Why Are Some People Upset About This 'Westworld' Scoring Contest?

Credit: HBO/Spitfire
The winner of this film scoring competition might surprise you.

On June 27, Westworld fans and film score enthusiasts alike waited eagerly to learn the results of Spitfire Audio's Westworld Scoring Competition. According to Spitfire, the competition drew over ten thousand entries from both aspiring and experienced composers.

The entrants were asked to take an action sequence from season three of Westworld and compose music for it. According to the announcement video from Spitfire co-founder Paul Thomson, they wanted compositions to enhance the viewing experience, be creative and unexpected, and help tell the story on the screen.

From the thousands of entries, just five runners-up and one grand-prize winner were chosen.

The first-place winner was announced as David Kudell from Rimrock Creative Media. Kudell is a sound editor, director, and producer who has worked on films like Mission: Impossible III  and Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

And... well, the music Kudell composed for the scene might not be what you expect. Listen to the winning composition in the video below.

Responses to the winning entry have been mixed. For instance, on Twitter, game composer Austin Wintory called Kudell's work "out-of-the-box" and a "bold move." But many other composers who entered the competition commented that they were confused about how the winning score met the brief. 

Spitfire co-founder Christian Henson (who was not involved in the competition) released a video statement about the backlash. "The proof is in the pudding," Henson says in his video. "Someone dared to be different, and they emerged victorious." Henson also praises Kudell's "reckless artistry" and says this kind of brave creativity is what pushes industries forward.

Indeed, it is almost always a risk to do something like Kudell did, and the execution of something so different has to be nearly perfect to work. The entry was certainly effective at standing out and surprising the judges enough to catapult it to a win.

Kudell said via Twitter that this was actually the first time he has ever shared his music. 

If anything, this should be an encouragement to jump into new creative endeavors while also embracing your unique point of view. It might be just what someone in the audience wants.

Competition judges included Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, executive producer J.J. Abrams, and members of the Spitfire Audio team. Watch Spitfire's full announcement video below.

What do you think of the winning composition? Let us know in the comments. 

What's next? Check on more on film scores

Check out a beginner's guide to scoring films. Here's some advice from composer Hans Zimmer, who says you don't need formal training or experience. And take a look at all these free post-production assets (including music) for your next project.     

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Your Comment


Yeah no this is awesome and definitely deserves to win.

June 29, 2020 at 12:31PM


The version I saw for that scene was so stupid, it ruined the whole scene... Complete garbage, but then I dont know what I was expecting from people who put penises in my face every week...

June 29, 2020 at 5:07PM


Have to say, I agree with you.

June 30, 2020 at 5:29AM


This is the best one I saw https://youtu.be/8Dj14v39lVY

June 29, 2020 at 5:11PM


That is very very good, I’ve also found others Ipersonally liked much more than the winner or the finalists.

June 30, 2020 at 5:32AM, Edited June 30, 5:45AM


Does someone know where to find the official statement from any of the show’s producers, director or the composer’s? They are mentioned a lot and everyone seems to be taken for granted that they did in fact judge this competition but I can’t find any statements from a single one of them anywhere. I think competitors are not as upset about the winner as they are upset about the lack of transparency of this competition. It ended up looking like a cheap publicity stunt from spitfire to get more customers, with the favor of HBO and the show’s creators, producers, director and composer.

June 30, 2020 at 5:44AM


I worked on film and commercials for over ten years and was often looking for 'juxtaposition genius' ideas etc. A Viennese waltz in 2001 when the percieved logic might have been computer blips, or the fantastic score for the Spahetti Westerns when Sergio Leone fell about laughing at Morricones humorous take on the rushes. Those are works of genius and totally involve the viewer in the film either as beauty or character development. The runners up were very obvious and same old, same old, but they worked in terms of the film movement etc. The winner did exactly what film music should NOT do and drew attention to itself to the detriment of the action. Very poor decision, but judging by the runners up the judges didn't have much to choose from for originality.

June 30, 2020 at 9:38AM


Gotta be honest, I don’t like that score at all. I’m all for thinking outside the box, but the video game sound effects seemed like a random choice without a strong justification. It completely zaps any tension in what was clearly intended to be an exciting action scene.

June 30, 2020 at 10:03AM


The winner of this film scoring competition might surprise you.

July 1, 2020 at 12:52AM

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I thought it was fantastic. I don't know Westworld, but I read the brief, and it hit the mark. There were lots of complaints from people saying that it didn't fit in with the Westworld sound / other episodes. They may well be right, but that wasn't what people were asked to do.

David added humour to the piece in a perfect manner. The way the orchestral instruments build up under the Mario-esque riff and carry it on melded it together so well.

I also love that this piece has upset so many people by winning. Hans Zimmer wrote about this highlighting that he would *never* work with the people who were throwing their toys out of the pram. He's right. If you can't embrace inventiveness, originality and thinking out of the box, then you're unlikely to make music worth listening to.

July 21, 2020 at 9:23AM, Edited July 21, 9:23AM

Grant Robson