May 2022 – Finally

Welcome to the diary update for May 2022! Ever since October I have been working on the transition to video format for the website. It has taken longer than I wanted (and expected) but it’s finally over! From the dozens of pages with text, images, and audio, to only four pages: People, Societies, Places, and Objects. Let’s look at the present and future of Music of Ice and Fire in more detail!

The New Chapters

Creating the format was a real toil but then having to keep making changes and updates as I went over each and every piece I added to the file almost did me in. More times than I dare to admit I would finish working on a page and then realize how much better it would look if I used a different layout or changed the style of the animations. Then it would bug me  until I made the changes, which meant going back and redoing so much stuff it would take me weeks to get back to where I was. But at least today I can say I feel satisfied with the results. Right now the total running time for all 4 videos (aka chapters) is 90 minutes long. The longest videos are by far People and Societies, with the new chapters Places and Objects only a few pieces long; although the idea is to keep updating the videos with more videos even if it is slowly. The good news is that they are least published and the website looks and feels closer to the way wanted it to be in terms of content and presentation; not great, not terrible.

Back to Writing

And so now I can finally go back to writing music. Before today, every time I wanted to sit and write some new music I couldn’t do it. I knew that if I went back to writing music even for one day I’d not want to go back to finishing the template so I had to finish it. But now the wait is over and I look at my piano with new eyes: today I sat down at the piano for the first time in months with nothing on my mind except enjoying coming back to it, and after having gotten over the fact that 6 months without playing have made me rustier than I’d want to admit, I know I’ll get back into my old piano routine in no time. I’m looking at the hundreds of themes I want to write for characters, societies, places, and objects and I’m filled with joy. At last!

For the rest of the year I want to do nothing but add more themes to the chapters, although the process from “idea” to “website” will take longer than it used to. Before it was a two step process: Writing the theme at the piano and rendering the audio file with Finale. The first one would take however long, from a hours to months. The second one would never take longer than a weekend. Now there is the new third step of adding a page to the book. And this is sadly a long step; definitely longer than the second, but it is what it is. So expect new themes coming to the website but beware it won’t be a torrent of new pieces. For now I want to keep adding characters of the great houses of Westeros, especially Targaryen, Greyjoy, Martell, Arryn, before I move on to secondary houses and so on so forth.

And all of this while I resume my studies as a visual artist, which I also put aside to complete the videos, but I haven’t given up on the idea of illustrating the videos with drawings and paintings of my own. But more on that another day. I hope to see you in next month’s diary!

Maester Ludwig

April 2022 – The People’s Book

Hello and welcome to April’s diary entry! This month I switched jobs so I had a bit less time and bit more stress than usual so I was a bit slow in finishing the pages for the characters’ chapter of the book.

In any case, and just as it was the case with the cultures video, the characters video will compile all the music into one single video with timestamps to move around.

    • House Targaryen (00:39)
      • Aegon Targaryen (00:54)
      • Daenerys Targaryen (02:23)
    • House Stark (04:09)
      • Eddard Stark (04:27)
      • Robb Stark (06:19)
      • Sansa Stark (08:19)
      • Arya Stark (09:58)
      • Bran Stark (12:23)
      • Lyanna Stark (14:39)
      • Jon Snow (16:55)
    • House Lannister (20:17)
      • Tywin Lannister (20:36)
      • Joanna Lannister (21:48)
      • Cersei Lannister
      • Jaime Lannister
      • Tyrion Lannister
    • House Baratheon
      • Robert Baratheon
      • Renly Baratheon
      • Stannis Baratheon
      • Shireen Baratheon
    • House Tyrell
      • Loras Tyrell
      • Margaery Tyrell
    • House Tully
      • Catelyn Tully
    • House Martell
      • Elia Martell
      • Obery Martell
    • House Greyjoy
      • Balon Greyjoy

I hope you liked the video! See you next month!

Maester Ludwig

March 2022 – Fresh from the scribe

Spring is here and so is a new diary! This one will be as brief as it is massive: Long gone are the days of boring pages! Using a similar template to the one created for character themes I have reformatted the entire section dedicated to Cultures and Religions to create one continuous video.

In this 35 minute long video I have gotten as close as possible to my original vision for this project as possible, and while there is some polishing to be done here and there I am quite happy with the result. Also, there are some nice stamps on the video go move between the chapters:

00:45 The Crownlands
01:38 The Riverlands (Bear and the Maiden Fair)
04:59 The Northermen (2 folk pieces)
13:13 The Ironborn (Storm Song)
14:31 The Dornish (folkloric piece)
15:38 The Children (2 alleged folk pieces)
18:54 The Giants (The Last of the Giants)
22:45 The Others (Freefolk song about the Others)
23:48 The Valyrians24:04 Slaver’s Bay (2 court piecees)
27:09 The Qaathi27:18 The Dothraki (folkloric piece)
28:32 The Faith (Song of the Seven)

I really hope you enjoy it and to see you in the next diary!

