Tag Archives: video game

Into the Realm of Kafka: Talking with Mikolai Stroinski & Garry Schyman about their Score for Metamorphosis (2020)

Earlier this year, I got the chance to check out the soundtrack for the uniquely scored video game Metamorphosis, inspired by the work of Franz Kafka and scored in a very atypical style for a video game. The plot follows you, the protagonist, after you are turned into a bug and forced to explore a suddenly unfamiliar world from that perspective. The music for Metamorphosis was composed by Mikolai Stroinski, whose past credits include The Witcher 3 and Age of Empires IV, and Garry Schyman whose past works include scoring BioShock, Destroy All Humans! and Dante’s Inferno, just to name a few.

Not long after listening to the soundtrack, I received a follow up opportunity to speak with the composers themselves. Due to my day job, I’ve only just finished putting the interview together, and I’m really excited for you to check it out. Here is my interview with Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman about their work on Metamorphosis.

How did the two of you get your start in composing for video games?

Mikolai: It was 2012 when I was asked to compose music for the Dark Souls 2 trailer. Both the trailer and the music itself gathered a strong fanship and soon after some independent studios asked me to compose music for their games. The Witcher 3 followed not that long afterwards.

Garry: Pure serendipity – My agent in 2004 sent my resume over to THQ, which, at the time was a big game publisher.  It sat on the fax machine (remember that technology?) and an executive happened to see it and she just happened to be my girlfriend’s (from college) roommate.  That started a series of events that led me to scoring Destroy All Humans! which I loved working on and it led me to pursue scoring for games very seriously.  And as the audio director for DAH! became the audio director for Bioshock she hired me without question, which was a huge boost to my career. 

How did you come to be involved with Metamorphosis?


Mikolai: I think it was mid-2018 when I was giving a presentation on video game music in Warsaw. Afterwards I was invited for drinks by the organizers and joined in by some people from the audience. At some point a group of people approached me wanting to show me a game they had been working on and asked if I would be interested in scoring it. It looked very original and interesting so I said I would do it with pleasure. After just under a year later I started working on it and it was during the very early process of planning the music that it became quite apparent it was going to be utilizing a symphonic palette with primarily atonal music. I somehow felt obliged to invite Garry because I knew he would enjoy it immensely – as much as I would. Garry said “yes” and the rest is history.
Garry: I have been friends with Mikolai for a few years and he contacted me one day and asked if I’d be interested in scoring the game with him.  When he described it as a Kafka game, I was YES for sure interested. 

What was behind the decision to have Metamorphosis scored in the style of composers like Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and other Expressionist composers? 

Mikolai: Choosing the music style that we did, allowed us to be dark but not horrifying. I don’t think the score ever crosses that line when it becomes horrifying. It’s also interesting how combining the gameplay with this music brings out a subtle sense of humor, which was our goal.

Garry: It was my idea initially because Kafka was an Expressionist author who wrote during that turbulent time in German history.  Though he was Czech he wrote in German and was part of that movement. The absurdist aspects of the game reminded me of the Expressionist music of that era. Mikolai immediately agreed and we were off and running.  We also decided to include the vocal style invented by Schoenberg called Sprechstimme (half spoken half sung) which perfectly complemented the game’s ironic humor. 

Once you decided on composing in that style, how did you approach scoring the game? That is to say, what was your starting point?

Mikolai: I think we both started to sketch our themes pretty early on. Sharing them between each other and applying them to the score was an important factor which helped the cohesiveness of the score. Once the pieces were instrumentally sketched out, we invited singer Joanna Freszel for a recording session. She did a fantastic job!

Garry: The developer, Ovid Works, is a Polish company and Mikolai, who was living in Warsaw at that time, was in touch with them and sort of divvying up the music between us.  I scored most of the below ground insect music and Mikolai, the above ground score.  That had an advantage as each of us created a slightly different sound for each area which worked well.  Though I must say our score was very unified and most people can’t tell who wrote which cues until we tell them.  There was a wonderful synchronicity that did not require much conversation or planning between us. 

Joanna Freszel

I’m curious, what is the singer performing Sprechgesang singing out in the soundtrack? Does it relate at all to the player’s predicament of being turned into a bug? 

