Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi: I see music in colour
The dramatic music from HBO's Games of Thones will be featured in composer Ramin Djawadi's major European tour, which hits Ireland in May. Joanne Sweeney talks to the Iranian-German composer on how he sees the music of Westeros in colour
FIRST there was Games of Thrones the television experience, now The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is being brought to Belfast, the home of HBO's staggeringly successful fantasy drama series.
Based on the best-selling series of books by George RR Martin, Game of Thrones is an epic story of treachery and nobility set mostly on the continent of Westeros, where summers and winters can last years and the lust for power is eternal.
All the highs and lows of the TV show's gripping seven seasons will be told through its multi-award-winning music as composed by Ramin Djawadi and performed in the SSE Arena in May.
The inaugural run of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience featuring Djawadi as conductor kicked off in North America last year, after being conceived by the 43-year-old three years ago.
Along with being the most watched TV series in the world, Game of Thrones has boosted the north's tourism potential for the last six years; much of it is filmed in Belfast's Titanic Studios, while locations such as the Dark Hedges and Ballintoy harbour are now also firmly on the tourist trail after being featured in the show.
The live concert has been praised by fans and critics as a must-see spectacle; the Guardian describing it as "Westeros brought to dazzling life" and Mashable dubbing it as "an epic musical journey”.
Djawadi will lead an orchestra, choir and soloists to take audiences through the music of all seven seasons of the Emmy-winning show. He told The Irish News that having the chance to perform his music in a public setting was an "incredible” experience for him.
"I'm still very excited at playing in front of live audiences. Although we did the tour last year in the US now I'm really excited to be coming with Europe with this," he said.
"As a composer I'm in my studio all day long. Even at the end of a project when I get to record it with an orchestra, it's still inside a studio, so to be able to be on stage and to perform the music with a live audience and to see their immediate reaction to it, is just incredible. That's really the big part of what gets me excited at doing this.
“In planning this concert, we've started all the way back with season one and try to include all the main themes. The European tour has been reworked from last year as we now have season seven music to include.
"I have also been working on an arrangement that will be just for the concert and has not been used in the TV show itself or the soundtrack."
Despite selling millions of his soundtrack albums from each of series, the German-born maestro is the cinematic composer de jour for film and TV.
He has written the music for productions as diverse as vampire action movie Blade: Trinity, in 2014, recent cinema release The Mountain Between Us starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, and the final season of hit US vampire drama The Strain, the brainchild of Mexican film-maker Guillermo Del Toro, whose Oscar-nominated new movie The Shape Of Water is out next week.
Djawadi, who has also written computer game scores, recently finished Disney's A Wrinkle In Time, due out next month, and is currently working on his second season of HBO sci-fi series Westworld before starting work on Game of Thrones Season 8, the finale of the run.
“Whether I approach a film, television show, or a video game, I try to find my sound palette first,” he told me. “I figure out whether I'm going to use orchestra, synths, tribal drums, guitar, or any other special instruments. I love film music, because it can encompass any style and allows me to come up with themes and sounds that give the project its own voice.”
His Game of Thrones main title theme has become just as iconic and essential to the show as the Iron Throne itself. Season six boasted one of his most popular compositions, Light of the Seven, streamed more than 34 million times on Spotify – so far.
The son of a German mother and Iranian father, the young Djawadi began to play piano by ear when he was just four. He has spoken of his expansive love of all styles of music and his ability to visually see music in colour due to a condition known as synesthesia.
"I always struggle to explain my condition to people. I really first discovered when my wife asked how I wrote my music," he explained.
"I said, well I look at the pictures and I see blue and red and start painting, basically, adding notes and instrumentation. She looked it up and found out it was called synesthesia but I wasn't aware until then that it was an actual thing. I always thought it was just normal.
"When I hear or write music, I just see colours which jump out at me. It's not just a pure blue or pure red; it's a combination of these and I layer them like a painting."
According to the composer, the most immediate audience reaction is that, having seen his live shoe, people want to go back and watch Game Of Thrones from the start.
"It also gets people really excited for season eight, which is going to be the final season, in 2019. I think the concert will get everybody pumped up for the upcoming season as it's basically a two-hour trailer for it. It will bridge that gap for people until next season comes."
:: The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, 3Arena, Dublin, Thursday May 24; SSE Arena, Belfast, Friday, May 25. Tickets for both concerts via ticketmaster.ie or, for Belfast, via SSE Arena Belfast box office, 028 9073 9074 / ssearenabelfast.com