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Game of Thrones by Ramin Djawadi

Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones (Soundtrack) by Ramin Djawadi
Game of Thrones (Soundtrack) by Ramin Djawadi
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Game of Thrones (Soundtrack) by Ramin Djawadi

Game of Thrones
Composed by Ramin Djawadi
Varese Sarabande (2011)

Rating: 7/10

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“...[Game of Thrones] is arguably [Ramin Djawadi's] most consistently satisfying work to date,...”

A Score of Fire and Ice
Review by Richard Buxton

Due to a certain epic trilogy released in the first half of the last decade, the fantasy genre brings with it increasingly high musical expectations. Soaring themes of discovery, conflict and conquest are commonplace in a genre packed with memorable scores, and so it is understandable that a television series based on the critically acclaimed A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE novels will be expected to uphold such traditions.

From the opening moments of GAME OF THRONES pilot episode “Winter Is Coming”, all signs point to a series that has every intention of maintaining a faithful grip on the ambition held by author GEORGE R. R. Martin. The scale of spectacle that HBO has become renowned for is ever-present, giving the series that vital extra sheen of authenticity. The stellar cast lends itself well in creating a cast of compelling characters that inhabit the vast mythology on display in the Seven Kingdoms.

Seeing the likes of RAMIN DJAWADI in the role of composer should come as no surprise given his ever-growing experience in television scoring. His previous experience ranges from the gritty suspense of PRISON BREAK to the sci-fi drama of FLASH FORWARD. While both of these stand out as high-end productions for a composer, they offered little opportunity for DJAWADI to truly express himself and the universe of the shows. GAME OF THRONES is exactly that. A chance to be enveloped in a vast world of history, a chance that most composers surely dream of.

If one were to watch the opening credits sequence without any sound, the images onscreen would likely stir limitless musical possibilities and imagination. The opening sequence of a series or film offers the opportunity to release the beast that resides in a score. Forgoing any restraint that a regular scene might demand, it is the rare venturing outside the boundaries that a composer surely craves, and therefore high expectations are often placed upon the 30 seconds or so of dancing imagery and sound. GAME OF THRONES “Main Title” (1) goes far beyond a mere 30 seconds, but suffers from such a heavy weight of anticipation. The instrumentation and rhythm are of the expected variety, but the scale never quite reaches that of the images onscreen. As the landscape of Westeros and Essos cascades triumphantly, the musical accompaniment falls agonizingly short. Nonetheless it makes for an entertaining listen and makes for refreshed optimism for the rest of the score. Variations of the main theme are heard sporadically across the score, notably in the slowed “Game of Thrones” (21), the climactic “The Night’s Watch” (27), and the resounding “Jon’s Honor” (17) and “Finale” (29).

As the creeping depths of winter ice take hold, the reminder that GAME OF THRONES is a television series slowly resurfaces. “North of the Wall” (2) works well in the context of a chilling opening to the series, but is statement of intent. This is not a criticism of television music as a genre, rather a reminder that underscore is prevalent across the many hours a season of a series and this is clearly a major element of the score. It is often claimed that a score works well when it is not heard, whilst this is debatable for many a score fan, DJAWADI’S score does an efficient job in ratcheting up tension an intrigue when it is not reaching for greater heights. “Await the King’s Justice” (13) is an example of a simple but very effective method of engineering suspense. The rising strings churn underneath the teasing steel plucks in an almost sultry tension, an effect repeated in “Black of Hair” (18). Other attempts at suspense come in a more formulaic state of string texture as heard in “The Wall” (8). Familiarity then creeps in momentarily as DJAWADI channels his earlier work on CLASH OF THE TITANS in the crashing rhythms of “Small Pack of Wolves” (20).

DJAWADI experiences his greatest success when he is given the chance to embrace the genre he is writing in. The regal “The King’s Arrival” (5) and the pleasantly upbeat variation of the main theme heard in “Things I Do For Love” (9) break up the tension well and are moments worth revisiting. Likewise, “The Pointy End” (23) provides a relative calm before the closing moments of the score in a simplistic but pleasing manner.

The standard structuring of a film soundtrack has established something of an assumed arrangement. One would expect the scale to ramp up swiftly before the closing tracks, an expectation not quite fulfilled here. “Victory Does Not Make Us Conquerors” (24) and “When The Sun Rises In the West” (25) both provide achingly reflective precursors to a finale with their straining strings, but the expected rousing climax never quite materialises. “King of the North” (26) retreads similar steps to the aforemtioned two tracks, leading into “The Night’s Watch” (27) triumphant climax. “Finale” rounds out the score with a rousing rendition of the main theme, but leaves the listener with a feeling of somewhat emptiness. Perhaps this is an accumulation of the score never quite reaching what it could have been.

When it comes to comparing the experience of the score alongside the show and as a standalone musical experience, GAME OF THRONES experiences greater success in the latter. The music is rarely given the opportunity to stand out as a character in itself in the show and is therefore significantly more rewarding as an individual entity.

In light of any quashed expectations, GAME OF THRONES might seem a disappointment, and while it could have been of much greater proportions, it is still a valiant effort from DJAWADI. It is arguably his most consistently satisfying work to date, and with the second season in the works, perhaps DJAWADI can take his music to even greater heights and exceed those original hopes.

Rating: 7/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Title 1:46  ****
2 North of the Wall 3:48  ***
3 Goodbye Brother 3:07  ***
4 The Kingsroad 2:06  ***
5 The King's Arrival 3:34  ****
6 Love in the Eyes 4:01  ***
7 A raven from Kings Landing 1:17  ***
8 The Wall 2:00  ***
9 Things I Do for Love 1:52  ****
10 A Golden Crown 1:38  ***
11 Winter is Coming 2:42  **
12 A Bird Without Feathers 2:02  **
13 Await the King's Justice 2:01  ****
14 You'll be Queen One Day 1:36  ***
15 The Assassin's Dagger 1:19  **
16 To Vaes Dothrak 1:29  ***
17 Jon's Honor 2:36  ****
18 Black of Hair 1:41  ***
19 You Win or You Die 1:57  ***
20 Small Pack of Wolves 1:57  ***
21 Game of Thrones 1:18  ****
22 Kill Them All 2:36  ****
23 The Pointy End 3:17  ****
24 Victory Does Not Make Us Conquerors 1:36  ****
25 When the Sun Rises in the West 2:40  ****
26 King of the North 1:28  ****
27 The Night's Watch 1:45  ****
28 Fire and Blood 4:30  ***
29 Finale 2:32  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 66 minutes  


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