Songs of Vice and Fire

Ramin Djawadi B.M. ’98 scores the latest iteration of the Game of Thrones franchise, House of the Dragon

November 1, 2022

After HBO’s blockbuster success Game of Thrones aired its final episode in 2019, the network looked into several spinoff ideas before landing on what would become the franchise’s follow-up, House of the Dragon. The show, a prequel, had to assert its own identity while also maintaining a continuity to the original series. Part of what kept the link strong between the two shows strong was the decision to have Ramin Djawadi B.M. ’98, who scored Game of Thrones (GOT) and composed its famous theme song, write the music for House of the Dragon (HotD). Below, Djawadi talks about how he created a musical world unique to HotD while staying true to the broader GOT soundscape.

House of the Dragon kept the original Game of Thrones theme song for its opening sequence. Could you talk a bit about the decision to do this rather than to give House of the Dragon its own theme?          

The original GOT theme was created as an overarching theme for the entire show, a theme that represents the journey of all the characters and plots of the vast story that George R.R. Martin has created. We wanted to connect HotD to the original series with the same main theme. 

House of the Dragon is set 200 years before Game of Thrones. How did you reflect this in your music?

We wanted to connect the music to the original series by having familiar sounds and themes, but the majority of the material is new. The cello is still the primary instrument, and there are familiar themes like the king’s theme or the dragon/Targaryen theme, but most of the themes are new. We needed to create new themes for all the different new houses and also have dedicated themes within the Targaryen family for Rhaenyra, Daemon, etc. There are some sonic differences in the HotD score that do not exist in the original GOT score. When woodwinds or solo vocals are used, it is with the intent that certain instruments can be heard in HotD, but are then less common [or] not used anymore 200 years later.

In Game of Thrones, you used certain instruments for various characters or storylines. Do you have any instruments you favor for House of the Dragon characters? 

We certainly continued that approach. The Velaryons have bamboo flutes and percussion that distinguishes them as world travelers. The Targaryens have the same sonic sound that we know from GOT, but new additional themes. The silent sisters have a choral texture, etc.

Are there any (other) specific allusions to GOT embedded in the music for House of the Dragon           

The main title theme gets hinted at quite a few times in more abstract ways when Viserys talks about his dream. [It’s] a nice opportunity to connect to GOT and foreshadow what’s to come with viewers that are familiar with the original show.

This article appeared in the fall/winter 2022 issue of Berklee Today