I was recently given the opportunity to listen to the soundtrack for the VR game Moss: Book II that was released earlier this summer. Unfortunately, I was stricken with COVID shortly afterward so that’s why the review is only coming out now.
Moss: Book II was released for Meta Quest II on July 21, 2022. The game is a sequel to the first Moss game, released in 2018. In this game, as in the original, the player controls the Reader and a mouse named Quill who must go on an adventure to save the land.
The soundtrack of this game was composed by Jason Graves and consists of 17 tracks.
“The original Moss holds a very special place in my heart and Moss: Book II is an extremely personal score,” said Jason Graves. “Adding new instruments to the ensemble, I put together a small ‘pub band’ of soloists to underscore Quill’s heroism and heartbreak, and even acquired a beautiful baby grand piano that acts as the heart and soul of the score, performing most cues live on the piano, then adding other instruments to flesh out the themes. I hope this soundtrack takes players back to the magical world of Moss with every listening.”
I haven’t been familiar with either Moss game until now, but I found the soundtrack positively enchanting to listen to. Despite knowing nothing about the game and its story, the music immediately lets me know that this is a magical story I’m experiencing. Jason Graves makes full use of the instruments he’s working with to create an immersive musical experience that wouldn’t be out of place in an open world game. The fact that all of this is for a VR game just shows how far that genre has come.
One detail I absolutely love about the soundtrack for Moss: Book II is how it is centered around the piano. That’s not a sound you frequently hear in the middle of a video game score, compared to how often you hear a symphonic orchestra or electronic music. Being centered around the piano as the music is, it gives the soundtrack a much more intimate sound, fitting since the main character is a mouse.
There’s also an impressively wide range of emotions evoked by this music. While a lot of the music evokes a sense of fantasy and magic, Graves can also swing the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum and create a sense of evil and darkness, all with the same instruments. A brief example of this can be heard in “Torched Wings.”
Moss: Book II has some absolutely lovely music in its soundtrack and I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance. Even if you can’t play the game itself, the soundtrack is a beautiful musical experience that everyone should hear at least once.
We Remember You
By My Side
When One Door Shuts
The King’s Glass
To Raise an Army
The Starthing’s Way
From the Ashes
Not Welcome Here
The Winter Glass
I hope you get the chance to check out the music for Moss: Book II.
Sony Music Masterworks today releases the lead single from HOA (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK) with music by composer Johnannes Johansson– listen to “Waltz” here. Johannes Johansson is a Swedish composer and pianist. He is best known for his YouTube channel Akmigone where he posts original music, piano arrangements, as well as other creative piano-related content.
Available in full Friday, July 15 and to preorder now, the album features music composed by Johansson for the breathtaking new puzzle-platforming game from PM Studios. Johansson was assisted by an audio team consisting of orchestrator and sound design Lauri Koivisto, who led the soundtrack’s live recording sessions, and sound engineer Simon Evig, whose mixing, editing and recording expertise brought the music of Hoa together. The resulting 17-track collection matches the peaceful, relaxing atmosphere of the game with captivating story-telling and a touch of nostalgia. Hoa is available to play now on PC, Mac and consoles.
Hoa is a beautiful puzzle-platforming game that features breathtaking hand-painted art, lovely music, and a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. Experience the magic of nature and imagination as you play the main character, Hoa, on her journey through breathtaking environments back to where it all began.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with composer Jason Graves about his work on The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes, the third game in The Dark Pictures anthology (the previous entries are Little Hope and Man of Medan). His works include (but are far from limited to): Dead Space, Alpha Protocol, Tomb Raider, The Order: 1886, Until Dawn, Evolve, Dungeon Siege and Far Cry Primal.
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes was released in October 2021 and sees five characters having to make their way out of a subterranean Akkadian temple crawling with vampiric entities.
Enjoy our conversation about House of Ashes below!
As you composed the other games in The Dark Pictures Anthology, how does House of Ashes compare to its predecessors? What served as your inspiration as you created the music for House of Ashes?
Each game in The Dark Pictures Anthology has its own stand-alone story and characters. House of Ashes takes place in a few different time periods in Iraq. I’m a big fan of the game and its music being as closely linked as possible, so the score for House of Ashes is very “desert-y,” for lack of a better word. I tried to keep things as simple as possible and strip everything back in terms of instrumentation for the different time periods. So things would feel a lot more pure and classic in the Mesopotamian time period and more filled out and complicated for the current 1990s.
