[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Westworld, Season 4 Episode 2, “Well Enough Alone.” To read about the music of Episode 1, click here.]
There might not be a big epic cover in the newest episode of Westworld, but there’s still plenty to discuss, music-wise, with composer Ramin Djawadi. That’s because Episode 2, “Well Enough Alone,” continues exploring key questions for Season 4, ending with the revelation that Delos Destinations, the corporation behind the high-tech amusement parks where this future dystopia was born, is up to its old tricks — with a brand new theme park setting that made Djawadi very happy.
“I love jazz and actually studied jazz in college as well, and I never get to do much jazz in score. So whenever there’s opportunity, I jump on it right away,” he tells Consequence about the introduction of a 1920s-era park, as part of our ongoing series of conversations about the music of Westworld this season.
Episode 2 begins with the return of Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), now living in peaceful anonymity in a remote Latin town. Until, that is, the arrival of the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who drags her back into service. Djawadi took this as an opportunity to give the character her own theme — or, well, not exactly a theme, but a “motif,” in Djawadi’s words.
Tonally, the motif is used very differently during its two appearances in the episode: When we first see Clementine in the opening scene, “there’s much more a sense of freedom, it’s supposed to feel peaceful, until it all goes south when the Man in Black shows up,” Djawadi says. But when the theme reemerges as we see Clementine engage with the Secret Service agents, it’s “a completely different arrangement, because she’s much more tough.”
Adds Djawadi, “I wanted to make sure that I wrote something that works more idyllically in the front of this episode, but that I can then turn and make more cool.”
Much of the episode focuses on Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) reunited after a long absence and looking for answers, including a long sequence at the house of a senator (Jack Coleman) who they discover to be a host duplicate. What stands out about the score of this sequence is that at the beginning, as Maeve and Caleb start looking around the grounds of the senator’s house, the music is certainly present, but you might not even know it’s there — which is by design.
“In a show like this, where we have a lot of music — Westworld pretty much has wall-to-wall music — one thing to consider always is when to pull back or when to push,” Djawadi says. “I felt [that sequence] was a good opportunity to really pull back with score. They’re walking, they’re exploring, they’re discovering things, and it’s eerie and mysterious. So I thought the score can definitely pull back, so you’re really listening to just the surroundings, and working with sound effects. Then, when things go off, you can open up the score again. I think that’s something that can be very effective.”
But while the point is for the viewer to not be paying too much attention to the ambient score, he adds, “I always like to have themes and motifs and even sounds that I specifically pick, that I then will recall in other moments again, to connect scenes. Even when it’s not musically saying a lot, even some of those things are very specific, that hopefully the viewer will then recognize again later on. But it’s hard sometimes, saying more with less. That can be very difficult.”
Two key bits of music in the episode, Djawadi says, weren’t his department at all: Specifically, the opera Maeve and Caleb hear as they enter the empty theater (a selection from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, as hinted at previously in the episode), and the jazz music playing later in the train car bar, which he believes is a Duke Ellington tune. “Sometimes in Westworld, the songs very much cross over into score, but sometimes they are pure needle drop. And in this case, that’s what it was,” he says.
However, he thinks that using Duke Ellington is “a very well placed piece of foreshadowing what’s to come,” as it maintains the mystery of Maeve and Caleb’s situation for a little longer. “I think the active decision in this case was that if I were to do something with score, in that style, it might actually put too much attention on it,” he says. “So that’s why we did it purely as bar music, so people wouldn’t think much about it, even though it is foreshadowing what happens at the end of the episode.”
Later in the episode, Djawadi’s score does come back in full force, with a rearrangement of music he refers to as both “the Delos theme” and “the Sweetwater theme,” memorably introduced in Season 1 as characters made their first arrival into the Delos Destinations town of Sweetwater. “We played it underground [inside the control room] as well. So that’s why I said Delos,” he notes.
In the original version of the theme, he says, “it’s very much in a Western style — it has acoustic guitar and it has some solo strings.” But for Season 4’s version, “it starts out with more like a dark bass, as the Man in Black is introducing the park, and then when it opens up, there’s definitely some jazz elements to it, like I’m using the muted trumpet.”
We only get a brief glimpse at this newest Delos park, set in the 1920s, and what it means for the show’s music. But “it has just enough to get your taste of what’s to come,” says Djawadi, who brought his excitement for this new development into the end credits of the episode, Djawadi got excited about continuing to play with the style. “I always have fun with the end credits, so it’s Hale’s theme, played on a jazz trumpet,” he says. “It’s not straight clean jazz because the idea was to have it jazzy, but do it Westworld-style. So it’s just a little bit more messed up.”
It’s messed up by design, because getting too period-accurate wouldn’t exactly be true to the nature of Westworld — the show, and the titular attraction that was once at its center. “It is a [theme park], so I think we are allowed to hint at things, but yet be a little bit different… It doesn’t have to be always super-authentic, because then it would feel too much.”
Plus, he adds, even during the first season, it would have been hard to replicate the music of the era being recreated on screen, because “what is authentic Western music? There’s no such thing. We always tried to have some contemporary elements in there.”
Djawadi says that while every project is different and he might go out of order for some series, for Westworld he keeps the approach linear: “I did go in order, so I would get every episode one at a time and then work on it and then move on to the next one.” And that’s what we’ll continue to do with this interview series as well, pulling back the musical mysteries of the show every week.
Westworld Season 4 airs Sundays on HBO. Here’s our conversation with Djawadi about Episode 3, “Années Folles.”