[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Westworld, Season 4 Episode 1, “The Auguries.”]
The return of Westworld for its fourth season means a whole new set of challenges for series composer Ramin Djawadi, who’s been with the series since the beginning, and thus responsible for the soundtrack’s compelling blend of classical and electronic sounds (not to mention its always exciting covers of pre-existing tracks).
“I feel like the show always pushes forward,” he says, in the first of a series of episode-specific conversations with Consequence this season. “With the characters, musically speaking, we always talk about, ‘Okay, do we need new themes? Or are we staying with old themes, and should we arrange them differently?'”
The season premiere, “The Auguries,” almost immediately pushed Djawadi in this regard thanks to Christina, the new character being played by Evan Rachel Wood. A young writer who appears to be living in a futuristic New York City, Christina is introduced with shots that deliberately invoke memories of Wood as Dolores, the determined host who fought for freedom in the first three seasons.
But while the shots might be similar, says Djawadi, “Whenever we see her, that’s all pretty much new material… we thought, let’s just do something new. That’s why it’s not the music that we have in Season 1 where we have her waking up.”
In general, he says, Season 4 follows Season 3 in how it continues using “a lot of tech and a lot of electronics” in the score, as opposed to Seasons 1 and 2. The score for the premiere’s cold open leans on that style while deliberately trying to keep viewers on their toes (says Djawadi, “We see the Man in Black, but we’re not really playing the Man in Black theme. That’s very much new material, that whole opening”). It’s an apt choice, given that this first scene of the season is a jarring introduction to shady businessman Hugo Mora (Arturo del Puerto), who we see falling under the control of the Man in Black as part of some larger plan before dying by suicide.
“When we see Caleb and Maeve [played by Aaron Paul and Thandiwe Newton], those are familiar themes, but yeah, a bunch of the material is new,” Djawadi says, adding that determining how much new music to create for the show, versus revisiting past themes, is “always tricky… You always want it to feel like it’s part of the show, but sometimes I use the same sounds. I’m just trying to connect all the dots with the instrumentation.”
The final minutes of the episode contain what’s undoubtedly this week’s most memorable musical moment: an orchestral cover of Lana Del Rey’s 2011 breakout track “Video Games,” which builds to a crescendo as long-thought-dead Teddy (James Marsden) emerges from the shadows outside Christina’s apartment. Djawadi credits executive producer Lisa Joy with coming up with that particular needle drop. “I thought was a wonderful choice — it’s a great song.”
In creating his version of the song for the show, Djawadi says he went with Joy’s suggestion to “actually start it out small with the piano, and even kind of break it down a little bit so that you might not recognize it right away. Because obviously, the song is so recognizable with those chords when it really gets going, so she asked for me to just slow it down a little bit first and then get into it more — then you slowly recognize, ‘Oh wait, is that? Oh, yes it is!'”