I’m really curious about the Akkadian Temple the characters find themselves in. How did you create music to reflect the atmosphere of the temple ruins? How did you come up with the sound for that environment, in other words?
That was actually the base for the entire score – it’s where everything started and how I tied the entire score together. I literally began with the Prologue – the very first scene in the game. I had an idea to use these bending string sounds, like classical strings but moving around a lot more. I own a bunch of string instruments – violins, viola, a cello and a contrabass. So I tried some experiments recording myself playing all the string instruments multiple times, as if I were moving from seat to seat in a classical string section. Only I was playing every part so many different times it would take 20-25 takes of multiple “me’s” to complete a short phrase on all the instruments.
How much access did you have to early builds of the game as you created the music? I know other video game composers I’ve talked to have mentioned playing through early builds of the game and I was wondering if you did anything similar. Were you given any specific directions for what the game’s music needed to sound like?
I worked very closely with Supermassive Games Audio Director Barney Pratt throughout the entire process. We’ve been working together for more than 10 years now. There’s a lot of conversation that happens before anything is actually written and Barney shares everything that Supermassive works on, whether it’s just prototype animation, scripts, storyboards or initial ideas.
I don’t technically play through the game for The Dark Pictures – honestly it’s more because of all the different story and character branches that these games have. It would be a full time job just playing through them! I prefer to have gameplay captures that I loop in the background as I compose. It gives me the best of both worlds – I can hear how the music is working against a specific scene as I compose and also turn the gameplay off if I want to be more thematically focused and concentrate on just the music.
What kinds of instruments are included in the mix for House of Ashes? Any notable or unusual instruments? Did the pandemic affect the recording process at all?
Most of the score is live and I performed all the instruments myself. There’s a lot of string-based writing in this score that simply couldn’t have been properly reproduced with MIDI. Barney and I floated options of recording professional musicians but honestly, a large part of this score was based around experiments I made while recording myself (x24) and trying different things.
The score definitely would have had a completely different sound if I were to approach “just another live string recording.” Part of that was a result of the pandemic – there simply weren’t musicians or recording studios available at the time. But I would like to think we would have opted for the same option we chose, regardless of the pandemic, just because it felt like that was the direction the score needed to go in.
How much time did you have to score the game? How did composing for House of Ashes compare to other projects you’ve worked on?
It was actually a fairly compressed schedule, for video games, at least. If memory serves, there were about 2 months to compose the entire score. But it was definitely one of the more challenging scores I’ve worked on, mostly because it was essentially three different scores in one, all broken up evenly into thirds.
As soon as I had finished the Prologue, which was the more ancient, Mesopotamia-era version, all with its own very specific instruments and sounds, it was time to write the music for the 1990’s-era Iraq, which was a completely different set of instruments and sounds. And as soon as that was completed, it was another completely different direction for the music (story/plot spoilers aside). The final third of the score needed to sound different and unique yet somehow related to the music that preceded it.
Usually I can “hit my stride” about halfway through the production of a score, when the unique combination of sounds and textures have solidified and I find my musical footing. Everything comes much easier then – all the creative hard work has been completed! But House of Ashes was a bit of a different beast. As soon as I started getting comfortable it was time to change everything up and rewrite the script. But, honestly, I think that kind of push is the very reason the score sounds the way it does.
I wanted to give a big thank you to Jason Graves for taking the time to speak with me about The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. I hope you enjoyed the interview!
The original soundtrack for Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is now available on all major streaming platforms. Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is the third expansion for the award-winning and critically acclaimed MMORPG Guild Wars 2 and is the culmination of the Elder Dragon Saga. The music for this expansion was composed by Maclaine Diemer, Michael Choi, Sojin Ryu, Andi Roselund, Bryan Atkinson, and Lena Raine, with an additional track from Joyce Kwon.
The soundtrack includes 58 tracks, which perfectly captures the mood of the thrilling battles, intrigue, and exploration throughout the mysterious continent of Cantha.
“For Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, we wanted the music to sound like nothing players have heard in the game so far,” stated Diemer. “There is the familiar grand and beautiful orchestra, some otherworldly acoustic and synthetic textures, and at the heart of it all is a strong influence from traditional Korean music. It’s been a profound journey for me to open myself to this beautiful music and culture, and I am ecstatic to share that joy with the world.”
The soundtrack for Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons can be accessed on any major streaming platform now.
