If you find yourself humming Game of Thrones’ opening theme (or muttering the equally infectious Peter Dinklage version), you have Ramin Djawadi to blame. The German-Iranian composer has become a Hollywood soundtrack powerhouse, composing the score for HBO’s Westworld series as well as blockbusters like Pacific Rim and Iron Man.
The music Djawadi has created for Game of Thrones has proved to be so popular that he’s now doing something that most television composers never dream of: taking it on the road. The 24-date Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour brings an orchestra, a choir and some gigantic LED screens to arenas across America.
Ahead of his first performance, Djawadi spoke with us about conceiving the music of Westeros and translating it to a live experience.
Music and songs were already a part of the Game of Thrones novels, how did you approach bringing those pieces to life?
Before I even started writing I sat down with [Game of Thrones producers] David [Beioff] and Dan [Weiss] and we discussed their vision. We talked about having music that supports locations—just by hearing the music you know that you’re with Daenerys or North of the Wall. Having to write a score to an existing theme like “The Rains of Castamere” or “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” was also challenging because I was bound to the rhythm of the words.
What inspired you to perform the soundtrack live?
The idea started in the studio with David and Dan, we were reviewing some music that I had written and they said, ‘how cool would it be to see this in concert.’ We had all these great ideas—let’s make this very special event and take it further than having just an orchestra playing the music, let’s make this an immersive experience and use modern technology. We want people to feel like they’re in Westeros and they’re experiencing the show.
You had six seasons of music to pull from, how did you go about building the narrative for the concert?
I sat down and I pulled all my favorites. When I did that, I had six hours of music and I knew we couldn’t have a six-hour concert, so I had to condense it. It was really tough to make those decisions and shorten pieces and summarize things. Game of Thrones jumps around quite a bit, so we do that too. I assume that most people who come to the concert have seen the show, so it goes through all six seasons.
Were there specific portions of the score that you were very excited about revisiting?
The Dothraki piece was very dominant in the first season, so that was nice to revisit because it’s so tribal and raw—it really translates well to a live performance. I was able to rearrange some of the pieces, so there are some arrangements that were not present on the soundtrack.
What has been the biggest challenge when trying to bring these orchestral pieces into an arena setting?
There are technical challenges just with the micing of an orchestra. The score itself is a contemporary score—there’s an orchestra but I’ve also created a lot of my own sounds for the show. Some of them are actually performable on instruments and some of them are not, so I have to either try to reproduce them or trigger them while playing along with the orchestra.
Has combing through the past six seasons given you any ideas for how you’ll approach the final two seasons?
Yes and no. It’s been nice to go all the way back to season one, for myself, to just reflect and see how the themes have developed and where new themes have come in. I have not seen anything from season seven yet, so I don’t really know what’s expected of me. I’m very excited to see it—every season gets so epic.