How Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi Turned the Show Into a Live Concert

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Photo: J. Kempin/Getty Images

For the biggest Game of Thrones fans, televised episodes just aren’t enough — especially when it comes to the show’s music. Viewers might hear a snippet of a piece that could be a full song, and scenes might return to certain musical themes, but it’s rarer to hear a number all the way through. Composer Ramin Djawadi’s solution? He decided to launch a live concert tour, which touched down at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday, providing a musical portal from New York to the Seven Kingdoms. “I feel like we have so much going on,” Djawadi told Vulture before the show. “We have all this movement and color, and you’ll be like, ‘Oh, wait! What’s happening on the left? What’s happening on the right?’ Because it will be happening all around you.”

He wasn’t exaggerating: Red leaves shed from weirwood trees that grow out of the stage; confetti falls from the ceiling, lit from behind to look like a drifting snowstorm; and smoke and fire shoot out of pyrotechnics rigs at different angles and colors, like reddish-orange for dragon fire or green for wildfire. Scenes from the show play on tiered screens, encompassing each particular character’s theme. And then there’s the music itself — played by a full orchestra, sung by a choir and soloists, with expanded arrangements and lyrics that are somehow more vivid, more tense, more heart-wrenching, and recontextualized quite a few famous Thrones moments, especially the deaths of beloved characters. (Hodor!) “There are certainly a lot of spoilers,” Djawadi laughed. “This is a crash course.”

While an eight-piece band remains the same for every stop on the tour, Djawadi refreshes the show in each city with a new orchestra and choir, using local musicians, which requires extra rehearsal time. Some of the other tweaks he made along the way were to nix a screen that was supposed to come down all the way to a runway stage and separate the audience like the Wall, as well as keeping the soloists on the move between different satellite stages. “It’s physically exhausting,” he said. “But it looks so cool when we use the whole space.”

Although the tour has a few weeks left to go, Djawadi is already dreaming up a sequel to follow season seven, as well as the possibility of launching a live concert tour for the other HBO show he composes, Westworld.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Do a Westworld tour!’” he said. “I definitely have ideas, because we could do a whole concert from just the first season. The player piano plays such a huge role in that one, so it’s a must-have as a centerpiece. And imagine the possibilities for guest stars! I would love it if anyone like Radiohead or Trent Reznor wanted to be involved. It would be such a blast.”

How Ramin Djawadi Turned Game of Thrones Into a Live Concert