The Music of Game of Thrones

31 August 2015
Making music with Game of Thrones.
game of thrones season 3

If there is one thing about Game of Thrones that is instantly recognisable it is the opening theme. Music has an integral role to play in the renowned series, as it does for any film or show. It sets the mood, heightens tension and establishes themes.

With a story as sweeping as the one Game of Thrones has to tell, only the most grandiose score will do in serving up helpings of blood, terror and power – so take a look at these musical facts that elevate Game of Thrones to the next level.

1. Power Score

The man behind the music is Hollywood composer Ramin Djawadi. Born in Germany and merely 41 years old, his impressive résumé includes titles such as Iron Man, Prison Break, Clash of the Titans, Pacific Rim and Dracula: Untold.

Djawadi’s influences when working on the score are rock music, as well as Romantic composers like Tchaikovsky and Brahms. He even admits to having a favourite character (who has her own theme): none other than the romantically regal Daenerys Targaryen.

Several other characters also have their own themes, but due to the breadth and scope of their oft-overlapping stories Djawadi has also created themes that focus on honour and conspiracy. Fine-tuning the score in this way strikes just the right note in the audience, works for multiple plots and ultimately weaves the story together.

2. Musical Miscellany

In the age of YouTube and other digital dalliances, there are endless covers, copies and contrivances sitting in cyberspace – none more so than when it comes to music. The Game of Thrones’ theme has been redone again and again…and again. From performing the theme with cellos, violins, flutes, electric harps and bagpipes to heavy metal covers and versions sung by cats and dogs, it’s all out there waiting to amuse, appease or assault your ears. Even the Queen’s Guard in England gave it a bash!

3. A Musical Cast

It’s not just the composers who create music – the cast of the show is full of musical gifts. Besides the merry fact that the actors can hum the theme tune, there’s Kristian Nairn (Hodor) who is a successful DJ and producer. Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) is an accomplished singer, and performs under the name Raleigh Ritchie.

As Ilyn Payne he may not be able to speak, but Wilko Johnson was part of the influential rock band Dr. Feelgood in the ‘70s, and recently released an album with Roger Daltrey from The Who. A little later, in the ‘90s, Jerome Flynn (Bronn) was part of an English pop group called Robson & Jerome.

When she’s not acting in Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, Natalia Tena (Osha) is the main vocalist of Molotov Jukebox, who released a music video featuring Talisa (played by Oona Chaplin).

Rounding out the multi-talented cast is Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), who abandons his tools of torture to wax lyrical with an acoustic guitar. Alfie Allen, meanwhile, may not be necessarily musical, but he is the inspiration for the song Alfie by his sister Lily Allen.

Even George R.R. Martin has written lyrics to songs in his books, such as The Bear and the Maiden Fair. A folk song popular throughout the Seven Kingdoms, it was recorded by the US band The Hold Steady for the third season.

4. Famous Faces

When it comes to bands playing a part in the music of Game of Thrones, you’ll find there’s a fine collection of cameos. Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol, played one of Roose Bolton’s soldiers and sang snatches of The Bear and the Maiden Fair after capturing Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth.

Will Champion, Coldplay’s drummer, didn’t stretch his acting chops too far when he accepted a role as a drummer at the Red Wedding. Icelandic band Sigur Rós also appeared on the show as musicians, popping up at the Purple Wedding. The trio are big fans of the show and were doubly excited at being able to make an appearance and record a version of The Rains of Castamere.

5. Sounds Good

It’s not all about the music. Sound effects have an important part to play as well, and being a foley artist (a person who creates sounds) is one of the strangest, but most entertaining, jobs you can have.

Dragons are creatures of imagination, and plunging a sword into a living body part is not an option – which is why you need a foley artist. They get inventive by making obscure, but effective, sound creations such as soaking a chamois in water and squishing it for splashes and spurts of bloods; slapping their chest and thighs to simulate sex, and tampering with surfboards, gravel and bamboo to slice and dice the unlucky victims of the bloodiest tale on TV.