Mikolai: The lyrics I chose are about the world perceived by an insect, possibly one that used to be a human in a distant past. The singing technique is so uncommon, it might as well be the way bugs sing in their heads. Or it might be, from a strictly sonic point of view, the mirroring of the crazy world that doesn’t make sense as it had before.

Garry: We each had a different approach to lyrics for Joanna; I had a former student of mine who speaks German set the actual lines from Kafka’s book for my music.  It turned out really well and is at least intellectually unifying, though I doubt anyone will know we used Kafka for lyrics.   Mikolai went in a different direction.   My lyrics do not deal directly with the player’s predicament as far as I know.  Maybe it does but that would be pure serendipity. 

How much time did you have to score the game?

Mikolai: I think it was about 6 weeks of work plus getting things ready for the recording session and overseeing the mixing process.

Garry: I think I wrote the music over a period of a month or so.  I had plenty of time, as the writing went so smoothly and the ideas just poured out.  We then had the music recorded with live players, which we did with an orchestra in Macedonia.  We conducted that remotely (meaning we were at our home studios while the orchestra played at the remote studio) and it went very well!  We got an excellent performance.  Everything flowed on this gig, at least in retrospect, it all went so easily, and I loved writing this music.  Of course, the singer Joanna Freszel brought so much with her amazing vocal performance.  I have to credit Mikolai for directing her as she came to his studio in Warsaw to record and it just turned out spectacularly. 

Do you have a favorite track in the score?

Mikolai: I like all the music that we both did. However, the favorite would be “The Final Run” or “The Tower”.

Garry: I have a couple of favorite tracks, “Corridors” and “Bug village”.  I am also very pleased with the “Menu Theme”.  Really, I dig it all.  I don’t mean to sound conceited but I just had such a great time writing this music and I feel it turned out so unique and fits the game so well. 

What do you hope players take away with them when they hear the music in this game?

Mikolai: I silently hope that it would open some players to music that, at times, might be a bit more demanding. I hope they will also notice that there is something different about it – hopefully “good different”. But that’s not our main goal. We are happy that our music helped the game have its unique color.

Garry: Well the music should underscore and set a mood and create a unique vibe for this really cool, unusual game.  I mean, how cool to make a game based on Kafka.  I would love for the players to be curious about the music and especially the vocal and perhaps explore Expressionist music.  Maybe a few will really enjoy it and that would be lovely!  I don’t write music for games or films for that matter to get the player or viewer to listen to certain types of music, but if it happens, I consider that a real contribution. 

Once again I need to give a huge thank you to Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman for taking the time to talk with me about their work on Metamorphosis. Let me know what you think about Metamorphosis in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Metamorphosis (2020)

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Soundtrack Review: Godfall (2020)

As crazy as 2020 has been (and it has been wild in more ways than I care to remember), one thing that has been pretty awesome is all the great soundtracks I’ve gotten to listen to. This year I’ve gotten to check out more video game soundtracks than ever before, and this is something I hope to continue into 2021 and beyond. To my delight, with the year winding down I was given the opportunity to check out the soundtrack for PS5 launch title Godfall, with the music composed by Ben MacDougall.

Ben MacDougall is a prolific composer for film, TV and video games, who most recently wrote the original fantasy score for Sony PlayStation 5 launch title, Godfall. His rich and diverse portfolio enjoys airtime on prime-time networks and has been featured on high-profile global TV events such as the Olympics and Academy Awards as well as countless franchises, campaigns and AAA studio projects.

MacDougall’s score for Godfall is described as follows:

Ben MacDougall’s modern fantasy score for GODFALL blends orchestra, synths processed with organic sound sources, and featured soloists, as well his own string instrument which produces a unique pulsing sound thread throughout the score. The soundtrack comprises of sweeping cinematic moments, heart-pounding combat sequences and world-exploring ambient music to accompany and immerse players in the luminous, mysterious world of Aperion.

Now I’ve gotten to listen to some absolutely gorgeous soundtracks this year (Ghost of Tsushima and The Wolf of Snow Hollow come to mind), and the music for Godfall is right up there with the best of them. Ben MacDougall really has gone all out here, and does everything that I love in a video game soundtrack. For one, from beginning to end, the music feels epic and cinematic in scope (enforcing my growing belief that the line separating video games from cinema is slowly but surely fading away).

