Westworld’s grand musical narrative

Since its 1st season, composer Ramin Djawadi has been given a role as an indirect screenwriter for the (confused) plot of Westworld. In addition to the photography and interpretations, it was the series’ soundtrack that won the hearts of fans.

The series is based on the 1973 film, in turn, an adaptation of the book by Michael Crichton. It’s a fascinating visual and intellectual journey, especially interesting for Ramin’s musical choices, deified by his iconic work on Game of Thrones. In addition to the original Westworld themes, each season the maestro works on rock covers that complement the plot and delight us at the same time.

In a series whose tagline is about the senses: A dark odyssey about the fate of sentient life on Earth, the music really gains relevance.

In the premiere season, the music from the cabaret on Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) worked and gave us a lot of timeline hints, character feelings, and story possibilities. From Radiohead to Amy Winehouse, the Rolling Stones, or Nirvana, it was a delight to anticipate and follow along.

In the 1st season, the arrangements were practically “stuck” to the piano, but little by little they gained grandiose and original arrangements.

“I think it’s a great fit. Like with Radiohead‘s Fake Plastic Trees – even if you just take the title – with Westworld, what’s real? What is not real? You can interpret it in many ways,” the songwriter shared in a 2016 interview.

And that’s it. The selection made by him perfectly matches the duality of the plot. We listen to classics like No Surprises (Radiohead), Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden), Paint It Black (Rolling Stones), Back in black (Amy Winehouse), Seven Nation Army (White Stripes), or even A Forest (The Cure). For Ramin, the surprise factor was one of the things that also amused him in the curatorship, done in concert with the showrunner, Jonathan Nolan, who chooses the songs according to the scene and Ramin does the “redux” version, on the piano, before orchestrating it. It was easy for him because that’s what he did as a teenager, he learned the songs by ear and then made his own arrangements. In the case of Westworld, his music is the closest anchor to “reality”.

“You look at the settings and the way people are dressed and even though you know they’re robots and it’s all designed to be modern entertainment, you’d think the people in control would make everything authentic, including what’s played on that piano. It would be from that period. And when it’s not, it’s that subtle reminder that ‘Wait, something’s not right. This is not real.” It’s such a powerful tool that only music can do it,” he explained in the same interview.

In a series whose tagline is about the senses: A dark odyssey about the fate of sentient life on Earth, the music really gains relevance. Naturally, in the beginning, the saloon restricted the score to the piano, but that’s where Ramin’s genius comes in, who wasn’t restricted to the minimalist sound in the following seasons. Modern themes help us to keep the timeline anchor, but also to create themes for the characters. If in season 1 the composer liked the arrangement of Paint It Black, used for Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) in the shooting, Codex ended the second season with a lot of emotion for Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). “Everything is planned [with the big scenes], including the music. It’s an event,” Ramin explained in 2016. And what about the unforgettable Season 2 promo featuring Kanye West‘s Runaway? It’s the soundtrack playing its role and immortalizing emotional moments.

Everything is planned [with the big scenes], including the music. It’s an event

Ramin Djawadi

Paint it Black played more than once in the series, almost always with Rodrigo Santoro and his fellow thugs on the scene, but it was also amazing when it came back when they were in Shogun World. Runaway was the backdrop for a flashback in which Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) remembers visiting the real world before being “awake” as a host. Back in Black sounded the moment Maeve takes control. And goes on.

One of the most beautiful moments of the entire series was the sound of Nirvana, Heart-Shaped Box, with the tragic and emotional story of Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) in the search for his beloved, Kohana (Julia Jones). In the third, the revisiting of Wicked Games, from Week’nd, also gained a new prominent appearance. The soundtrack still had David Bowie (Space Oddity), Bjork (Hunter), and even Guns ‘n Roses with Sweet Child o’Mine. Each orchestral arrangement is more engaging than the last.

We still don’t know all the covers of season 4, but ending the 1st episode with Videogames, by Lana del Rey, brought romanticism and nostalgia. After all, like “Christina,” Dolores is a video game writer. And meeting Teddy, who had been sacrificed in Season 2 with the chorus chords (where she would sing it’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you) was exciting.

We’ll soon have Ramin’s signature on the House of the Dragon soundtrack as well. No wonder he is already on my list of the 5 best soundtrack composers. Genius!

Listen to a selection of the best covers on Westworld.

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