister theme for season 2.

"…by the time we get to season three, it’s a known theme that viewers will identify with the Lannisters — so when you hear it, you will know something is off, and that this melody does not belong at this wedding."

A variation of the track also played during Cersei’s walk of atonement in season 5 and during the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience.

“Light of the Seven”

Then there’s Light of the Seven, which played in season 6 when Cersei gets her revenge against the Sparrows by executing their leader as well as her rival Margaery Tyrell by blowing up the Sept  of Baelor in King’s Landing with wildfire. There isn’t as much dialogue between the characters in that anxiety-filled scene, so the music carries the nearly 10-minute sequence that ends with House Tyrell in tatters and the High Sparrow and his army destroyed. Cersei’s actions also inspire her son, King Tommen, to suicide.

In a 2017 interview with the Tampa Bay Times (written by this author) before the live concert arrived in Tampa, Florida, Djawadi spoke of his love for “Light of the Seven,” which marked the first time he’d used piano in the Game of Thrones score.

"It was one of the last things I wrote for the show (Game of Thrones). I’ll be playing piano, but it’s a completely new piece than what’s in the show.It’s been so fun creating the live show, telling the stories in seasons one through six and taking everybody through the most iconic scenes. The pieces themselves put you in a Wildling attack or the Red Wedding."

“The Long Night”

The Game of Thrones score has earned several accolades over the years, including for Djawadi’s compositions for episodes “The Dragon and the Wolf” and “The Long Night.” The track “Truth” plays as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen fulfill their growing desire for one another for the first time while Bran and Sam discover the secret of Jon’s parentage.

For “The Long Night,” Djawadi crafted a track of the same name for the most ambitious episode of the series. The episode was another culmination, not for the actual game of thrones but for the supernatural threat that had been knocking on Westeros’ door since the first season: the White Walkers. Much of the episode felt hopeless, made worse by Djawadi’s somber choice of a piano melody toward the end. It seemed all our favorite characters were moments away from death.

But luckily, “The Long Night” is now a requiem for the horrifying ice zombies, as Arya Stark kills the Night King in the episode’s final moments.

The score for Game of Thrones cemented Djawadi among the greatest television and film composers working today, and his status only grew after creating a hit 34-track score for HBO’s Westworld. That score, too, helped guide the storytelling through music.

Next. What is a “hero” on Game of Thrones?. dark

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