It is almost unnecessary to go into how amazing Westworld is, right? Pretty much every person is watching this show right now. Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld is a drama series on HBO that depicts a theme park for adults that is set in the wild west and made up of insanely real-looking robots.
Westworld is all about weaving unlikely elements together seamlessly. Robots and cowboys, the Wild West and the future, high technology and old-fashioned history.
The music reflects these juxtaposing components beautifully. The show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi, masterfully creates original compositions, as well as arranges classical takes on modern hit songs. Djawadi also composed the show’s opening credits theme song. Oftentimes, Djawadi also uses the Vitamin String Orchestra’s versions of famous songs such as “No Surprises” by Radiohead and “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails.
The Westworld theme park has a brothel that guests can visit, which has a player piano constantly playing. Sometimes it plays ragtime songs as it should, but sometimes it also plays songs from today.
When modern songs are played on this piano, it is typically very symbolic. In one of the first episodes, a major bar brawl was about to go down and “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden was eerily heard on the player piano. It definitely set a tone for destruction.
In a way, just the sheer image of a player piano in this type of robot-world in itself is symbolic, and perhaps even foreshadowing. The piano itself is essentially a robot in its own way…no longer needing any help from humans. It can play anything it wants on its own… songs from 100 years ago, songs from 20 years ago, and even songs that were just released.
Each song in the show is almost like a poem — exposing exactly what is happening in the storyline. The music is very strategically chosen, which only adds to the hauntingly beautiful plot.
A wonderful example of this is when Maeve, Westworld’s brothel owner (played by Thandie Newton), starts to learn that she is not a human. She befriends a human who is a robot tech behind the scenes of Westworld, and he walks her around the lab and shows her how the robots are created/maintained. It is a highly emotional scene as Maeve tries to grasp her own reality. The song playing in the background is Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” performed by the Vitamin String Quartet.
Although the lyrics of the actual song are not sang, anyone who is familiar with this song can see how incredibly powerful it is in this scene. Some of the lyrics include: “help me get where I belong…” and “I think you’re crazy. Maybe…” and possibly the most evocative lyric, “I will see you in the next life…”
Being familiar with the music of Westworld is in no way a requirement for watchers. However, for those who do take the time to pay attention to the music and research lyrics and artists that are being used, they will feel a greater connection to the plot.
In a way, Ramin Djawadi rewards the music lovers who are familiar with the songs because he strategically chooses each song to uncover major characters and plot points. Thank you, Ramin Djawadi for making music a primary character in this amazing series.
Season one of Westworld is currently available to stream on HBO GO.