There were two things that made me dive in and binge all available seasons of Game of Thrones this summer after setting it down for some time: hearing great things about the sixth season and, more literally, hearing great things from the sixth season.
Yes, amongst all the spoilery story buzz that came with this year’s explosive season was a renewed interest in the show’s musical element.
Specifically, the track “Light of the Seven” from the season finale generated all sorts of accolades.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer that television is surpassing cinema in terms of satisfying storytelling. But, in listening to this track, I realized that the music for this series is pushing the entire medium of music for TV/film forward by doing one specific thing.
It’s becoming an event in and of itself.
Very few composers these days can make news of their involvement a huge draw for audiences. Cinema returns are dwindling and so producers are opting to go smaller and cheaper with a lot of film scores.
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TV, meanwhile, has never been more popular and a medium where the music used to stay pretty flat outside of the theme (go watch an episode of Law and Order and listen for spots where the score isn’t just long tones) has been afforded some room to develop in recent years.
Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi started under the tutelage of film music master Hans Zimmer at his studio, Remote Control Productions. Zimmer is no stranger to having his work be a major element of any project he takes on and it seems that Djawadi is following in those footsteps.
Djawadi has a number of epic film scores to his name, including Iron Man, Pacific Rim, Clash of the Titans and Dracula Untold, but he also hasn’t been afraid to lend his talents to television, scoring shows like Prison Break, The Strain and Person of Interest.
With Game of Thrones, HBO has not only allowed showrunners David Weiss and D. B. Benioff to make perhaps the most cinematic series ever, but has also allowed Djawadi to blend the best elements of TV and film music together and make it something truly dynamic.
There are so many amazing things going on with the music to Game of Thrones. The iconic opening theme that you’re no doubt revisiting in your head right now (if not, here). The beautiful and varied instrumentals throughout the show, ranging from strings to taiko drums to children’s choruses to a pipe organ. Haunting cello melodies that move your soul. Themes for each of the show’s various houses.
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Every season has a handful of excerpts that you want to revisit and season six was perhaps the best yet in that regard.
But what might be the key to the show’s musical strength is its restraint when it comes to actually using music.
Oftentimes it feels like the show is equal parts sound and silence. Most exchanges between characters are left without any prodding from the music department.
Djawadi and the showrunners know that the rhythm they have with the actors and script is special enough to keep interest without music added, and decide to save the score for special spots where it can pack the most punch.
Thus, every time Game of Thrones‘s music does come roaring in, we know it must be for something special.
That’s just what we’ve been getting, both in the show’s story and its music, like the epic confrontations in the battle of the bastards (“Bastard“) and at the wall (“Let’s Kill Some Crows“), the finality of justice served (“My Watch Has Ended“), the ticking clock of the battle of Hardhome (“Hardhome Pts. 1 & 2“), the hope of new doors opened for next season (“The Children“) and, of course, the making of a monster (“Light of the Seven“).
Now, Djawadi’s score for the show isn’t going to reinvent the genre with its musical content. Great as it is, there isn’t much musically that hasn’t been explored before (but then, you can say that about practically any piece of art).
Instead, the remarkable thing about the music of Game of Thrones is how it is once again making it cool to listen to film scores, both for longtime listeners and soundtrack casuals alike.
In less than three months, the top YouTube video results of “Light of the Seven” have a combined watch count of more than nine million views.
Meanwhile, the show and its composer are rewarding fans even more with the recent announcement of a 28-city concert tour featuring Djawadi conducting an 80-piece orchestra. The live concert experience will reportedly feature LED wall screens and 3D designs rising from the floor, akin to the show’s opening titles.
Take note, Hollywood. This is what music fans deserve. Not a slew of mismatched pop songs or a quick one-and-done score that no one will remember in three hours.
It’s as simple as having well-written music that audiences can, and want to, engage with.
With HBO’s most popular series about to enter its final 13 episodes, there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns awaiting that will surely kick up a spoiler-storm on Twitter every Sunday. And for fans of TV music, we can be thankful for the musical moments awaiting that get people talking just as much.
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