What Are Your All-Time Favorite Theme Songs?

There’s something wonderful and maybe even a little mystifying about a really good theme song. A few familiar notes can serve as a cue to sit back, break from ordinary life, and enter new worlds and realities through the stories that splash across our screens.

An iconic theme may even become a sort of character itself — bearing a personality of its own and possibly even evolving over time.

For composers, writing theme music can be one of the most rewarding — and fun — challenges in one’s career. So for Episode 58 of our podcast, Themes and Variation, Carter and I sat down with LA-based film, TV, and media composer, Tangelene Bolton to chat about some of our all-time favorite “Theme Songs.”

The episode centers around musical pieces that serve as themes for the shows What We Do In the Shadows, Westworld, and Doctor Who. The selections that feature in the discussion were created by innovators Norma Tenega, Ramin Djawadi, Ron Grainer, and Delia Derbyshire.

Listen to Episode 58 of Themes and Variation in its entirety below and be sure to check out Tangelene’s work on the soundtrack for season 2 of the Netflix series, Warrior Nun.

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Episode 58 Highlights

1. Carter tells us a little about Norma Tenega and 1960s folk music.

Carter: “Norma is such a fascinating figure. She was like a classically trained pianist, ended up in the Greenwich Village, 1960s, Bob Dylan era. That era of music and poetry, everything that was going on, the ‘beatnik’ era… folk music from that time is so complex. The form gets written to the vocal and the melody and what you end up with so many times and so often is really interesting forms.”

2. Tangelene discusses her appreciation for the writing of Ramin Djawadi.

Tangelene: “I think that’s what I like a lot about Ramin is you can hear his sound through his different shows. And I think that comes a lot with the melody writing too, because both of those shows are different styles, you know? Game of Thrones has different elements, same with Westworld, but you can still tell that it’s him.”

3. Mahea makes a general observation that should have been obvious all along.

Mahea: “The thing that keeps coming up with all these selections is: Everything about the songs and even the lore surrounding them seems to fit the theme(s) of the actual show(s). I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting that, but I wasn’t.”

Join the Conversation

One of our favorite things about our podcast is the fact that the conversation around each theme is so much bigger than the episode itself. We’d love to hear which songs you would have chosen for this episode! Share them with us on Twitter or, if you’re a Soundfly subscriber, in the #podcast channel on Discord.

Plus, with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more. Here’s this episode’s Spotify playlist!


We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

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