Maester Ludwig

February 2022 – Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Welcome to a much, much anticipated updated of Music of Ice and Fire! After many months of hard work the time has finally come to see whether the wait has paid off and to celebrate this website’s second anniversary!

The ”Book” Look

Back in October I simply had had enough of the website not looking the way I had always wanted, so I took a break from not just playing music but also writing any music until I was satisfied. My vision had two very clear goals:

  • Goal #1: To display all the info one could ever want about the music without any compromises.
  • Goal #2: To do so in the visual style of old illuminated manuscripts that gave the reader/listener the impression of reading an old book.

After what seem like an eternity I have finally gotten to the point where there is no more improvements I can add to the template. Every single little feature I could think of has been carefully considered and implemented into the design. Here are some of my favorite elements:

  • A descriptive text breaking down the theme into little pieces that analyze the motivic content of the music.
  • A break down of every leitmotif that plays before the music, with an easy to follow color schemes and a sound cue that gives the listener and idea of what to look for when they listen to the theme.
  • Illustrations of instruments associated with each character in a painted-like style and animated diagrams of the instruments playing the music to help the listener understand how the theme works in terms of orchestration.
  • Thematic borders, corners, banners, initials and illustrations that change with (almost) every page turn, giving every house and region has its own style when it comes to the visual ornaments. From the more sober and dull style of the North to the ornate style of the Westerlands, every page sets the tone one would expect from a book produced in Westeros.

It might not seem like much but behind every idea there were hundreds of hours of work and lots of money spend finding the right resources. To give but one example of how much work went into every little detail lets consider the images used to decorate the borders and corners of the pages. Each illustration has been taken from copyright-free  libraries published by Dover Publications in many clip art books. The never ending process of finding the right books, buying them, extracting the images, editing them, labeling them and storing appropriately them took weeks! If that wasn’t enough I also needed to keep in mind that the images are available to use freely as long as no more than 10 images from one single library are used within the same work, so there was also the task of keeping track of the origin of every single image to make sure no copyright laws were broken… and that’s only to have something around the pages!

The video format

For the past two years the website has consisted of some  mixed in with some notation and audio tracks, but starting today the website is changing to a video only approach (although I will keep the playlist with all the music on the homepage and the library).

Each video will cover one house, so as time goes on the videos will get longer and longer, covering many characters and themes. Here is the video of House Stark, including Eddard, Lyanna, Jon, Robb, Sansa, Arya, and Bran.

As of today only the video for House Stark has been uploaded to the website but all other houses will get their pages updated to the new format in a matter of days. This is sadly because I was getting close to finishing every single video at once I came down with Covid last week and it left me unable to do any meaningful work at the computer.

So What Now?

Well, now I really should take some time off and rest for a bit, but the reality is that I’m itching to get my hands on the piano again and write new music! I feel that having completed this huge milestone I can finally focus my attention on writing some new music knowing that when it eventually makes it to the website it will look as good as it can.

So here’s to a very happy two-year anniversary of Music of Ice and Fire and many more to come!

Maester Ludwig

January 2022 – The Grind Continues

Welcome to this month’s diary entry, where I tell you all about what I wish I had ready for this month’s update but I actually don’t!

Now seriously, it’s been a crazy month trying to update all the music I had to the book format I showcased last month trying to meet my self-imposed deadline of end of January. Alas, as I said in December “I’m confident (but not absolutely certain) that most of the videos will bee uploaded before the end of January.” In deed, I have some of the videos ready but not all of them, and while I could upload the ones I have I’d rather just finish all of them together and upload them as one single batch.

The reason is that I am still making improvements with almost every single one I update. In every new theme I work on I find something new I can add in to the format to make it better and I end up going back to videos I had already finished and I add the new features. This takes extra time and energy so a week ago I decided that I should probably change strategies and just focus not on speed but on productivity.

With that said, I am even happier with the new format than I was with the one from December. I have added a whole new section where every leitmotif is presented in isolation from the rest of the music and with an audio cue to help the listener identify it. I have asked a few people what they though about it and the feedback was very positive, as they thought it gave them time to familiarize themselves with the leitmotifs and made it easier to follow along once the theme actually started. It does mean that the actual music doesn’t start until you have heard all the themes but for now it is a compromise I can live with. Plus, it solves the issue of how to show that a note is shared between two or more leitmotifs, which up until now I couldn’t figure out for the life of me. Now every single note is accounted for, which is a big deal for me as I spent ridiculous amounts of time making sure they all are there for a reason.

