September 2022 – The Khal

Welcome to this month’s diary entry where we’ll have a look at Khal Drogo’s theme and how it differs from our Westerosi themes.

The Dothraki

In the Societies page there is an entry dedicated to the Dothraki culture where we breakdown the basics of their music. There we saw how the Dothraki music is very percussion driven but there wasn’t much in the melodic department except for the statement that all their melodies are based on the pentatonic modes.

Expanding on that concept we have the same 5/4 rhythm we already heard played by three instruments of Middle Eastern origin: The Tombak, The Daf, and the Riq.

  • The Riq is a tambourine of Egyptian origin large zills that allow for very finger playing on them.
  • The Tombak is a type of goblet drum of Persian origin capable of an astounding range of sounds and effects only surpassed, in my opinion, by the Indian Tabla.
  • The Daf is a type of frame drum, also of Persian origin, with hundreds of little metal rings attached to the frame giving it a very characteristic sound.

The three instruments combined can create a diverse yet cohesive ensemble where the different ranges of the instruments complement each other rather nicely; with the daf providing a solid bass texture, the riq adding a rich high end to the mix, while the Tombak brings it all together.

What’s a new addition to the mix is the Mongolian horse-fiddle, or Morink Khuur. This cello-like instrument made of horse hair and played by Mongolian horsemen for millennia was bound to make its way to the Dothraki theme somehow.

The Khal

The music for Khal Drogo features a full string section playing ponticello, a technique that creates a harsher sound than what we are used, accompanied by the percussive ensemble of Riq, Tombak, and Daf. The minor pentatonic scale plays in the key of F♯, a key never used in any other theme and reserved exclusively for the Dothraki and Lhazareen.

That was all for this month. I hope to see you in the next one!

Maester Ludwig

August 2022 – Summer Break

Welcome to a most delayed (and perhaps a bit procrastinated) diary entry! This past month I took a very long and nice break from work, which is great, but I also happened to be very far from home and my piano. Since there was little I could do music-wise I decided to work on a project not related to A Song of Ice and Fire (which is very odd for me). I spent a few weeks working on a board game idea I had a couple of years ago and I’m incredibly pleased with it; now I just need to play it!

Coming back home last week I still had another week off before going back to work so I dusted off another idea I had but this time ASOIAF related: after having finished the current intro with the book and the table I thought it would be great to have the camera pull back and show the surroundings as we flip through the pages, but it shelved the idea for the time being… until now!

Transitions

The book now has transitions between regions where we can see a panoramic view of the area and hear the atmosphere around us. It doesn’t sound like much but it helps a lot to give the whole thing some depth. I hope you like it! And now back to writing new music; see you in the next diary entry!

Maester Ludwig

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,
Yo-Ho-Ho HO! HO! HO! HO! HO! HO! HO! HO! YO-HO-HO-HO

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

June 2022 – All the Great Houses

Hello and welcome to Maester Ludwig’s diary entry for June! This one is long overdue (and a couple of days later than I wanted) but after a long drought of new music the time has finally come to have all the Great Houses all Westeros represented in the book.

House Arryn

The leitmotif for House Arryn was written years ago but sometimes it’s better to let things simmer for a while and come back to them and see how you feel about them.

Years might sound like a lot but it wasn’t until I wrote (and rewrote) Jon Arryn’s theme that I found the leitmotif to work well.

And here is the updated video with the breakdown of the theme.

I’ hope you join me again next month when I’ll have more themes from Great Houses of Westeros!

Maester Ludwig

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
      • Aegon Targaryen
      • Daenerys Targaryen
    • House Stark (04:09)
      • Eddard Stark
      • Robb Stark
      • Sansa Stark
      • Arya Stark
      • Bran Stark
      • Lyanna Stark
      • Jon Snow
    • House Lannister
      • Tywin Lannister
      • Joanna Lannister
      • 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).

As of today only 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