Before we delve into the world of film and TV scores, I made a short introduction with a fun anecdote and a summary of what the next episodes will be about.
Hello and thank you for tuning in to Game of Themes, a podcast in which we will have an in-depth look at how film and TV composers musically represent characters, ideas or situations in moving pictures.
I will be your host, my name is Jelleke and before we delve into it, I should probably tell you a little bit more about myself and why exactly I am setting up this podcast.
Music has for as long as I remember always been about classical music for me. I was never really into contemporary music. My parents exposed me to all kinds of music really, but I was drawn to classical music and especially to the works of Late and Post-Romantic Era composers.
And I remember when I started watching movies, I’d also start noticing the music and I became fascinated by John Williams’ scores. But it was when I saw Gladiator in 2000—the moment when Maximus is being brought to Rome with the other slaves and the camera pans out to a view of the city and you hear this beautiful theme blasting through the speakers—it was then that I knew that I didn’t want to be an architect. So I dropped out and went to study Musicology at university. By the way, the music that I am referring to can be found on the Gladiator soundtrack and is called Slaves to Rome.
And when I had to start thinking about a topic for my master thesis, I assumed that film music wasn’t going to be looked at as of high quality academical standards. But I remember going into my professor’s office, fully expecting to be turned down, and proposing to do an analysis about the music for the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson and scored by Howard Shore. But surprisingly enough, he thought it was a great idea and because nothing had really been done in this area before, I had to figure things out myself and I sort of ended up with a less accurate version of Doug Adams’ The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films.
And in that same year, Howard Shore visited Belgium for The Lord of the Rings Symphony and through my professor, I was able to go to a rehearsal and it was amazing to witness it—watching Howard conduct and hearing all the themes I had been analysing live, and then afterwards, I had the most massive headache I had ever had in my life because I had been so nervous and I just could not go up to him and introduce myself, so that was a bit of a missed chance.
But luckily enough, I had a second one after the actual concert. I was introduced to him and as the good fangirl that I was, of course I brought a small section of the first draft of my thesis for him to sign. But I had never really spoken English in a real-life conversation before—classroom English which we start in Grade 8 isn’t exactly the same—so I was very nervous and so conscious of my speech that I forgot to ask most of the things that I wanted to ask.
However, there is one thing I remember well and it was my last question… So, in The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf glances over the map with the Lonely Mountain and which is laid out on Bilbo’s table and refers to his adventures in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, you hear this short theme (E’ F#’ G’ D’ – C’ D’ Eb’ Bb – Db’ Eb’ F’ Bb’) that isn’t used anywhere else in the trilogy and I asked him if there ever was to be a Hobbit movie in the future—mind you, this was in 2004 and the first instalment of The Hobbit wasn’t out until 2012—so I asked him that if that was a possibility, would he be using this theme in that movie.
I can’t remember what he said exactly, but he did smile and said something along the lines of that being very interesting… And so when I listened to the soundtrack of An Unexpected Journey, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that particular theme in a variation as early as the second track, which is Old Friends. In the movie it is first heard when Gandalf marks Bilbo’s door for the dwarves.
Anyway, in my master thesis I analysed the music for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers and it just blew my mind how Howard Shore was able to tell a story within a story with just his music.
You could say: when you have a narrative, there is an opportunity for a film or tv composer to go beyond the narrative, or create a narrative about the narrative.
Now for myself, I am very interested in the musical portrayal of heroes and villains and any downfall or redemption that might happen to these characters. So, as part of my larger research, I thought it might be fun as a first case study, to have an in-depth look at a recently ended tv series, which is Game of Thrones, and see how the composer Ramin Djawadi has portrayed them.
I think the best way to go over this is to deal with one season at the time. So in the first episode of the podcast, which I plan to release in August, I will look at Season 1, episode by episode, go over the themes, see when and how they are used and analyse them in a way that makes it interesting for anyone who isn’t too familiar with scores or music. We’ll be looking at the music as another story, or better even, because the score is never meant to be a standalone but part of the bigger project, to look at it as an added layer to the story you see on the screen. Because I find it very interesting how music can create a convincing atmosphere for just about any setting, help tell the story, foreshadow even and get you emotionally more invested.
So subscribe and tune in in August. Thank you for listening and hear you soon!Music provided by melodyflix.