Sony Music Masterworks has released the first volume of music from Horizon Forbidden West, the recently released PlayStation® game and highly-anticipated sequel to 2017’s PS4™ release Horizon Zero Dawn. Available everywhere now, the album includes music by a team of composers consisting of JORIS DE MAN, THE FLIGHT, OLEKSALOZOWCHUK and NIELS VAN DER LEEST. The first of an eventual three-part album release with more than 5 hours of music from the game, today’s release reunites the original team of composers and musicians from Horizon Zero Dawn who developed the tribal soundscape of the game’s post-apocalyptic setting.
Today’s album is the first of new music from the game and will be followed by two additional album releases next month. The second album in the three-part collection, Horizon Forbidden West (Original Soundtrack – Volume 1 & 2), will be released in full Friday, March 11. The third and final soundtrack, Horizon Forbidden West (Original Soundtrack – Complete Collection) arrives Friday, March 25 and will include over 5 hours of music from the game.
ABOUT HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST
The land is dying. Vicious storms and an unstoppable blight ravage the scattered remnants of humanity, while fearsome new machines prowl their borders. Life on Earth is hurtling towards another extinction, and no one knows why. It’s up to Aloy to uncover the secrets behind these threats and restore order and balance to the world. Along the way, she must reunite with old friends, forge alliances with warring new factions and unravel the legacy of the ancient past – all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a seemingly undefeatable new enemy. Explore distant lands, fight bigger and more awe-inspiring machines, and encounter astonishing new tribes as you return to the far-future, post-apocalyptic world of Horizon.
HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK – VOLUME 1)
Whatever Comes (feat. Julie Elven and Melissa R. Kaplan)
Aloy’s Theme – Forbidden West (feat. Julie Elven)
In the Flood (feat. Ariana Gillis)
The World on Her Shoulders (feat. Julie Elven)
Echo of You (feat. Melissa R. Kaplan)
Mother of All (feat. Julie Elven)
Shelter from the Storm
Built to Kill
Guardian of the Deep (feat. Julie Elven)
No Footfalls to Follow
Look Deeper (feat. Julie Elven and Melissa R. Kaplan)
Trinity (feat. Julie Elven and Melissa R. Kaplan)
As Certain as Stone (feat. Julie Elven and Melissa R. Kaplan)
These Stones Unturned
The Wings of the Ten (feat. Julie Elven)
This Place, This Moment (feat. Julie Elven)
Resilience to Rise (feat. Julie Elven and Melissa R. Kaplan)
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak with composer Peter McConnell about his work on the video game Psychonauts 2, which released earlier this year. In this game, the player controls Raz, a newly graduated Psychonaut with powerful psychic abilities, as he delves into the minds of others. Psychonauts 2 is set in a fictional, alternate world in which psychic powers exist thanks to the fictional element Psitanium – a substance brought to the planet by several meteors. The Psychonauts are an international espionage agency focused on psychic peacekeeping, scientific research of the human mind, and the development of psychic-based technologies.
Peter McConnell has composed award-winning scores for a diverse range of video games including Broken Age, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Plants vs. Zombies: GardenWarfare, the Sly Cooper series, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Psychonauts, Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango.
Peter studied music at Harvard with electronic composer Ivan Tcherepnin, graduating with High Honors. He has been nominated for over twenty-five Game Audio Network Guild Awards and won four, including Best Interactive Score and Best Soundtrack.
I hope you enjoy our conversation about Psychonauts 2!
How did you get started as a composer?
The short answer is that I came out to California from Boston a few years after college having made a plan with my friends Michael Land and Clint Bajakian to start a band. By the time I got out here the band kind of fell through, but Michael had gotten a job starting the audio department at LucasArts, and he needed help. But there was some history behind that. I had loved music before I could even talk, taken violin lessons as a youth, taught myself to play banjo and guitar, and in college had an epiphany in electronics class which resulted ending my studies in physics, leaving for a year and a half and returning to graduate in music. So it was less a matter of “getting started” as a composer, and more a matter of continuing a long journey.
Were you excited to return for Psychonauts 2 so many years after scoring the original Psychonauts game? 16 years is a pretty long time to go between installments, was it difficult to get back into the story after so long?
