About four years ago, Game of Thrones show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss met with the series composer Ramin Djawadi at his studio to review the music that he’d written when the three started tossing the idea of doing a Game of Thrones concert. Djawadi then took the idea to the next level and suggested doing a whole tour with Game of Thrones music that would include lavish staging, projection and pyrotechnics.
From that initial meeting, it took three years to work out the logistics before the first tour started in the United States early last year. Ramin, who just won a Emmy in Outstanding Music Composition for a Series Original Dramatic Score for the Game of Thrones season finale episode "The Dragon and the Wolf,” had also been working on Emmy-nominated music for Westworld and other projects, so he couldn’t dedicate his time entirely to working on the tour. There was also the daunting task of going through six seasons of Game of Thrones footage and deciding how to pair it down to a two-hour concert with an orchestra and choir.
“That alone took forever to condense these pieces and create montages and to make sure we really are showing all the characters and all the important themes from the show and just making that a cohesive story,” Djawadi says. “Two-hour storytelling was very difficult.”
While last year’s tour used footage from the six seasons, this year’s GOT tour includes season seven as well, and Djawadi says it’s a completely updated show with a redesigned stage and new lighting.
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“I think for people who have seen it last time, I think it’s quite different now and really exciting to see again,” he says. “It really just gets you pumped for our last, upcoming season, eight [which airs next year]. I always like to tweak things and push things forward. This year, we just wanted to try some different things or certain things that we thought worked really well. For example, it was really great to see when we had pyro on stage how much the audience actually enjoyed having these flames go off. So, we thought, ‘Why don’t we just add some more?' Those are the kind of things we enhanced to really make that experience even more fun for the audience, and we changed a couple of things around. It makes it fun. You learn something new on every tour that you do.”
Djawadi says the live show goes through the seasons chronologically as much as possible, starting with season one.
“But what’s interesting is sometimes when we focus on specific characters, sometimes we actually do kind of jump within this one piece of music, within one character,” he says. “We kind of jump a little bit ahead and the next piece might go back a couple of seasons and start over. At first, I thought, ‘Is that actually going to work?’ And it works really well for storytelling where you sometimes focus on a specific character arc overall of the specific plot happening, like ‘The Red Wedding,’ for example, and then you jump to those kinds of scenes. Overall, it works really well.”
When composing music for Game of Thrones, Djawadi's preferred way of working was to watch an episode, then watch the scenes he needed to work on and then just let it bake a little bit.
“I might even go for walks, just kind of come up with ideas in my head and then even sleep over it,” he says. “And, yeah, the next day when I wake up in the morning, I feel like that’s when the ideas come, because you kind of wake up fresh and clean. You’re not influenced from music on the radio or any other source. That’s what I like, to kind of get up and start working right away in the morning.”
Djawadi came up with the HBO series’ iconic theme while he was in a car riding back to his studio after meeting with Benioff and Weiss.
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“They showed me the visual of the main title and we chatted a little bit and said, ‘This theme needs to summarize the overall mood of the show.’ That got me so inspired. I was literally driving back to the studio to start writing it and that melody already came to me in the car. I’ll never forget that.”
By the time Djawadi came up with the title music, he’d seen the first two episodes and had already started working on scoring those, so he had a really good understanding of the mood of the show and the characters and where the show was heading.
“That, for sure, made it easier for me when once I saw the main titles to go, ‘Okay this is something I need to write this way, because I already know what’s happening,’” he says. “I think if I had not seen the show and just seen the main titles, who knows what I would have come up with?”
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience featuring Ramin Djawadi, 8 p.m., Friday, September 14, Pepsi Center, $39.50-$99.50.