People who know me, know that I am not that into music. I didn’t listen to a lot of it growing up, so I never really jammed out to any tunes. I didn’t go to concerts or have a favourite album that I would take to me on a deserted island. When I needed to zone out I tended to gravitate towards books, as reading was my preferred choice of escapism. When people talked about their favorite band I would pretend to know who they were talking about and pray they wouldn’t ask me what songs of theirs I liked.
That being said, the power of music still looms very large for me. Usually, though, it’s in the form of a song that accompanies something else, like a good scene in a movie. I think my earliest memories of actually loving music was the cassette tape series “Beethoven lives upstairs”, which was essentially a friendly way to introduce children to classical music. That kind of music I’ve always enjoyed, the songs that don’t involve singing.
Take for example, the movie Inception. The music plays such an integral part of that movie, and in such a surreal way, that to think of watching that movie without the songs seems also sacrilegious. The way the music is weaved into the plot of the movie is something that blew me away when I watched the film and it remains today one of my favorite movie viewing experiences. “OH SHIT THAT BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARP BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARP NOISE IS THE EDITH PIAF SONG SLOWED DOWN, HOLY SHIT MOTHER FUCKER!”
Another example is the TV show Westworld. That show gripped me like few other shows have, and in many ways it is due to the soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi. The haunting use of the piano, along with doing piano covers of many popular songs (hey I know a few songs damn it) helped make Westworld one of my favorite TV shows I have watched in the last decade. I mean, sure, am I predisposed to loving any movie about a theme park that goes off the rails and ends up with humans dying? Damn straight I am. Give me a Jurassic Park scenario and I will watch it.
Theme park about seagulls that ends up with seagulls killing humans? I’ll watch it.
Theme park about Slurpee machines turning on their human overlords? Watch it.
Theme park about theme parks taking over theme parks, that eventually ends in human demise? Watch it three times.
It’s not just the premise of Westworld, however, that drew me in. The music of the show is just so god damn compelling, and I didn’t even realize until halfway through the season how much I relied on that music to emotionally attach me to the show.
Slow and ominous, the theme starts off almost in a curious haunting manner before picking up the pace with tension filled notes, perfectly capturing the spirit of the show.
Then there is the train theme:
Again, another slow paced song, but once again, something that immediately brings to your mind the image of the train rolling into Westworld. It’s a song that is subtle, but by the time half the season had gone by, I realized how impactful this song was. When I heard this song my mind immediately began revving up for another crazy ass hour of humans, robots, violence and sex. “THE ROBOTS ARE HAVING SEX WITH OTHER ROBOTS, WHAAAAAAAT”
One of my favorite scenes of season one, however, wasn’t a haunting tune. It was the cover of Paint It Black. The scene it was used in was to introduce a villain to the show, and it was a scene of a great robbery.
WARNING: If you have not seen Westworld please do not watch this clip. Watch the show first.
When I first watched the scene I recognized the song but didn’t place it until halfway through the scene. When I did I was pretty much like “Oh fuck, well done, this is dope” but by then the scene had whisked me away.
I don’t often get carried away by movies/TV, but this scene fucking grabbed me and had me in the palm of its hands. The mix of action, and slower talking scenes while the music simmered in the background was fucking top notch (a technique used in Game of Thrones, which I will discuss shortly). You have guns, deaths, bravado, emotion, all mixed into one, carried to the tune of Paint it Black.
Basically I have Westworld on my playlist now, and every time I listen to it it brings back vivid memories of the show, which is all you can ask for, really.
Which brings me to the Light of the Seven. Now, I have no idea how music awards work, but my god, if there are awards I pray to god them delivered a truck full of them to Djawadi for his work on Game of Thrones.
I had put off watching Game of Thrones for years because I was one of those “Enjoying the show? Yeah, I read the books already” guys. But once I accepted George RR Martin was probably never going to write another book again, I realized HBO would be my only to see the future of the universe of my beloved Starks.
So I finally watched season 5, and I watched with interest, but a bit detached, because after all “I had read the books already”. Season six started, and that’s when shit started getting real for me. Getting resolutions to things that had been basically years in the making for me was awesome (Sandor confirmed alive mother fuckers!). Season six was great, I truly enjoyed it.
Then episode 10 came along, and man alive, holy fuck, that fucking soooooooooooooooong man. Like, the pacing of that song while you watch Cersei put together her revenge??
I don’t even have words to describe how much I loved watching this play out. Djawadi used the haunting piano base to create an intense, but slow and deliberate pace, mixing in instruments and vocals when he wanted to elevate the emotion of the scene. It was like watching a mad scientist create his perfect specimen, a magician weaving spells to create one of the most amazing TV viewing experiences of my life.
Now, this might seem like a shit ton of hyperbole, but there is a reason I am writing a random blog that 3 people will read about it, and it’s because Djawadi fucking nailed a home run. Like, when I write a good story I get pretty excited when someone tells me “Hey man, that story really resonated with me, that summed up how I felt exactly.” When someone tells me “Hey man, I almost teared up a bit reading that” it blows me away because through my chosen medium of art it means I reached someone on a deep level. That I was able to connect human emotions together, that’s the best any art can ever hope for.
Now, by my nature, I am pretty closed off. I don’t like to feel emotions because I just don’t trust them very much (I grew up in a chaotic emotional household so I began to view emotions as the enemy). So when someone through their medium is able to break through my defensive mechanisms and can connect to my emotions, it’s a pretty significant experience for me. Djawadi, through his music, was able to make me experience that final episode so much more than if it had been without music. I experienced emotions and got lost in what I was watching. It whisked me away to another world without looking back. I would pay for that experience any chance I get. It’s like those rare moments when the your sports team actually come through for you, it makes you forget your problems in life and you just live in the moment and forget about the small things for a brief, delicious moment.
Obviously the characters and the show played a large part in everything. Without them, the music is set to a black screen. But imagine that episode without this song? Imagine it set to Smash Mouth’s All-Star? The tone of the episode switches. Every action you see gains the impact of a wet noodle. Suddenly you’re wondering why shooting stars break the mold as wild fire breaks loose.
In short, this episode of TV was one of the most gripping things I have ever watched, and in large part it’s because the music was spot on. I loved every second of it. I can still picture in my head all the events leading up to the end of that episode. So so so good.
Anyways, that’s my rant for the day. As I said, I don’t let my emotions flair up, but when a good song comes along and enhances the shit out of something, it’s a god damn glorious thing.
Thank you Ramin Djawadi.