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Westworld: how Djawadi reverts contemporary classics

The genius that is Ramin Djawadi has truly excelled himself with his arrangements for HBO’s Westworld player piano.


No music genre is safe. Not from becoming extinct or erased, but from Ramin Djawadi and his ways of reworking modern music to fool us into believing that it was always appropriate for a saloon in the ‘ole west of a newly developing America.

“Why/How do I know this?” is the question I ask myself after switching on Westworld and the self-playing mechanical piano clicks and clunks into life (even though the player piano wasn’t developed until the early 1900s, some 30 years after the park of Westworld is speculated to be set *NERD ALERT*). It’s only then I realise it’s actually one of my favourite songs. Then I find myself in an inner conflict: “Did Chris Cornell find an old role of player piano music and rip it off to create ‘Black Hole Sun’?” I puzzle over before I snap back to reality, comforted by the idea that one of my favourite songs has been tastefully recreated to suit a new setting. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that if I hadn’t heard ‘Black Hole Sun’ before, or any of the other songs that were revised, I would have believed it was an original piece made specifically for the player piano, a true credit to Djawadi‘s clever arrangements.

Harking back to my opening statement, no musical genre is safe as Ramin Djawadi has his eye on them all for Westworld. I get the impression that he was more than OK with subjecting Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ to the same treatment he gave Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ so long as it fit the criteria of “does it sound good on the saloon piano?”.

So far, the reworked music that’s been used in Westworld has reportedly been the choice of the show’s co-creators Johnathan Nolan and although they are great choices, it’s a little crowded with rock and rock-related genres. There are some examples of other genres sneaking into the mix but I feel as though there are so many other avenues left to explore; how about we hear something way out there? Something like Roy Ayers’ ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ that inspired the old-school hip-hop classic that is ‘My Life’ by Dr. Dre? It’s been reworked before so it would be interesting to see what could be done with it now.

The reworkings of modern examples of music by Ramin Djawadi have been bone-chillingly brilliant, and from here on out I will have to rely on the flip of a coin as to whether I listen to the original or the cover. I look forward to the newest examples of Djawadi’s work in the next season of Westworldand I hope the choice of music evolves with the narrative of the show to really surprise me. I’m sure it’s a monumental task, with many criteria to fill and many hoops to jump through but the people at the helm of Westworld are clearly more than up for the job.

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