Now that Ramin Djawadi has been officially announced by HBO, as the composer for House of the Dragon, the analysis of which themes from the Game of Thrones television show, might appear in the new prequel series. While everything is still very speculative at this point, there are some themes that may have more likelihood to appear than others, given the period of Targaryen history that the information we have about the new show points towards. This article intends to identify those themes.
One of the constants between the time period of the ASOIAF setting for Game of Thrones, and the ASOIAF setting for House of the Dragon, is the iron throne itself. It was represented musically with a piece we first heard in the pilot of Game of Thrones when Robert Baratheon came to Winterfell. It’s entitled “The King’s Arrival” on the official season 1 soundtrack, and has sometimes been confused to be a “Baratheon” theme, rather than its true representation of the position that Robert held, as proven by a great deal of empirical evidence, which I will lay out here.
The first collection of evidence that is clearly distinguishable is that the theme was often used for characters who were not actually Baratheon, such as Jon Snow, Daenerys, and Joffrey. Take Joffrey, who in fact was a Baratheon in name only throughout his reign. If you look at the times it was used during Joffrey’s reign, up through his own death scene in the season 4 episode “The Lion and the Rose”. You find that there is little to no evidence supporting the notion that this theme is actually associated with the Baratheon line or house.
A second collection of evidence for the theme being about the iron throne itself, and not for the Baratheon name or house, is that the theme was never used for others who actually had Baratheon blood. The “Warrior of Light” was used for Stannis, never the “Baratheon”/”King’s Arrival” theme. Also, the “King’s Arrival” theme was never used for Gendry, with the exception of him being in the actual presence of Red Keep with Melisandre.
Of course, the most compelling evidence for why “The King’s Arrival” represents the iron throne, as opposed to House Baratheon, is the fact that the theme was used twice in the premiere of season 8, “Winterfell”. Firstly, we heard it during the procession of Daenerys and Jon into Winterfell, representing the royalty of Daenerys. Titled “Arrival at Winterfell” on the season 8 official soundtrack, it mixes Daenerys’ “Dracarys” theme with “The King’s Arrival”. However, the absolute most compelling evidence of “The King’s Arrival” being a theme for the throne itself, rather than House Baratheon comes near the end of that episode when a lone cello plays the motif from the theme underneath Sam talking to Jon, telling Jon that he is the heir to the iron throne.
With all of that said, it seems logical that “The King’s Arrival” is a universal theme for the monarch of the Seven Kingdoms, and because of that, will fit well into the new series, no matter who is sitting the throne.
I am hesitant to say that the entirety of themes for Dany are necessarily universal Targaryen themes. Her “Love in the Eyes” theme, first heard in S1E02 “The Kingsroad” with Drogo, but orchestrated epically in the season 1 finale as the remaining Khalasar start to worship her having survived the fire, seems much more central to her specific arc as opposed to a house or family theme. There is however a theme that we heard often with Daenerys that is a little more in the abstract and could be used universally for all dragon riders, or dragon riding Targaryens. I call it the “Dragon Connection” theme.
This Dragon connection motif/theme was first heard in S1E02 “The Kingsroad”, very lightly, as Daenerys is fixating on the eggs, just before Drogo comes in and she takes charge. It was epically orchestrated several times in the series, perhaps notably in the season 5 episode “The Dance of Dragons” when she and Drogon take flight together for the first time. I often associated it with Daenerys’ connection to her dragons, or to magic itself, but given that a great number of Targaryens in the history of the family have a similar “connection” to their own dragons, it would be easy to carry this theme over from Game of Thrones to House of the Dragon, and retain the same narrative meaning musically.
Whether the two themes mentioned “crossover” from one series to the next, of course remains to be seen. If we might happen to have a visit on a Stark here or there, I would imagine the Stark theme we already know would be used, or even visitations with any houses that we already have a theme established for, could also make appearances. I do think there is one musical prediction that I can absolutely make regarding the new House of the Dragon prequel. The prediction is that you will hear the piano as an instrument in this series.
It is well documented that Dave and Dan originally declined the idea of using piano in the series, despite an attempt or two by Djawadi to use it. He did manage to sneak it into the end credits sequence of the Season 2 finale “Valar Morghulis” (you can hear it at 1:39 in the S2 soundtrack cut “Three Blasts”, playing what would become an epic theme at the end of season 7 when The Night King brought down part of the wall), but it was never used as a fully featured melodic or harmonic instrument until the season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” opening sequence. “Light of the Seven” took the audience by storm, and as a result “The Night King” was probably used to capitalize on that success in the Season 8 episode “The Long Night”. It is not a stretch to think that House of the Dragon showrunner Miguel Sapochnik will turn to Ramin again at some point and ask for piano. In addition to that, the piano has actually been a staple in many of Djawadi’s other scores outside of the Game of Thrones franchises, such as “Person of Interest” and of course “Westworld”.
As a professional and touring keyboard player for 20 plus years, I have to admit, in full disclosure, that I’m not personally a fan of using the piano excessively, especially if simply for the sake of commercial success. I will however say that, so long as the themes presented are powerful, and can be translated to other orchestrations from time to time, I will expect, and won’t reject the continued or even increased use of the piano in the forthcoming prequel.
Matt Murdick has been podcasting about the music scores in television since 2009, including LOST, His Dark Materials, and Game of Thrones, and can be found on twitter @musicalconcepts.