Other cool features are the highlighted staff names that help you know what is playing at the moment, compared to before when you had to be able to recognized that an accompaniment is repeating or stopping or that the main theme is repeating from the beginning. Also the instrument illustrations look more like actual illustrations after running them through several filters to make them less picture-like. Lastly I now have a wide assortment of decorative “banners” in case I need to fill out some empty space on a page.

The current state of the book format can be seen here in Jon Snow’s “The Snow Wolf “.

“That’s it?” I hear you saying… actually not, there is more! But the real cool new feature is one that I still tinker with everyday, so it’s not ready. I had the idea for it and the thought of not including it in the book format was unbearable so with the help of the Old Gods I hope to have it ready for next month’s update for Music of Ice and Fire’s second anniversary!

I hope to see you then!

Maester Ludwig

December 2021 – A New Look

Welcome to the last of this year’s updates! As I announced last month I started the process of creating a new format for the website where every single piece of music will get a video with a detailed breakdown of the music and a text description to better understand the reasoning behind it.

I really was hoping to have them all finished by now but there seemed to be a hiccup at every corner that needed to be ironed out and so the only video uploaded is Ned Stark’s theme. The good news is that with the format pretty much running smoothly I’m confident (but not absolutely certain) that most of the videos will bee uploaded before the end of January.

For now I leave you with the breakdown “The Quiet Wolf of the North” in video format to wet your appetite.

See you in 2022!

Maester Ludwig

November 2021 – Books and Maps

Welcome to November’s update which itself is an update of last month’s update (riveting, I know). Jokes aside, I had wanted to work on music for the past couple of months but the thought of finding a neat way of displaying the material is taking up all my energy. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at books and maps!

The Book

In last month’s update I showed a clip of an early-stage book presentation. As I explained then, I liked the idea so much that I started to think of migrating the entire website to that format using PowerPoint presentations but the idea died a quick death soon after. The idea of using the book-format presentation wasn’t dead, though. It just needed some rethinking.

Instead of uploading the PowerPoint presentation I came to the conclusion that videos where the way to go, trying to preserve as much of the experience at the expense of the freedom to explore the book non-linearly. The videos will be uploaded to the Music of Ice and Fire’s Youtube channel, which means that instead of uploading videos of single themes everything will be compiled by region, and these will get updated when enough there is enough new material to warrant it. The website will remain pretty much the same but with the addition of a book presentation in video format.

So what’s so great about this book-format if I don’t care about how cool it looks compared to a my dull white-background website? Well, there are countless videos of score analysis using the color-coding technique that I find really neat, and that had always been my goal: to present the music in real time with a break-down of each leitmotif as it comes and goes, revealing all the intricacies of the music, and the book presentation is the closest I have come to that. (But also, I like that it looks neat)

Here is the current state of the book:

“Music of Ice and Fire: Noble Houses of the North, by Maester Ludwig.”

All the text describing each theme and character in detail is still missing but it’s on my to do list for this coming holidays. The rest is pretty much there, though: A house list with a map, a genealogy tree of each house to find any character, a description of the character with all the themes of said character, and a detailed breakdown of each theme. The book is very easy to navigate, full of links to click and move around, to explore the music as one pleases. Perhaps in the future there will be a chance to have the presentation uploaded but for now the videos will have to do.

The Map

Of course, at the Winterfell library you can find not only books but also maps! I decided that the best way to show music from places wasn’t a book but a map so I took what I had learned about the book presentation make a presentation that uses a zoom-in/zoom-out system. There are some kinks that need straightening but I find it very enjoyable to zoom into a region of the map and listen to that music. In this video below you can hear the themes of The Wall and the Dornish desert.

That’s been all for this month. Now I’m looking at my list to-do list for this year and realize that there is a lot of stuff to do in only one month. So, I better get back to it. I hope to see you in the next diary entry to tell you all about it!

Maester Ludwig

October 2021 – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Welcome to this month’s update where I talk about webiste improvements and Shireen Baratheon’s new theme! For the past couple of weeks I have been embroiled in a fight against the software gods to come up with a nicer way of displaying content on the website. The results?

The Good

So for the longest time my idea of the website had always been an interactive book where the reader the reader can flip through pages and click on the music they want to hear, with animations, sound effects and overall a sense of discovery. This month I finally decided that I needed to get cracking on it and see how to possibly implement it on the website.

