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Soundtrack review: Game of thrones (season 1) (Ramin Djawadi – 2011)


Soundtrack review: Game of thrones (season 1) (Ramin Djawadi – 2011)



Like a lot of others, I had been waiting impatiently for the first episode of “Game if thrones” to air. I had heard the hype, I had seen the trailers, and I just couldn’t wait to actually see it. As in the case of Lost, from that first episode the TV world changed forever for me, because Game of thrones looked and felt like no other show. It still does today, except the mystery is gone, because I’ve read all the books by now.

But what blew me away from the second episode was the main theme. Ramin Djawadi, another composer raised near Hans Zimmer, took a simple motif and turned it into an ostinato masterpiece. There were only two other TV show opening themes that had made such a first impression on me: Twin Peaks and Morricone’s “La piovra”. “Game of thrones” exploded with a main theme so simple and so brilliant that for the months before it was finally released because I had to stop every episode 1’30” just to listen to that main theme over and over again. It has the cadence of a horse ride gradually picking up speed. To me, it’s one of the most addictive opening themes I’ve ever heard. It’s been three years since I first heard it and it’s still a trigger for me, I’m still addicted, it’s still as powerful as in day one.

The rest of the season one score almost doesn’t matter; the gap is too big between the other cues and the main titles. The music is pleasant, unimposing and serves the show well. Most of the cues are quiet string based compositions, almost Eastern in sound. They make for an enjoyable listen most of the time, but there’s no heart or spike in the rhythm, with the exception of “Goodbye brother”, “Jon’s honor”,  “Kill them all” and “King of the north”, which is really the most beautiful theme on this score. It is short though, under 1.5 minutes so it doesn’t really have time to develop properly.

And then we get to the end of the score, the “Finale”. I remember when I watched the final episode of the first season. It was late at night and I had been holding my breath to see how it would end. The last scene was legendary, because it made the transition between a really great epic fantasy drama to a show with supernatural elements. It’s a transition I’d love in every show. It’s one of my favorite scenes from any TV show. The final moments of that first season made me want to read the rest of the story and made me a believer. And that scene where the dragons are born would never have been so poignant and goose bump inducing without Ramin Djawadi’s music. All the heart and intensity that were missing from the previous tracks was concentrated into this one. It left me with a desire and need for more, both from the show and from the music.

My ratings:

Cue rating: 67 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 66

Album excellence: 24%

Cues to listen to:

Main title

Goodbye brother

Jon’s honor

Kill them all

King of the north

The night’s watch


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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