Another element I really like in the music for Godfall is how MacDougall varies up the music between the different areas of Aperion (the game world). “Land of the Valorians” is different from “Alluvial Plains”, which in turn is different from “Waters of Aperion.” But what really makes it brilliant is that, while each region is differentiated by its own sound, you can tell that they’re all still connected by an overarching theme that places them all in the same “world” together. That is not easy to do without being obvious about it, and it’s lovely to hear how the music slowly shifts as a new area of the world is being explored.

It’s also really fun to look at the track list (the very LENGTHY track list) and try to work out the plot of the game. As with many film score track lists, I suspect there are some minor spoilers to be found if you think about some of these track titles. Also, the length of the track list has to be a sign of how long this game is (which makes sense since this doesn’t strike me as a quick game to get through). And one last positive to mention: the music is indeed beautiful, but it’s not too over the top, meaning it won’t (or at least it shouldn’t) distract you from the gameplay.

Track List

  1. Aperion’s Champion 1:51
  2. The Fall 2:49
  3. Land of the Valorians 1:51
  4. Temple of the Ancients 2:04
  5. The Warden 2:05
  6. Guardian 2:08
  7. Sanctuary 2:24
  8. A New World 2:45
  9. Crimson Glades 2:26
  10. The Vargul Tribes 1:34
  11. Prismatic Falls 1:35
  12. Alluvial Plains 1:51
  13. Bygone Ruins 1:31
  14. Ravenous Hunter 1:38
  15. Quiescent Dreams 2:28
  16. Sorcerer’s End 2:27
  17. Ascending the Tower 1:45
  18. Master of the Tower 1:44
  19. Waters of Aperion 2:32
  20. Cobalt Caldera 3:07
  21. Call to Action 2:00
  22. Leviathan’s Rest 2:25
  23. Abyssian Gaze 1:51
  24. Wisdom of the Deep Ones 2:01
  25. Warriors of Darkness 2:05
  26. The Ancient Depths 1:18
  27. The Silver Moon 2:32
  28. Song of Aperion 2:27
  29. Realm of the Nyak 2:00
  30. King of the Hunt 1:38
  31. Song of the Kindred 3:40
  32. The Storm 1:45
  33. The High Places 1:39
  34. Lords of Dawn and Dusk 1:40
  35. Aetheric Hymn 2:21
  36. Sunsteel 3:26
  37. Triumph of Air 1:37
  38. The False Archon 2:14
  39. Apotheosis 1:26
  40. Change

While it will (unfortunately) be a long, LONG time before I get my hands on a PS5 (or a copy of Godfall), listening to this gorgeous soundtrack has me convinced that the game is worth trying out. Yet again I’ve found another contender for Best Video Game Soundtrack of 2020.

Let me know what you think of Godfall (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Soundtrack Review: Metamorphosis (2020)

Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to check out the soundtrack to a new game called Metamorphosis, with the soundtrack composed by Mikolai Stroinski (The Witcher 3) and Garry Schyman (BioShock). In this game, the player finds themselves transformed into a tiny bug and must navigate a suddenly unfamiliar world in that form in order to find out what has happened and how they can regain their former shape again.

Regarding their work on the game’s soundtrack, Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman had the following to say:

“This very unique game, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous novel, takes place in a bizarre and nightmarish world inhabited by insects and a corrupt bureaucracy. The game gave us an astonishing opportunity to write music inspired by the expressionist era of art and music in the early 20th century. Composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, as well later composers such as Bernard Herrmann were inspirations. We incorporated techniques of the era such as Sprechgesang (half spoken half sung), 12 tone, aleatoric, tonal and atonal harmonies to invoke a past age that worked perfectly for the world of Metamorphosis.”

I knew going in that this soundtrack was inspired by the works of Schoenberg and Berg, that alone told me this was going to be an unusual soundscape. But I still wasn’t prepared for just how expressionist and atonal this music was. If you haven’t experienced expressionist and atonal music before, then the music for Metamorphosis is going to hit you like a bolt out of the blue. This isn’t like the rich, orchestral music that accompanies games like God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn. This is music that is eccentric, off-kilter, and will keep you constantly on edge from beginning to end. For any of my readers who may have studied music theory as I have, imagine a video game with the soundtrack of Wozzeck and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Metamorphosis sounds like.