Absolutely. And honestly, it wasn’t really a matter of “going back” to the score, since in a sense I never really left the score to begin with. Those themes were always percolating around in my head. I probably spent a total of 15 minutes listening to the original Psychonauts tracks before getting started. The music was already there. I find that is generally true with me, although it was especially true of Psychonauts, since it was my first gig as an independent composer after leaving LucasArts in 2000.
Were you brought in to do the music early in the development process or late? And when you were brought in, was there a lot of collaboration/discussion with the game’s directors on where they wanted the sound/music of this game to go?
I was brought in fairly early. I was on the project for over 4 years, and I think they had done about 9 months of work on it when I started.
How much of the music for Psychonauts 2 is built off the score for the original Psychonauts? Or was it decided to go in a wholly different direction for this sequel?
I would say that the score for Psychonauts 2, like the game itself, is both a continuation and an expansion. As a composer I focus on melody, so the themes in the score are all-important. For this reason the characters that had been in Psychonauts 1 kept their original themes, but there were so many new characters! Each one got a new theme. Even the Main Title theme got a new “bridge” section, based on a significant new character in the game. And the music styles were expanded significantly. We could only afford a few live musicians in the original Psychnonauts, whereas in Psychonauts 2 we had The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a live big band, a rhythm section from Nashville, and of course the rock and roll band featuring the voice of the amazing Jack Black.
What was the general process for creating the sounds and and music for each level of the game?
Each level is about a particular character and each character had a theme. Early on we went through a phase of just focusing on themes in the simplest form: simple piano sketches that, once approved, could be orchestrated into full pieces.
Following up to the last question, what inspired the overall sound world of Psychonauts 2? What groups of instruments did you decide to go with?
The characters inspired the instrumentation. For example, Hollis has an issue with gambling and her level is all about that. So the classic big band sound of Sinatra’s recordings with Nelson Riddle’s band had to figure into that world. Similarly, the Psy King’s level was all about psychedelic music from the ‘60s. It was the same way for all the characters, and each one pretty much called to me with a sound.
How much time did you have to score Psychonauts 2?
The score was done over 4 years, but in a project this size you don’t typically work all the time straight through from beginning to end. It’s safe to say that the entire score probably represents a couple thousand hours of work.
Were any of the game levels more difficult to score than others? For example, did you come to a certain point in the game and feel stumped as to where it was going to go musically? If so, how did you get around it?
There are often moments I run into with individual pieces, but nothing really sticks out. I think it’s safe to say there weren’t any real instances of writer’s block, or being stumped. I find if I do run into a problem, the best thing to do is listen carefully. Sometimes over and over. What comes next usually reveals itself.
Do you have a favorite musical theme/musical moment in the game?
My favorite two are probably the Lady Luctopus Boss and the Psy King music. The Lady Luctopus allowed me to combine the Melbourne Symphony, drums and bass from Nashville, and my friend Andrew Burton’s amazing Hammond organ playing in one piece. And the Psy King music allowed me to have a band reunion with Michael Land and Clint Bajakian—going back to all of our roots—and to create a piece with Tim Schafer for Jack Black to sing.
Is there any musical detail you hope players notice as they work their way through the game?
That’s a great question. There are many details I hope people will notice. For example, a careful listener may note that part of the clarinet melody in the Questionable Area and the Aquato Family Caravan music both come from a tiny little melodic fragment in a dream Raz has about his family in the original Psychonauts.
I hope you enjoyed our conversation about Psychonauts 2 and I want to say thank you to Peter McConnell for taking the time to speak with me.
Just recently I had the chance to speak with composer Tom Salta about his work on the hit video game Deathloop. Salta is an award-winning composer, who writes music for film and television as well as video games. Aside from Deathloop, his past work in video games includes work on Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the HALO games, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, just to name a few.
For Deathloop, Tom Salta had to create music for a world where the player controls Colt, an assassin tasked with killing a series of targets before a time loop activates at midnight, undoing any progress made. With that premise in mind, I was very excited to speak with Tom Salta about his work on this game.
I hope you enjoy our conversation about Deathloop!
How didyou get started as a composer?
Now that’s a loaded question! [laughs] Back in 1990 when I started on my professional path, I never imagined getting into composing, no less composing for video games. I started in the music industry fully intent on becoming a famous record producer. My first shot in the big leagues was going on tour with Bobby Brown as keyboard tech and sound designer. After touring for several years, I spent the ‘90s working in the studio on almost every kind of music you could imagine for a variety of both up and coming and major artists. In 2001, there was a paradigm shift in the music industry and in the world. High speed internet became widely available and music piracy took over. No one was buying music anymore. Mainstream artists were becoming “manufactured” by huge labels and I felt creatively restricted in the area of pop music. All my dreams and aspirations of becoming a record producer started to crumble.
