The music for House of the Dragon will keep “the DNA” of Game of Thrones

Image: House of the Dragon/HBO
Image: House of the Dragon/HBO /

Game of Thrones featured a number of iconic tunes, from the opening theme to “The Rains of Castamere” to “Light of the Seven.” Composer Ramin Djawadi was behind them all, and he’s returning to Westeros for the prequel show House of the Dragon, which premieres on August 21 on HBO and HBO Max.

No one has seen the opening titles of the show; we’ll find out together this Sunday. However, Djawadi promises that there will be sonic continuity between the mother show and this one. “[W]e very much wanted to keep the DNA alive for House of the Dragon from the original show,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “We will hear themes that we remember from the original show, but because it’s all new characters, this is 200 years before, there is a ton of new material I’ve written, a lot of new themes that we will hear.”

"The big sound of Game of Thrones, the primary instrument was always the cello, and we will definitely hear the cello again in the show. Just the way I stylistically write the show, I hope people will hear it and go, “Okay, I feel familiar. We’re back in Westeros.” That was always the idea."

Close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears. You’re hearing that cello theme from the Game of Thrones opening, aren’t you?

But House of the Dragon isn’t a copy of Game of Thrones. For one thing, it mainly covers one family — the Targaryens — rather than spreading itself out among several. That means we’ll hear a lot of tunes reminiscent of the ones that played whenever Daenerys Targaryen was doing her thing, although there’s a lot of new stuff too. “That was a foundation,” Djawadi said. “But because we’re dealing with House specific, I wanted to make sure that there’s a lot of new themes for different characters and all the complex storylines that we know happens in Game of Thrones. I wanted to connect the two like that.”

We’ll find out how it all comes together in just a few days!

How Ramin Djawadi wrote the music for Westworld season 4

Over the past several weeks, you could hear Djawadi’s work on the fourth season of HBO’s sci-fi drama Westworld, which has become famous for its sideways covers of pop songs. This time, we got a jazz age cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

“The idea was to change things up, because we felt we have done this twice,” Djawadi said, referring to how the song played over a robbery scene that has now taken place in several different android theme parks. “‘Paint It Black’ would’ve been the obvious choice, and it would’ve been fun to do a jazzier version of it, but then we thought, ‘Well, this is now what people probably expect.’ Westworld, as you know, is always known for surprises, so we thought, ‘Let’s actually do something that people didn’t expect and wouldn’t expect.'”

"So we thought, “Let’s just pick another classic, epic song.” We landed on “Enter Sandman,” and also, clearly, didn’t go fully jazz. There’s some little moments in there that hint to that a little bit, but a lot of it is also still very much rock and roll with orchestra."

But of course, doing covers of whatever songs the producers happened to think of that year isn’t Djawadi’s only job on Westworld. He had a few moments he was particularly proud of in season 4:

"One is Caleb’s daughter, the grown up version. Her theme gets established very early on. We did not want to give it away that we then get to meet [C] later. So the theme was very sparsely used, but then in the later episodes, when Caleb sends the message on the rooftop and then during the goodbye, that’s when the theme actually fully plays out. I really enjoyed developing that. And then, the other one is also the Christina theme, which is a new theme this season we hear when she walks to work, and then it gets used with her every time. When she figures out that she’s a writer, that she can control people with her stories, and how that also pays off in a very emotional way at the very end with Teddy on the balcony, it starts out more synthetic, and then becomes more orchestral and emotional towards the end."

There were also some memorable sounds this season, like the ominous, three-note tone that Charlotte Hale uses to control the humans she has under her control. “From the very beginning, while they were still shooting, we started talking about, what is that control theme and that sound?” Djawadi remembered “So it gets reflected in the score, this three-note motif that you hear a lot on the very high strings, and then it translates all the way into the sound design of this shattering sound. And then throughout the show, I would always get updated sound effects tracks, so I always knew when to hold back with the score, when the sound effects would be upfront, and vice versa.”

You can watch all four seasons of Westworld right now on HBO and HBO Max.

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