It’s actually a really bold choice to go in this direction with a video game soundtrack. If you’re meant to go into this game feeling lost and unsure as to what’s going on (which is bound to happen if you suddenly wake up in the game as a bug), then the music is only going to help make that happen. I also really like that the soundtrack has Sprechgesang (speak-singing that sounds really demented when combined with atonal music). It’s a constant reminder that you are not in a normal environment. I would have to imagine that this music combined with seeing everything from a bug’s perspective would be quite the mind-bending experience.

I was also struck by how short some of these tracks are. In fact, some of them are barely 30 seconds long. There isn’t a set length for tracks in a score, for video games or otherwise by any means, but I’m more used to tracks being several minutes long at minimum. Having these tracks be so short is also startling, as they can end without warning and I can only imagine how that plays out during gameplay.

The soundtrack for Metamorphosis definitely ranks as the most unusual soundtrack (for film, television or video games) that I’ve listened to this year. And quite frankly I think that’s a good thing. It’s nice to listen to something completely different every now and then.

Let me know what you think about Metamorphosis in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Talking With Composer Ilan Eshkeri about Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

This past summer I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with composer Ilan Eshkeri about his score for the video game Ghost of Tsushima. Eshkeri attended Leeds University where he studied music and English literature. He also worked at this time with fellow composers Edward Shearmur and Michael Kamen. Notable film scores from his career include (but are far from limited to): Coriolanus (2011), The Young Victoria (2009), 47 Ronin (2013), and The White Crow (2018). He’s collaborated on several films with actor/director Ralph Fiennes.

How did you get started with being a composer?

Well, really I wanted to be a guitarist in a rock band. While pursuing that dream I ended up working for a composer and not long after became close to Michael Kamen. And then I got my first break writing film music. And I really enjoy having such an exciting career that developed from many different directions all at once. It takes me in all sorts of directions.

How did you get connected with Ghost of Tsushima?

Playstation actually reached out and contacted me about this game. I was initially reluctant because I don’t really like violent, action games, that’s not really my thing. I don’t have any great, moral objection to it, I just don’t know how I can connect emotionally to that. Or, as an artist what can I say about that in my music? What peaked my interest is they’d been using music from an art house film that I had done a few years ago, a Shakespeare film called Coriolanus. The score for it is, I think, very unusual, quite extreme and uncompromising. Typically my work with Ralph [Fiennes, the director] is like that. It was amazing to me that this mass entertainment AAA game and video game studio would be coming to me and referencing this extremely unusual art house music that I’d created.

Then I went to Seattle for a meeting with Playstation and they spent 45 minutes to an hour with this incredible multimedia presentation that talked me through the entire plot of the video game. By the end of that I was completely blown away and sucked into it. It wasn’t what I thought. This is a game about a young man who is in a state of emotional conflict because he has been brought up and trained in a certain moral code. However, in order to save his home and the people he loves he has to go against all of that. This was, therefore, a rich place to write emotional and powerful music.

Was it different, working on the score for a video game as opposed to film or television?

No, I don’t think so, because to me it’s all storytelling. It’s the oldest of human art forms. If we look back at the history of humanity, the earliest form of art we have is cave painting. What were they doing in a cave painting? They were telling a story. We moved from cave paintings to songs, the Iliad, the Odyssey, to theater. That developed into dance and acting with operas and plays; you have all these different forms of storytelling and in the last hundred years we’ve had cinema and that came from the invention of new technologies. Since then, the next step in my eyes is video games. A new technology was invented and humans decided to tell their stories through that medium. And the story of Ghost is about the new ways versus the old ways. So really, Ghost is telling a very old story but through a new medium. To answer your question, my job is exactly the same. I tell the emotional narrative of the story through the creation of music. Whether that be theater or ballet or video games, whatever the medium, eventually I’m doing the same thing.

How did you approach scoring Ghost of Tsushima? Was there a lot of research involved in the type of music and sounds that would be appropriate for such a locale and era?