At the same time, the original Xbox was released and a game called ‘Halo’ redefined the first-person shooter. I was also an avid gamer since the ‘70s but it wasn’t until 2001 that the music in games started to resonate with me. And then one day, a day that I still vividly remember, I had an epiphany… “That’s it! Video game music! It combines the two things I love the most… music and games! But where do I start?”
It was a difficult transition… Imagine throwing away fifteen years of experience in music and starting over in a new industry entirely with absolutely no connections. Scary to say the least. After a lot of dead ends, I got the crazy idea that my best chance of being noticed was to go through music licensing channels, rather than trying to start as a composer. So, I created a new moniker for my artist persona, “Atlas Plug” (Atlas is Salta backwards) and created an entire album on my own of big beat electronica that would be perfectly suited for licensing in games, television and film. I connected with a publisher who represented the album and before I even finished, Microsoft heard it and wanted to license four songs in a new game called Rallisport Challenge 2. And that is where it really all started. That year, my debut album “2 Days or Die” took the industry by storm with every track being licensed in games, television, and film.
At the same time, I signed with an agent and began getting opportunities to pitch myself as a composer in games. My first original score was a PC adventure game called “Still Life”. Shortly after that, I established myself as a composer when I was hired to score major titles like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Need For Speed Underground 2.
How did you get involved with Deathloop and what did you think about the game’s time loop premise?
I was approached to work on Deathloop by the audio director that I had just finished working with on Wolfenstein Cyberpilot. When I heard about the unusual time loop mechanism and even more unusual music style, I was definitely intrigued.
How involved were the game’s directors/producers in collaborating with you on the game’s soundtrack? Were you given a lot of direction or was a lot of it left up to you?
I would say it was a healthy combination of both. Initially I was provided with a very comprehensive 50-page brief that described everything about the game. The audio director was also very specific about the late ‘60s aesthetic he was going for, although he knew that we were entering into uncharted territory with some of it.
I’m a big fan of collaborations so we had many emails back and forth and I did lots of my own research and explorations into potential musical approaches. After several weeks of experimentation, the signature sound of the score began to emerge. I’ve read that this game was inspired by the Swinging Sixties, how did that inspiration play into the game’s soundtrack?
Deathloop has a wide array of inspirations, including, but not limited to, the swinging sixties. The music of one of the fictional targets (visionaries), Charlie Montague, was definitely inspired by the swinging sixties and in particular, the superhero cartoon music back then, especially the original Batman series that I used to watch after school as a kid. That was a lot of fun to create.
On a related note, with the 60’s pop art style engulfing the game world, how much of the music was Inspired by films like James Bond.
The late ‘60s James Bond music was definitely an ingredient in the overall recipe of the score’s style, especially in key areas where I had to bring out the ‘secret military base’ vibe. The sixties were a very colorful time and so I had a lot of fun channeling that period in a myriad of ways.
What type of instruments are used in this score, I wasn’t expecting a game called Deathloop to sound like this but I absolutely love it. Also, do I hear a theremin in the mix?
[laughs] Yes, you certainly do. You can’t do ‘60s sci-fi and not use a theremin, right? [laughs] The approach I took for creating the palette for this score was imagining that I found a room of musical instruments that was locked up for fifty years. Then I would take those instruments and create a ‘60s inspired score through my own modern lens.
You’ll hear instruments such as Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, Farfisa, Clavinet, Mellotron, Electric Harpsichord, Marimba, Vibes, Orchestra, Guitars, Bass, Drums and lots of other sixties inspired ear candy.
Inoticed that there is a separate track/theme for each of Colt’s targets and those themes sounded strikingly similar to me. What went into creating the music for each of the targets and did their themes have anything to do with how each needs to be approached in a specific order to ultimately beat the game?
Yes, they should sound similar as they are all based on the same composition. In fact, they were supposed to be even more similar than they are now.
The original idea was to have a single suite of music (Exploration, Fight and Escape) for all targets and then just introduce one or two different elements to identify the character. Eventually, some of the target tracks evolved to be more unique arrangements of the same music. But they are all structurally identical.
