July 2022 – Pirate Music

Welcome to July’s diary entry for 2022. In this aestival period we dive into the water’s of the Iron Islands to find ourselves some pirate music, but first we need to ask ourselves one question…

What is pirate music?

Glad you asked, but this is a pointless question since there is not such thing as pirate music. What there is though are works of music featuring pirates, and that’s as far as one can go. Let’s have a look at one of the oldest examples of pirate music in Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’.

A time signature of 6/4, a yo-ho-ho melody in the brass, and lots of tremolo on the strings, but nothing else stands out as piraty, and yet, one cannot deny it feels incredibly appropriate.

Let’s jump forward a few years and listen to a classic tune from ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’:

The time signature is 4/4 and there aren’t really instruments as much as there are ‘roles’ but it sounds ‘piraty’, and that is yet again due to context. Something this tune has that Wagner’s didn’t is a singable quality, almost like a call and response that goes back to the sea shantys sung by sailors at sea. Here’s an example of such a shanty:

I wrote an storm shanty for the the Ironborn a few years ago to that I wish I could have performed by real singers one day, but for now virtual instruments will have to do:

Storm of steel the iron born are coming for you
Yo-Ho-Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Yo-Ho-Ho-Ho

Storm of steel we take what we want ’cause with iron we pay,
Yo-Ho-Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho-Ho-Ho

Storm of steel we’ll take your life, your wife, your child,

Storm of steel and you can hide, but not from the sea,
Yo-Ho-Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! YO-HO-HO-HO-HO!

With all this context in mind let’s now take let’s take a look at house Greyjoy, specifically at Balon and Theon Greyjoy.

The Krakens

I uploaded Balon’s Greyjoy leitmotif as King of the Iron Islands some time ago. I was written in a more Wagnerian style of pirate, with lots of strings (although no brass) a 3/4 time signature and a yo-ho-ho tune.

The new theme in this diary entry is Theon Greyjoy’s theme as Ned Stark’s ward, and it couldn’t be any more different in style than Balon’s.

In fact, it is much closer in style to the jolly pirate music of ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’, and it took me a long while to finally realize that both tunes share indeed a few aspects, most notably a pickup note followed by a rest and a descending line that moves up by a second at the end.

‘The Secret of Monkey Island’ theme

Subconscious borrowing? Perhaps, but in reality the line is actually derived from Balon’s own theme and shares many more aspects with it than with the videogame tune. The right combination of playful arrogance and cockiness mixed with a bit of uncomfortable suspicion is something that took me a long time to find given I had to stay close to the Ironborn leitmotifs and the link between Balon and Theon. This being Theon’s first leitmotif the theme will grow a lot in future incarnations past the stage of jolly pirate tune and into darker settings.

That’s been all for today. I hope you join me again next month to listen to new character themes. See you then!

Maester Ludwig

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