Yes, absolutely. This was inspired by Sucker Punch, they wanted to bring a sense of authenticity to the game, to the extent that they got reeds from the island of Tsushima in order to make it look more naturalistic. I was inspired by this search for authenticity and I wanted to apply the same thing to the music. I found a professor of Japanese music, Professor David Hughes, who is fortunately one of the leading experts here in London and he was very kind to talk to me and explain things and tell me where to look. I was learning about Japanese scales and harmony and how the instruments worked. Then I worked with a lot of amazing musicians and they inspired me a lot. These musicians were very patient and taught me how to write naturalistic music for the instruments.

So I used a lot of instruments that we know here in the West, like the koto and shakuhachi. But my explorations also took me to another instrument called the biwa. In fact it’s called the Satsuma biwa, there being several types of biwas, but the Satsuma biwa was the instrument that the samurai learned to play. And I’d never heard of it before. What happened is that towards the middle of the last century, the art of playing the biwa had been virtually lost. As I understand it there was one master of this instrument left and had taught a handful of people. One of those is a very inspiring lady called Junko Ueda. And she, fortunately for me, lived in Spain so it was easy to get her to come to London. She spent a lot of time explaining about the instrument, she played a lot and you can really hear about the instrument solos in the opening of the piece on the album. She’s a special performer and I was really lucky to be able to include her on the soundtrack.

When was it decided to blend the sounds of traditional Japanese music with a full orchestra?

That was always the plan. The thing was, how do we keep the focus on the traditional Japanese instruments, how do we highlight them? And for me, how do I use the orchestra within that language? All of the music in the orchestra, all the melodies and scales are all based on Japanese scales and I used two of those. And any Japanese instrument could play virtually any orchestral part. I also built my own system of chords using the notes from the pentatonic (five tone) scale. Everything in the orchestra is based on a foundation of Japanese tonality. Where I needed to, for effect, I broke the rules absolutely, but not often. That was the plan behind the orchestra.

How much time did you have to score Ghost of Tsushima? Did you have any game footage to work off of? Or was it more like storyboards?

There was a mixture, because I came on in 2018. When I started working on it there were storyboards, bits of footage. There was some crude gameplay where I got a feel for the character. It was a lot of different things, many bits of inspirational material. I worked on the game on and off for about a year and a half.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Ilan Eshkeri for taking the time to speak with me about his work on the music for Ghost of Tsushima.

Let me know what you think about Ghost of Tsushima’s music (and the game itself) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Soundtrack Review: Marvel’s Avengers (2020)

Hollywood Records has released the complete soundtrack for the recently released video game Marvel’s Avengers, with music composed by Bobby Tahouri. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Bobby Tahouri comes from a musical family, and began playing piano at the age of seven. He studied piano and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and also at the California Institute of the Arts, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Composition.

Marvel’s Avengers allows you to take control of earth’s mightiest heroes in an all new original playable story. Crafting original music for these iconic characters is no easy task, but Bobby Tahouri (Rise Of The Tomb Raider) has composed an epic, sweeping score deserving of the massive playable roster of Marvel heroes.

Epic and sweeping are certainly two good words to describe Bobby Tahouri’s score for Marvel’s Avengers. It also, to my ears, sounded strikingly familiar. Starting with the first track, “Every Hero Has to Start Somewhere”, it occurred to me that what I was hearing sounded quite similar to the Avengers main theme as composed by Alan Silvestri in The Avengers (2012). Well, maybe that’s not quite the right way to put it. Tahouri’s music isn’t identical to Silvestri’s theme, but they do sound to me like they could easily belong in the same musical family, there is definitely a thematic relationship present. Given that the game centers on the Avengers, this is appropriate.

Another detail I like about this soundtrack is how dynamic it is. As you might expect with a soundtrack for an action-adventure game, most of the music is loud, bombastic, and clearly following video game-style fighting. However, Tahouri does take the time to slow down in a few places (parts of “New Normal” and “No More Heroes” are prime examples). These tracks are refreshing to hear because they give your ears a brief rest from the frenetic pace that makes up most of the soundtrack.

As video game soundtracks go, Marvel’s Avengers sounds pretty good. I like that it sounds similar in certain respects to the 2012 film (and the Avengers films in general). I haven’t gotten to see the game in action, but this feels like the kind of music you’d want to have in an action game like this.

Let me know what you think about the music for Marvel’s Avengers in the comments below and have a great day!