The differences between the arrangements for each visionary are based around the instruments used that would come to represent each of them. So, for example, Aleksis (the arrogant eccentric) featured some sophisticated jazz styles, Harriet (the ruthless, yet pious mystic) features a dark church bell and eerie gothic choirs, and your theremin makes an appearance for Wenjie Evans, the program founder who studied supernatural phenomena.
How much of a role does the time loop play in the music? For instance, Andrew Prahlow, the composer of Outer Wilds, another video game that features a time loop, mentioned that he crafted music that begins to speed up and become more insistent the closer the player got to the loop restarting. Does anything of that nature occur in the music of Deathloop?
Yes, but instead of the tempo changing, the music gets livelier. This parallels the activity of the island’s inhabitants since all the partying really gets going in the evening. Each of the four main areas of the island of Blackreef have their own musical suite. The Exploration phase of each of those suites has four different arrangements based on the four different time periods… midnight, morning, afternoon and evening.
How much time did you have to work on Deathloop? Were you brought in early in the process of game development or late?
I worked on the score for six months, starting in January 2020 and ending in June. I suppose it was somewhere in between but there was still over a year of development after I finished.
Do you have a favorite piece in the score?
I’d probably have to pick the main theme, “Welcome to Blackreef.” It was an interesting journey getting there though. The original theme idea proposed to me was to create a very mysterious theme, more in the spirit of the 1961 classic “Mysterious Island” and the “Lost” series. The audio director really liked the theme but about a month into the score, I began to feel that it didn’t quite match the vivacious personality of the game. So I secretly began working on a new theme. I wanted something catchier and, well… loopable. [laughs] Eventually I found the four chords and three notes I was looking for and spent a week putting the final touches on it. Once I had a finished version, I sent it over. Naturally, the audio director wasn’t quick to just replace what we had, but several weeks later he agreed that it worked better for the game and so, that became the new theme that most of the score is based on.
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and I’d like to say thank you to Tom Salta for taking the time to speak with me about Deathloop.
Sony Music Masterworks today releases Japanese Breakfast‘s Original Soundtrack to SABLE, an album of instrumental and vocal music featured in the open-world video game.
Drawing from her years of songwriting experience, the 32-track collection finds musician, director and author Michelle Zauner making new explorations into ambient and experimental music, the resulting soundtrack as breathtaking and otherworldly as the game itself. The album was initially introduced with lead single “Glider” in August, garnering critical acclaim from the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Consequence of Sound, NME, American Songwriter, UPROXX and more, with both Pitchfork and Entertainment Weekly naming the soundtrack one of their most anticipated albums of Fall 2021. From indie game developer Shedworks and publisher Raw Fury, Sable is now available to play with Xbox Game Pass on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC.
Also available for preorder today is the vinyl edition of the soundtrack, which will arrive as a 2-LP disc set in gatefold packaging. In addition to the standard edition, an artist exclusive edition is also now available to preorder on Japanese Breakfast’s official merch store and various color variants will be exclusive to retailers including Newbury Comics, Light in the Attic and Vinyl Me Please.
Of the soundtrack, Japanese Breakfast had the following to say:
“I was so lucky Daniel Fineberg and Gregorios Kythreotis from Shedworks invited me onto this game so early on. I was immediately captivated by the world they’d built, a desert planet filled with mysterious natural and architectural wonders, and the story they’d imagined, one of a young girl coming of age through exploration. It was important to me that each biome in this world felt unique. I used woodwinds and vocal layering to make monumental ruins feel ancient and unknown, industrial samples and soft synths to make atomic ships feel cold and metallic, classical guitar and bright piano to make encampments feel cozy and familiar. I wanted the main themes to recall iconic works of Joe Hisaishi and Alan Menken, to fill the listener with the childlike wonder of someone on the precipice of a grand discovery.”
ABOUT SABLE Embark on a unique and unforgettable journey and guide Sable through her Gliding; a rite of passage that will take her across vast deserts and mesmerizing landscapes, capped by the remains of spaceships and ancient wonders.
SABLE (ORIGINAL VIDEO GAME SOUNDTRACK) TRACKLISTING–
Glider [from “Sable” Original Video Game Soundtrack]
Last month I got the opportunity to speak with composer Sergio Ronchetti about his work on the recently released video game Eldest Souls. London-based, Spanish & Italian composer and sound designer Sergio Ronchetti boldly crafts scores dwelling within realms of dusky depth, mercurial mood, and aggressive execution, drawing upon his background in heavy metal and combining his lyrical tastes with more traditional, orchestral compositional techniques for a truly singular signature style.
