The genius of hybrid music in Westworld

HBO’s Westworld was a quick success. The first season of the sci-fi/Western drama proved to become a favorite this year, attracting the crowds from shows like Game of Thrones and Black Mirror. Since the show’s release, fans have been raving about the intense plot and complex puzzles within the program, but few have really taken the time to appreciate soundtrack.

Composed by Ramin Djawadi, who is best known for his work with the Game of Thrones soundtrack, the score consists of 34 tracks and is a delightful and fresh mix of epic adventure music, swaggering Western songs and surreal sci-fi electro instrumentals.

The score communicates six major themes throughout every track. Each theme expresses something different about the plot and each has variations that evolve as the show progresses. These variations shift tempos, pitch and the instruments used so that they are almost entirely different songs, each evolution marking a change in the plot or character. Take “This World,” for example, an atmospheric electro orchestration that points to the beauty within the wild West, and echoes a low soothing trickle of sound. The tune depresses as the plot moves along, and reforms into “No One’s Controlling Me,” an unsettling and gritty instrumental that plays with darker chords and deeper sounds. The melody doesn’t change at all, but the feel and tone of the song is completely different to fit the action within separate episodes. The songs themselves seem to be a pillar of the plot, alive with their own fluidity, telling the story effortlessly and wordlessly.

The genius behind this soundtrack is not within Ramin Djawadi’s incredible talent (although I must say, his compositions are breathtaking), but within the odd Western covers he compiles within the tracks. Packed with instrumental covers of popular songs, the soundtrack includes Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” and the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.” Most of the covers play as swanky tavern songs, but a few of the songs, like “Something I Can Never Have” bend into a more adventurous, dramatic sound. The tracks unexpectedly weave into the soundtrack, which adds a hint of eerie familiarity to the show — an introspection to our own tastes and sounds that give both the soundtrack and the plot a bit of edge.

“The Maze” and “Paint it Black” as well as “Freeze All Motor Functions” are my personal favorites — all of them show off the intense chords and complex melodies that Djawadi effortlessly loops together. “Main Title Theme” is also an obvious top pick — the song manages to mix all three elements of western adventure, tavern swagger and atmospheric electro all together in an exquisite, layered and vivid sound.

I would, however, have liked to hear more of the dramatic western adventure music. The album definitely highlights more of the tavern songs and grungy sci-fi sounds, and while all those were enjoyable, in a show that boasts genre diversity and a soundtrack that encompasses a variety of music tropes, there needed to be more of that galloping-gunfight-showdown sound. But only to really make the album completely perfect. Altogether, the soundtrack deserves a 9.5/10.

Contact CUI Staff Writer Tessa Piehl at Tessa.Piehl@colorado.edu

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