TRACK LISTING

1. “Every Hero Has to Start Somewhere” (8:45)

2. “The Light That Failed” (2:48)

3. “God of Thunder” (3:13)

4. “They Played Us” (1:22)

5. “New Normal” (2:27)

6. “I Am Iron Man” (3:00)

7. “Am I Alone?” (2:13)

8. “No More Heroes” (2:14)

9. “To Stand Alone” (2:06)

10. “Some Things Haven’t Changed” (2:10)

11. “We Are Dangerous” (1:38)

12. “Hulk Smash” (1:41)

13. “Perfect Landing” (2:01)

14. “Old Friend” (1:33)

15. “By Force of Mind” (3:08)

16. “It’s a Thing Your Do” (3:18)

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack Review: Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Today I had the chance to check out the soundtrack for the upcoming video game Ghost of Tsushima, which will be available (as will the soundtrack) on July 17, 2020. The music for Ghost of Tsushima was composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi.

 

Ilan Eshkeri is an award winning composer, artist, songwriter, producer and creator. Eshkeri’s work is performed in concert halls, theatres, galleries, on film & television and video games; his eclectic body of work is linked by his love of narrative. Recently, Ilan and Ralph Fiennes completed their third film together -a biopic about Rudolf Nureyev, ‘The White Crow’. This followed the creation of a ballet ‘Narcissus and Echo’, choreographed by famed dancer Sergei Polunin with set designs by David LaChapelle and a ballet commission from Rambert Dance Company.

Shigeru Umebayashi is an internationally renowned composer best known for creating “Yumeji’s Theme” in Wong KarWai’s film “In The Mood For Love”. In addition to also collaborating with Wong KarWai on “2046”, Umebayashi was the music producer and composer for Zhang Yimous’ films “House of Flying Daggers” and “Curse of The Golden Flower”. In “House of Flying Daggers”, he composed the song “Lovers” with soprano Kathleen Battle.

Of the soundtrack, composer ILAN ESHKERI says:

“Ghost of Tsushima is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody. I hope together it creates an emotional world that touches you and draws you into the heart and spirit of Ghost.”

“When I was composing for Ghost of Tsushima, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai,” adds composer SHIGERU UMEBAYASHI.

Having listened to most of this soundtrack, I have to say that the words of both composers do not do this soundtrack justice. This is, by far, one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve listened to this year. It doesn’t even sound like something you’d hear in a video game, this feels like pure cinema through and through, something I’ve noticed more and more often in video game soundtracks as gameplay in new video games has lately felt more like “it’s a movie but one you participate in.”

What’s really drawn me to the music for Ghost of Tsushima, aside from its cinematic qualities, are how it perfectly blends the traditional sounds of Japanese music with a full-blown symphony orchestra. I thought I knew what to expect when I downloaded this soundtrack to check it out, but I had no clue. This is a perfect marriage of musical styles, and both Eshkeri and Umebayashi should be congratulated for creating something so beautiful.

Two tracks that I must highlight are “The Way of the Ghost” and “The Fate of Tsushima.” The former serves as the introductory piece in the soundtrack, and is ideally suited for that task. While the melody frequently flirts with a melancholy identity, it is otherwise full to bursting with tension, promising lots of adventures to come as the game is just beginning. The latter track, “The Fate of Tsushima”, to me it feels like the fulfillment of everything “The Way of the Ghost” promised. It’s full of action, melodies that continually hop and leap without pausing for rest. Out of the entire soundtrack, this sounded like the climax of the story, with everything coming together in one glorious moment of musical perfection.

In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.

I know 2020 is far from over, but I’m going to be hard pressed to find a better soundtrack to listen to than what I’ve heard for Ghost of Tsushima.

You can get the soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima (along with the game) on July 17, 2020.

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack Review: The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners (2020)

Recently I got the chance to listen to the soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. This is a first-person VR game set in the world of The Walking Dead. It was released this year for both Oculus, Steam, and Playstation VR. In the game, you must fight to survive in walker-infested New Orleans, with danger lurking around every corner.

The soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners was composed by Michael David Peter, with vocals provided by Joshua Mosely and Suzanne Waters. Peter has worked on the soundtracks for a number of video games over the years, including: Gears of War 4, Borderlands 2, Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect.