Sergio’s debut score for the 2021 pixel-art, boss-rush, “Souls-like” video game Eldest Souls captures the lonely and desolate melancholy of the game world while also providing vigorous, combative battle music matching the intensity of the challenging gameplay and capturing the personality and essence of each iconic boss fight. He cites artists like Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira as direct references to his Eldest Souls score – even if his instrumentations are far removed from theirs.
I hope you enjoy our conversation about Ronchetti’s work on Eldest Souls!
How did you get started as a composer? I left high-school with the sole intention of joining a metal band and becoming a touring musician: which is what i did! I had been playing in bands ever since i was 15, using every spare minute at school to jam with friends in the music rooms. I guess during this time i picked up a lot of DAW production skills without knowing, which gave me a little head start when i decided to pursue media composing after about 4 years of touring. University was then the best place for me to learn exactly what kind of composer/musician i wanted to be, but I learned how to compose behind a computer around my degree. I took short course, extra classes and spoke to as many of my lecturers as possible to understand how to get my career started during my studies, not after. Combine this with saying yes to every opportunity that came my way and everything slowly built up from there.
How did you get involved with Eldest Souls? I met Jon and Francesco at a free workshop in London hosted by Intel. They were showcasing a super early version of the game whilst taking a gap year during their studies to work on it. Initially they just wanted music for a trailer they were putting out. I sent them a track i thought could work and to my amazement they loved it! Pretty clear from then on that I was a good fit for their project, which is important when collaborating. I don’t think I was anything special, especially back then, but both parties were in the perfect position in terms of experience and skills to work together.
Were you given any specific directions by the game’s creators when working on the score? The stylistic decisions were made very early on. This meant that I had a direction right from the get go, in terms of style, placement in the game and the scope of the game. The best part as that Jon and Francesco created a very stress-free and flexible workflow, which gave us all the chance to fail and learn moving forward. Sometimes they had reference tracks that they really wanted to hear in the game, other times i just asked for 3-4 words describing the mood, setting and emotions they wanted out of each boss fight.
A related question: was there a lot of collaboration with the game’s director/creators on the score? As an indie studio, there’s often a lot of crossover within our individual roles. With the music and more so the sound design, we worked very closely and generated as much feedback and testing as possible to get the ideal work out of me. Similarly, I’d always offer to help out at conventions and managing other areas like the socials and marketing, so it really was a collaborative effort from all of us. And I loved every minute of it! We’ve all grown an attachment to this project and we’re all the more happy to see it finally out there for people to enjoy.
I’ve heard Eldest Souls described as “Souls-like” which I assume means it’s similar to the Dark Souls series of games. Is the music for Eldest Souls similar in any way to Dark Souls or did you take a different approach with the music? In terms of gameplay you could say so. We limited the music to the combat sequences in the game, which left ambience and sound design to govern the travelling in-between. Really this was to reinforce the narrative of the game which is my sole purpose as a game audio professional. I am constantly asking myself “what story am I telling here?” before designing any sounds or music. So when the music hits, you know it’s go time, and everything springs into action. When it’s over, you’re left with the residual consequences of your action adding to the already desolate environment. But in terms of musical sound I wouldn’t say my music is anywhere close to DS or Bloodborne. We felt that overtly gothic and dark style was perhaps a little overkill for the art-style and pace of Eldest Souls. But I love those soundtracks and getting familiar with them during development was super inspiring.
In general, how did you approach scoring Eldest Souls? Were you able to play through early builds of the game or at least observe early gameplay footage for inspiration? It was very hands on. Again, all praise to the boys from Rome for allowing me to be as involved as I was. I could quite literally jump into the game, test and mix my audio live using Fmod. Then once i was fairly happy, i’d send it over to them for review. It saved a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Being able to experience the gameplay first-hand is invaluable. It’s like scoring a film and getting to play the main character as you do.
Given how important the game’s boss fights are, how did you specifically go about creating music for those moments? Since each “Old God” encounter is different, I can only assume that would affect the music for each fight. Was there any extra pressure to get the music “just right”? Really, since this was the first project for all of us, there was no pressure at all! Haha. We just wanted to do the best we could, and learn from the process. That being said, some boss fights came together very quickly, others needed more revisions. It was all about focusing on anticipating player emotions and the mini-narratives within each fight: was it fast-paced? How intimidating was it? What are the boss’ unique characteristics? Questions like that. I also often asked Jon and Franco for just 3-4 words describing the scene, and went from there. Each boss had its own personality that needed matching and enhancing with my music.
