Interview: “Winters Past” – an arrangement of music from the “Game of Thrones” for Chinese orchestra

Amy Leung, Toronto Chinese Orchestra (TCO) zhonghu player and assistant librarian, catches up with Tony K.T. Leung, TCO Composer-in-Residence and arranger of “Winters Past”.

Amy: How did you arrive at arranging this music?

Tony: The title of Toronto Chinese Orchestra POPS concert on November 25, 2017 is “Winter is Coming”. It has 2 meanings – the concert being in November, is right before winter; and the phrase is a motto from the show.

A: Are you a fan of “Game of Thrones”?

T: I have not watched it. Due to the popularity of the show and the music, I have heard the phrase “Winter is Coming”, so I asked TCO Conductor Matthew Poon if it was a reference to “Game of Thrones”. Indeed it was, so I proposed to arrange a piece using material from the multiple seasons.

A: Why did you call it “Winters Past”?

T: The show has many references to “Winter” – Winterfell, Winter is Here, Winter has Come, Winds of Winter, etc. So I went along with that.

A: How did you familiarize yourself with the show’s original music by Ramin Djawadi?

T: I immersed myself with the 21 tracks from the “Game of Thrones Symphony”, recorded by City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, I listened to other arrangements.

A: How did you choose the materials to use for Chinese orchestra?

T: The composer has a set of distinctive and flexible motifs that he uses throughout. Our Chinese orchestra does not have the thick sound of symphony orchestra as heard on the original soundtrack. So, my arrangement will not be a literal transcription. From the reference recordings, some motifs and gestures stood out. Here is where I get to have some fun creating a plausible composition from fragments familiar to the fans of the show.

A: What are the references from the original music?

T: Light of the Seven, Winter Has Come, Hear Me Roar, Two Swords, A Lannister Always Pays His Debts, Dance of Dragons, Winds of Winter, Khaleesi, and the main theme of course.

A: How long is the piece?

T: It is 8 minutes

A: What instruments are used in the arrangement?

T: dizi, sheng, clarinet, bass clarinet, yangqin, pipa, zhongruan, daruan, zheng, percussion, erhu, zhonghu, cello, double bass

A: Thanks. I look forward to performing it.

“Winters Past” will be conducted by Tony K.T. Leung on Saturday, November 25, 2017, as part of Toronto Chinese Orchestra POPS Concert “Winter is Coming”.