Sound & Vision: The Works Of Ramin Djawadi - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Sound & Vision: The Works Of Ramin Djawadi

From Iron Man to the Iron Throne, Chris Morley looks at the life and works of musical maestro Ramin Djawadi.

Join us as we travel to Westeros to consider the musical power behind George RR Martin's Game Of Thrones. German/Iranian composer Ramin Djawadi is the man underscoring the battle for the Iron Throne, having studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston & attracted attention from Hans Zimmer who wasted no time in adding him to the roster of his own film score company, Remote Control Productions.

Djawadi's first big screen experience came alongside Hans & his collaborator Klaus Badelt working on arrangements/additional music for the likes of Pirates Of The Caribbean, before moving onto his own projects by 2004. That year would see him pairing up with The RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan on the music for Blade-Trinity, which also marked the beginning of a partnership with David S Goyer across several film & television projects.

A temporary reunion with Zimmer lasted across Batman Begins and The Island before he stepped out of another composer's shadow for the first time in his blossoming career when a little piece of cinematic history came his way with the release of Open Season, the first film developed by Sony's animation studio!

The small screen was hardly gathering dust either, Prison Break benefiting from a little embellishment by Djawadi as his schedule gradually became ever busier. Then, in what could be seen as something of a dress rehearsal for leaping into other worlds, he would find time to score Iron Man for Marvel before making a return to computer generated animation after his work was heard by the Belgian studio Nwave, pioneers in 3D animation, who asked him to work his magic on Fly Me To The Moon, set during the space race between America & the then Soviet Union.

Djawadi's second brush with rival powers competing for the same prize was not far off. Or should that be third? A move into video game soundtracking had him working on an instalment of the Medal Of Honor series just before setting foot in King's Landing.

He would later reveal that he considered himself to have synesthesia, a condition which it would seem he sees as an asset as it allows him to properly visualise music! His specific sub-strand of it is more properly termed tone synesthesia or chromesthesia, with scientific research ongoing to attempt to discover whether there is a connection between the condition itself & absolute pitch, which can be defined as being able to identify and/or recreate musical notes by ear without cues or prompting.

The Scientist ran an article on the subject, in their March 2017 edition, which shed a little more light. Composer LJ Rich, another synesthete, recalled taking part in a music technology project with the BBC,
“At about four in the morning, I remember playing different tastes to people on a piano in the room we were working in. To great amusement, during breakfast I played people the taste of eggs.”
Indeed! Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Ramin would say that his dream was always to compose for film, Elmer Bernstein an important early influence.
“The one that really triggered it for me was The Magnificent Seven. I used to love American Westerns growing up in Germany. It was only the last 40 minutes in black and white -- the VHS screwed up. But I loved it so much I watched it every day. I must’ve been 11. I just loved music.”
Away from the screen Djawasi admires classical composers, with Brahms and Tchaikovsky particularily floating his boat. His teenage years found him discovering the guitar, which he'd utilise heavily for Iron Man.

Scoring the first Marvel Cinematic Universe feature film seemed a bit of a labour of love for its composer, who admitted to admiring Tony Stark as he liked superheroes "that actually don’t have any superpowers". Djawadi being sought out as musical maestro after director Jon Favreau's first choice for the job, John Debney, pulled out.

Game Of Thrones, however, was a chance for him to try something different. Though given its subject matter it may be surprising to learn there's a conscious effort not to make any Celtic connections too apparent.
“As soon as it goes into that -- I don’t want to say cliche -- but that folky sound, we always said, let’s not get too far down that road. Flutes are common in Celtic music, so we stay away from flutes. Our most common instrument is the cello you hear in the main title, because it has a wide range. It can be very dark and moody, but also beautiful and emotional at the same time, and it's just perfect for the show. Because it’s such a dark show. “

Presumably just as a means of showing off Djawadi also worked on the special sounds for GoT. So, for example...
“They will say,"This needs to be really a cold sound, what can we do?" So sometimes I use these glass bowls for when we’re north of the Wall, so it really gives you this weird mood. The White Walkers are the same thing, it’s eerie when they talk. We have this eerie glassy sound -- even though you don’t see them, you know, “OK, that’s the White Walkers again.“
Ramin's also been on quite a journey with the fire-breathing children of Daenerys as the series has wore on.
“In the first season, before the dragons hatched, whenever we saw the dragon eggs, I had this very high sparkling sound, just trying to create something magical that [come] the third season gained quite a bit of power. And we’ve played with strings and other instruments because obviously they’re growing and getting stronger and stronger as they get bigger. “
Game Of Thrones has won Ramin Djawadi two consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding music composition, in 2018 for the episode "The Dragon and the Wolf" and in 2019 for "The Long Night". Although, to date, it's bought him the most notoriety, Westeros is certainly not the final stop in Djawadi's career. He's scored the HBO series Westworld, the animated film The Queen's Corgi, FX Vampire drama The Strain, and the 2013 blockbuster Pacific Rim, to name just a few of his higher profile works. Plus he will return to the MCU to lend his musical talents to next year's The Eternals.

Not a bad resume for any composer. One worthy of sitting on the Iron Throne, perhaps?

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