Did you make specific musical themes for the main character and the Old Gods? Or other aspects of the game? Eldest Souls had 2 messages which needed conveying: the brutal combat and the idea of loneliness and hope. The former was expressed by each fight being narrated by a unique boss theme to match the style and personality of each God and beast you encounter. The latter is portrayed via the Main Theme. This title track was my way of tying the whole soundtrack together. Since each boss fight was so different, re-working one theme throughout didn’t end up making much sense from a gameplay experience perspective. It also gave me a chance to write in a totally different genre with my post-minimalist interests coming through with the repeating live vocals and haunting solo cello recordings. It was a lot of fun writing that track and for that reason it holds a special interest to me.
What was your process for deciding which instruments to use in the game’s score? Keeping with the Souls-like vibe, i took a touch of inspiration from the From Software games. I remember a few years back going to a video games exhibit at the V&A museum here in London. There was a fabulous insight into the Bloodborne music and even previews of the score they used during recordings! The likes of Cris Velasco and Yuka Kitamura decided to cut out any typically high frequency or bright instruments, like trumpets or high violin lines. All with the intention of keeping it as dark sounding as possible. Aside from that, I still take great inspiration from my days of writing and playing heavy metal music which is hugely reliant on rhythmic ideas. For that reason the percussion in my tracks is always front and foremost. Metal drummers like Mario Duplantier and Joey Jordison are huge inspirations to me, even when i’m writing for melodic instruments.
How much time did you have to score Eldest Souls? The project was initially meant to be a 13 month stint. But through the process we picked up a lot of momentum from wishlists and conventions that we ended up scaling the scope of the game up as we went to about 3 years of development. For that reason I had the opportunity to go back and re-write some of the initial tracks that weren’t quite up to scratch by the end of it. You can improve a lot as a composer in the space of just a year, so after 3 I was at a totally different level. However, I’m not a fan of going back and constantly re-writing and improving work. I’d rather just finish a project and move on to the next. Being prolific is the only way to progress as an artist.
Are there any musical details in the game you hope players notice? If there are, they are VERY well hidden haha. But for example, towards the end of the project I started to lean into my metal roots even more. I even exercised taking my favourite metal songs and re-arranging the rhythms and melodies. It might be most obvious in The Imperator, if there are any fans of Machine Head out there. Also the intro to that track was super fun to write too. I often like taking classical and romantic pieces of music and re-orchestrating and arranging them. It’s a great way to use existing material and create something totally new by the end of it. The final boss intro had to be epic, so I used epic material. In my opinion it doesn’t get much bigger and grander than Carl Orff’s, O Fortuna.
Do you have a favorite musical theme in the game? I’m quite partial to ‘Ov Fire and Water’ which I think came out great. Equally ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Lunar Descending’ are still some of my favourites.
I want to say a big thank you to Sergio Ronchetti for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Eldest Souls.
EMMY award-winner and 3-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur (‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’) is scoring ‘STARFIELD’, the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout 4’. Set hundreds of years in our future, STARFIELD is an epic about hope, our shared humanity, and answering our greatest mystery. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom.
Inon Zur is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic original music scores for blockbuster video game franchises including ‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’, and ‘The Elder Scrolls’, as well as the EMMY-winning documentary ‘Saber Rock’ and animated television shows including ‘Power Rangers’, ‘Digimon’ and ‘Escaflowne’.
Zur’s iconic themes and avant garde scores for the ‘Fallout’ video game series have been described as “Sophisticated and atmospheric” (Classic FM) and received two BAFTA nominations. His best-selling soundtrack for ‘Fallout 4’ is celebrated as one of the best original video game scores by BAFTA, The Game Awards, and Classic FM. Recently his original score for ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ received top honors at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards.
Zur previously scored the ‘Fallout’ series and ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ for the studio. The official teaser trailer for STARFIELD was released at a joint Microsoft Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase held during E3 2021, followed by a video introduction entitled ‘Into the Starfield: The Journey Begins’ – both featuring original music compositions by Zur. ‘STARFIELD’ will release November 11, 2022.
Are you excited to see what Inon Zur creates for Starfield?