During the shoot ’em up climax of the first episode of HBO’s new sci-fi series Westworld (my review here), I found myself bobbing to the scene and realized there was something familiar about the classical music it was scored to. I turned to my friend a bit incredulously and said, “Is that ‘Paint It Black?'”
If I’d noticed the piano rendition of ‘Black Hole Sun’ earlier, I wouldn’t have been so surprised but Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi, speaking with Vulture, said the melding of past and future in the fictional theme park is entirely intentional, with songs from the likes of Soundgarden, Radiohead and of course the Rolling Stones getting orchestral covers.
“The show has an anachronistic feel to it. It’s a Western theme park, and yet it has robots in it, so why not have modern songs? And that’s a metaphor in itself, wrapped up in the overall theme of the show . . . It’s like Groundhog Day. You get the great shot of the player spinning up, and then the shot of Teddy in the train starting up again, and you get the theme each time he walks into the saloon.”
The narrative purpose of the songs is meant to subtly remind audience of the artificiality inherent in Westworld. Djawadi commented on the use of songs in the pilot and the remaining nine episodes of the season, which are still finishing post-production.
“What’s so great about using these pieces instead of the score is that they are known melodies, which enhances the idea that this is all scripted. ‘Paint It Black’ happens during a really big action scene, and it has all these great ups and downs — the shooting, the talking — and so I bring it down and then back up a bit, which was a lot of fun to arrange for the orchestra . . . Right now, some of the episodes are blurring into each other! I’m still tweaking them.”
Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.