I rely on Excel and PowerPoint to keep all my work organized, so the obvious idea was to work on a PowerPoint presentation to embed on the website. I work for days on end to create the textures and sounds from scratch; figure out the best layout to present the information; polish the animations; and last but not least create a master template that is streamline and easy to create hundreds of new files.

Here is a quick render of some slides with placeholder text and images.

The Bad

Where to start? PowerPoint embedding is far from what I had hoped. The sound and animations where missing. The navigation was terrible and not as flexible as I wanted. The control over what to display and how almost non-existant …. After days of going back and forth I ended giving up the idea of embedding the slides on the website. The closest they will be for now to make it onto the website will be in video form… and I’m not even sure about that since the whole point of the experience is to be able to move back and forth the slides and click wherever you want to interact with the pages.

So this is a very disappointing entry for me to write. I spent a lot of time and effort working on something that will not make it to the website (at least for the time being). At least I can make use of the nice textures and upload the new versions of the Family Lineages, as the previous ones where, to put it mildly, not particularly easy on the eyes.

The Ugly

And with that smooth segue here is the theme for Shireen Baratheon, known for being not only ugly, but also living a gloomy and sad existence.

I wish there had been new material for this upload (believe me, I really do) but sometimes things don’t work out the way we want. Hopefully next month will see a great deal more of new music. See you then!

Maester Ludwig

September 2021 – The end of Summer

Hello and welcome to another diary entry! This month I had to clear my backlog of pending issues which I couldn’t postpone any longer so I had to put Music of Ice and Fire on the back burner for a few weeks. Therefore, nothing too fancy for this month’s update, just the inclusion of House Clegane to the roster of Westerosi Houses featuring Gregor Clegane’s leitmotif (fig. a).

fig. a – Gregor Clegane’s leitmotif

This is a theme I wrote almost a couple of years ago and that I hadn’t find the right opportunity to upload, so what better time than now? All the basic leitmotifs one would expect are there, such as death leitmotif and knighthood leitmotif, and even the Lannister one well hidden in the chord progression, as the house was founded with a strong connection to Tytos Lannister.

That went by quickly! I hope to see you for the next diary entry for a (hopefully) more substantial update. See you then!

Maester Ludwig

August 2021 – The Lion is Stag’s Clothing

Summer is in full swing and Maester’s Ludwig’s diary comes hot from the press! This month I’m finally uploading the Joffrey leitmotif I had intended for a couple of months back plus some of more Iron Throne music. Let’s dig in!

The Lion in Stag’s Clothing

To start with a bang, here is Joffrey’s leitmotif titled the Lion in Stag’s Clothing (fig. a).

Fig. a – Joffrey Baratheon’s leitmotif

Joffrey is one of the most hated characters in the series, and for good reason. He is everything a villain should be and then some, so why did I make triumphant music for his leitmotif? Well, context.

This is not a villain’s leitmotif, I agree. And that’s because Joffrey is not a villain here. This is the first instance of a leitmotif that grows in time and exposes Joffrey’s true nature. It is meant to depict Joffrey as the reader first meets him in A Game of Thrones, through the eyes of Jon, Tyrion, and especially Sansa. No one can deny that he is a prince and he look the part. The reader is completely unaware of his true nature and so all we go by is that he is Robert’s son (right?) and that one day he will be king of Westeros. His leitmotif shouldn’t be too different from Robert’s and also include the Lannister leitmotif as well. For now, only the ending of the leitmotif gives the listener a closer look into his real nature, with a final minor chord accompanied by the death leitmotif.

The Iron Throne

The leitmotifs for the Iron Throne have been introduced before, but seeing how now we have Joffrey’s and Daenerys’ leitmotifs uploaded we can look at other versions of the Iron Throne. It might be categorized as an object, but the Iron Throne is closer to a character of sorts in some aspects, as it reflects the nature of the ruler in power at any point in time. Joffrey’s Iron Throne (fig. b) reflects his short reign as a tyrannical figure.

Fig. a – The Iron Throne of Joffrey I Baratheon

Then we turn to Daenerys’ Iron Throne (fig. c), albeit the idea of her as a ruler of Westeros, as she has a claim to the throne but she hasn’t sat upon it. The similarities with Aegon’s original Iron Throne leitmotif are very clear, but her version seems to hint at the question of what ruler might she be if she attains the throne for herself. She might be less idealistic than she once was when her journey began years ago, and closer to the Fire & Blood ways of the Targaryen. Only time will tell.

Fig. a – The Iron Throne of Daenerys Targaryen

That’s been all for this month. I hope to see you in the next diary!

Maester Ludwig