Game of Thrones composer extradordinaire Ramin Djawadi visited with NPR today, just ahead of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour, to discuss his widely celebrated work on the HBO show. The concerts, which kick off next week in Minnesota, feature the GoT music in immersive live performances, and will be conducted by Djawadi himself.
He spoke with NPR‘s David Greene about his process for creating music for the show, including the well-known “no flutes!” maxim which the composer laughs about in the interview. Djawadi doesn’t necessarily need to have watched a scene to be composing for it, as he explains.
“Many times it’s just based on a conversation with the director or the producer. Or I read the script, or watch it — if I have some rough cut in front of me, I’ll watch it once. But then I just let it run in the background and start writing. Once you have that [composition], then you can apply it to picture, because the length of the pieces and what they have to do dramatically changes from piece to piece. Then you really have to go in and fine-tune the melodies and emotions to what is needed in the scene.”
As he tells NPR, Djawadi discussed his choices with showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss early on, including certain instruments.
“There was a no-flute rule!” Djawadi says. “Just because, stylistically, it was something that we felt was used in the genre before, and we wanted our score to be different. … So the big instrument that we actually came up with was the cello. It has a big range, it can play really low and high, and it has a dark sound. Game Of Thrones is obviously a dark show, so the cello became the featured instrument.”
The composer’s musical inspirations can strike at any moment. Djawadi says that he “used to just scribble things on a piece of paper whenever an idea came to mind. Now with cellphones, that’s gotten a lot easier. I can just take it out and sing into my phone.” According to him he might hum the new melody, or “sometimes I whistle. The main title theme for Game Of Thrones, for example, I was humming in my car after I saw the visuals. As I was driving back to the studio, I had the idea to the theme.”
So, the world-famous, inescapably memorable theme to Game of Thrones happened that quickly, with the composer humming in his car. Some things just work out that well!
He has more to say, so listen to the complete interview with Ramin Djawadi here!