When Ramin Djawadi sat down to write the score for the final season of Game of Thrones — the television phenomenon that has elicited heated debate and accumulated passionate viewers from across the globe — he could not initially bring himself to compose the soaring melodies that had become a trademark of the show.
“I knew once I started, it would just mean that it was going to be the end for me,” says Djawadi, whose Game of Thrones’ Live Concert Experience will come to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on Thursday. “Every scene I wrote, especially ones with the major characters dying, I knew it was the last time I would use that theme. The end was very emotional for me, to the point that I had to force myself to write.”
Fortunately for fans of the show, Djawadi’s score for the eighth season of Game of Thrones was one of the few universally beloved aspects of the production’s divisive final stanza. Building upon of the thematic lilts he developed in the beginning moments of the show, Djawadi raised the stakes considerably for the climax, evoking contrasting themes of dread and hope through his imaginative representations of the show’s characters and locales.
Take for example the theme for Daenerys Targaryen, the series’ hero/anti-hero, who transformed from a waifish concubine to a conquering princess (and then a bloodthirsty tyrant, but most fans will choose to forget that last development). To accompany that progression, Djawadi’s score evolved from a whimsical, gossamer-thin movement to an epic coda, featuring a full orchestra, a choir, and booming percussion sounds.
When Djawadi first met with the creators of the show — Dan Benioff and D.B. Weiss — he had never read the books and only knew glancingly about the overall concept. Yet he was able to craft Daenerys’ theme — which endured throughout all eight seasons — after seeing only the show’s first two episodes.
As the characters shifted, so did Djawadi’s musical dynamics, moving from the established strings and reeds (there was a famous no-flute policy for the show, to eschew fantasy tropes) into riskier territories. Perhaps his finest moment was the “Light of the Seven” theme from the season six finale, a haunting, escalating ballad featuring pianos — previously absent from the show.
“That piece is definitely one that comes to mind as one of my favorites,” says Djawadi. “Because of the whole piano thing — it was such a departure and we were so unsure about it, wondering if we were taking it too far. But the reaction to it was amazing. We were delighted that people liked it.”
Djawadi’s preternatural feel for the emotional undercurrent of the show is why his compositions were a cornerstone of the sweeping masterpiece — becoming just as talked about as other rabidly-discussed topics surrounding the production (which are too numerous to list here, but they range from speculation about a certain character’s hair length to the mysterious disappearance of beloved pets). His theme song — a soaring, serious matter — is one of the most famous in television history, with numerous bands and artists paying tribute to the monument with their own renditions.
That prominent place in pop culture is one reason why it made perfect sense for Djawadi to bring the Game of Thrones music to audiences. If fans have been humming these tunes in their heads for years, why not let them experience the full scope of the songs in a live setting?
“I’ll never forget David and Dan approaching me at the end of the third season and saying, ‘What about a live concert, wouldn’t that be fun?’” Djawadi says. “I just ran with that idea. We turned it into a whole tour, designed our own stages, and just made it this special Game of Thrones event.”
While the idea first circulated after season three, it wasn’t until 2017, following the end of season six, when the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience debuted. The expositions feature a full orchestra, set against the backdrop of dramatic scenes from the show. Now in its third iteration, the live show has grown to encompass the full arc of the series, allowing fans to see the trajectory of each character and storyline, set beside each of their corresponding themes.
This latest tour, which began on Sept. 6, will take place exclusively in open-air venues, adding an extra sense of the ethereal vibe that runs throughout Djawadi’s compositions. Along with including the new bucolic element, these shows will also feature a reduced role from Djawadi, who will cede the conductor spotlight for certain gigs to Michael Sobie. That includes the Shoreline show, which will feature Sobie in the lead position.
“Michael has been with us since the beginning,” Djawadi says. “In past concerts, when I was playing instruments, he would actually go up and conduct, so he knows the show inside and out. He’s absolutely fantastic.”
Djawadi’s fingerprints are still all over the performances, and he’ll continue to act as the lead conductor in select cities across the country. Taking part in these performances means that he can forego saying that dreaded goodbye to the material, at least for now.
“I feel like I can’t quite let go of the show yet,” says Djawadi. “These concerts really keep this magical thing going. And for everyone else who just wants to be taken through that journey again, this will be a lot of fun.”
The Game of Thrones Live
Thursday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m. at
1 Amphitheatre Pkwy,