Winter may have finally arrived in Westeros, but even before the latest season of Game of Thrones began, the series’ composer Ramin Djawadi had already felt the season’s freezing cold.
He felt it not while thinking about Westeros, but while crafting the score for The Mountain Between Us, an epic love story and survival tale directed by Hany Abu-Assad about two strangers (played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba) whose charter plane crashes into the side of a mountain, leaving them stranded atop a snowy peak. “I was writing the score in Los Angeles, in the warmth, and [the film] just makes you shiver,” Djawadi tells EW. “It’s harsh, but it’s beautiful at the same time as well.”
Djawadi began working on the score immediately after returning from his nationwide tour conducting the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience in April. The composer — who also penned the scores for HBO’s Westworld and films like Iron Man and Pacific Rim — found it difficult to balance a sound that would fit both a romance and a thriller. “To portray both these elements, to keep the tension up but the romantic aspect of it too, was quite tricky to do,” he admits. “It was a great challenge.”
Below, Djawadi shares two exclusive tracks from the score, along with more insight into how he arranged the pieces.
“Mountain Between Us Suite”[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/339913254?secret_token=s-4dxhj" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Going in, Djawadi wanted to make sure that his themes for the film captured the role the mountain played, and how its beautiful-but-deadly environment both awed and terrified the two leads, kindling their romance while threatening their safety. “One thing Hany really wanted was to blend the environment with the music,” he says. “At the core of the score is the piano and the strings, but then around it I played with elements. When you’re in the mountains, you echo, so I implemented the idea of an echo into the score.” In fact, Djawadi used whirly tubes, rudimentary instruments that, when spun in the air, create tones that sound like wind, if wind were musical. “It fits tonally with the piano and the strings,” Djawadi points out. “It’s part of the environment, the nature.”
“Separation”[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/339913234?secret_token=s-Xl4f4" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Both tracks are a marked departure from what Djawadi had written for previous films in his oeuvre. “It’s quite different compared to all of the other scores I’ve written,” he observes of his Mountain Between Us score. “I’ve done a lot of bigger action scores. This is not Pacific Rim, not Iron Man, not Warcraft. Game of Thrones, I guess, is a beautiful hybrid. But with this film I was able to really zone in on just these two characters alone in this entire film and really explore their character development.”
This track, therefore, uses a smaller collection of musicians than Djawadi usually does. “It was very special, because it was very personal, and a very small score,” he says. “We used a medium to a small orchestra, and everything really was mostly just strings and a piano.” It’s an intimate setup for an intimate film.
The Mountain Between Us hits theaters Oct. 6.