Analysis of the Use of Sound and Music in the Game of Thrones TV Show

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Music and sound are also essential to Game of Thrones, just like the other media products I’ve analysed. Similar to The Last Of Us, Game of Thrones uses leitmotifs to give themes to characters and places etc. This particular TV programme uses leitmotifs extensively as a way to show character development.

Essentially, as characters change and stories unfold the music changes to show this. For example, as one of the main characters dragons grow their musical theme grows. It starts being quite small and doesn't impact the scene too much but then turn into a massive orchestrated piece to demonstrate the power and fear they invoke when witness on screen by the viewers or by characters. This works in two ways, to encourage empathy and make identifying character, moods narratives.

Extra emphasis is then placed on this particular story arc through non-diegetic sounds. Leitmotifs are particularly useful in context with the show because it helps remind the audience of characters - it can be quite difficult to keep track because this is an epic with lots of characters and story arcs to follow. Unlike The Shining, for example, the fact that the show spreads across several hours of content across several seasons and over seventy episode works very well for the use of sound and music. The countless hours of screen time allows these leitmotifs to be developed over time, which can be very difficult to achieve in two hours and forty minutes (the running time of The Shining).

This allows much more effective storytelling through sonic narrative as well as providing unity and connection between the numerous seasons. Another good example could be the music and sounds that accompany the white walkers is easily identifiable as a threat and alerts the audience. This gets them thinking of what may be about to happen and gets tensions rising. Using music and sound this way works for this particular story arc because by now the audience realizes that this theme represents a shady family where shocking and dramatic scenes always seem to follow.

Throughout the show the composer competes to evenly demonstrate reality and fantasy. Use of music and sound in this context allows the audience to relate to characters and places (reality) as well as aiding better understanding of the world through sonic content. This implementation of detail, context and information of the fantasy and myths that exist in the unique world of Game of Thrones creates a more immersive experience for the audience. Creating fantastical depth within the story is produced by subtle synth and pad parts which only occur sporadically during moments of the supernatural. For instance, these sounds occur when warg characters, like Bran Stark use their magical powers.

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These sounds are often played in at low frequencies which sets an eerie, mysterious and otherworldly tone. In addition to expressing their own narrative, these sounds are perfectly combined with more organic and realistic ones created by the compositions heavy reliance on string sections. String instruments have been around for thousands of years and this works to establish a time frame. this explains the composers heavy reliance on medieval style instruments and scores and these diegetic sounds fit well. It probably goes without saying, but it is essential a score fits the media content it represents or it would upset the narrative and quality of the show. Using organic instruments like the flute or harps create differing sonic content that represent the vast variety of ethnicities and locations the show is set in.

Combining the two allows the composer to represent different themes at the same time and it is common to find fthemes blending together. This not only establishes a connection between characters but shows different kinds of sounds representing different parts of the story.

The most interesting thing about the example I have provided is the contrasting use of sound and music compared to the rest of the series. This particular scene is underpinned by a solo piano. the piano doesn't tend to fit the established time frame but the use of a new instrument brilliantly represents the dramatic shift in direction of the story. Although the score throughout the show uses instrumentation that in powerful and emotional such as the cello or piano. For instance, strings allow different moods to be created by elongating notes and reflecting the epic scene. On the other hand, simple and decisive piano parts provide much more ambience and space between sounds. Because the piano is only used in one other episode in this manner, it demands the attention of the viewer and stes an atmosphere of expectancy. The downbeat nature of this composition sets a powerful mood and is extremely emotional too. The use of music and sound in this scene is to foreshadow upcoming events, in this case it foreshadows the loss of character and extremely sandness.

This episode is one of the most highly rated and remembered from the show and the use of music and sound has a huge part to play in its success. A minimalist solo piano is used to overwhelm the audience with shock. This is the ideal instrument for emotive scenes that can have a big impact on its viewer. The piano has a large dynamic range, a strong attack and contains the suitable characteristics for the scene. The piano plays throughout a montage scene and creates not only connection between scenes but a sense of direction. The piano is sporadically accompanied by spooky choirs that are performed rather discordantly to further dramatise the experience and create an ominous mood.

This works contrapuntally to represent where the action will take place (a religious building where choirs are often found) and metaphorically represent isolation. The composer also exploits the anticipation of the audience by playing less melodic, slow tempo and off beat. Silence is used exceptionally well to suspend viewers in shock and to have a lasting impact. This is evident in the example clip, through the strong piano parts there is often nothing at all which sets an atmosphere of dread. The piano melody takes control of the narrative and there is minal dialogue during the opening scene.

However, as much of an impact music can have on a scene to emphasize certain atmospheres etc. This leaves the viewer anxiously waiting for the next note and almost slows down time, making the scene more shocking as anxieties and tensions are built. As the scene develops and the pace of the episode quicken, more instrumentation is introduced to highlight to enormity of the situation.

Furthermore, having such a minimalist score can work to express reality of events. Leaving non-diegetic sounds and sound FX to be heard gives the audience a better sense of realism and can improve empathy and immersion in characters and their stories. These sounds are designed by processing and instruments. This is demonstrated in the final seconds of the example clip where there explosion of sound that emphasizes the drama.

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