The music for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners caught me by surprise and definitely proved that I need to re-evaluate my opinion on VR games. Not only does the music sound like something straight out of the The Walking Dead (from what I remember of the series, I haven’t watched in many years), it’s also really diverse. At first I thought the soundtrack would just be numerous “variations on a theme” where most of the tracks sound vaguely alike (a trait you come across from time to time in soundtracks). This is simply not how this soundtrack is put together though. There are ominous pieces, jazzy pieces, even, and this caught my attention, tracks that are just talking, with voices telling stories. I think this last example might come from things you can find throughout the game, because there’s the sound of a tape recorder starting at the beginning, but I don’t know for certain.

I’m very impressed by how diverse the music is in this soundtrack. If I were playing this VR game, I would definitely be scared out of my mind listening to some of these pieces like “Via Carolla”, that one definitely scared me because there’s an ominous growl that recurs throughout the piece. I also really like the pieces that are clearly influenced by the sounds of New Orleans (brassy melodies, the kind of things you’d expect to hear if you visited the city). I’m also really impressed at the sheer size of this soundtrack, this is easily twice the size of most soundtracks that I come across.

Track Listing

1. Tune In To The Reclaimed (Michael David Peter & Janell Lenfert) 0:33
2. Stir The Herd (Michael David Peter) 2:08
3. Who Are You? (Michael David Peter) 2:19
4. Braining 101 (Michael David 1:47
5. Legend Of The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 3:12
6. Fifty Fifty Still Stands (Michael David Peter) 1:57
7. Charlie Boy ( Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 4:24
8. Bayou Story Time (Joshua Mosley) 3:11
9. The Resting Place – Morning (Michael David Peter) 2:48
10. Via Carolla (Michael David Peter) 3:10
11. The Tower Will Always Stand (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 0:56
12. The Resting Place – Night (Michael David Peter) 2:45
13. What Is A Beast? (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:36
14. In The Pines (Joshua Mosley) 3:05
15. Make Contact (Michael David Peter) 0:46
16. Where The Jazz Men Play (Michael David Peter) 2:34
17. The Tomb And The Tower (Michael David Peter & Morla Gorrondona) 1:19
18. Gumbo Groove (Joshua Mosley) 2:52
19. Memorial Lane (Michael David Peter) 1:45
20. May Benoit Is A Traitor (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 1:16
21. My Brother’s Keeper (Michael David Peter) 1:49
22. A Gift From The Reclaimed (Michael David Peter) 1:50
23. The Kindness Of Strangers (Michael David Peter) 2:46
24. Where Is She? (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 3:39
25. BBQ & Jam (Joshua Mosley) 3:04
26. The Most Wanted Woman In NOLA (Michael David Peter) 1:34
27. The Blue Palace (Michael David Peter) 3:09
28. Humble Beginnings (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 1:40
29. The Bells (Michael David Peter) 1:08
30. The Most Wonderous Dream (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 3:23
31. Bourbon Break (Joshua Mosley) 2:54
32. Halfway There (Joshua Mosley) 2:57
33. Bywater (Michael David Peter) 3:08
34. Forbidden Love (Michael David Peter) 2:21
35. Forty-Five Tall, Forty-Eight Strong (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 2:14
36. The House Of The Rising Sun (Joshua Mosley) 2:41
37. Carriage Ride (Joshua Mosley) 3:17
38. The Tic (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:43
39. When The Levee Breaks (Joshua Mosley) 2:43
40. Rampart High (Michael David Peter) 1:57
41. Alone Together (Michael David Peter) 1:31
42. Soul Food (Joshua Mosley) 3:09
43. The Climb To A Brighter Future (Michael David Peter & Debra Wilson) 2:06
44. One Of Those NOLA Nights (Michael David Peter) 1:28
45. The Tourist And The Prophet (Michael David Peter & Myk Watford) 2:41
46. When The Saints Go Marching In (Joshua Mosley) 3:04
47. Hills And Valleys (Joshua Mosley) 3:13
48. The Pumps (Michael David Peter) 0:48
49. Lights In The Sky (Michael David Peter) 1:10
50. Our Resident Picasso (Michael David Peter) 1:23
51. Battle For The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 1:00
52. Saint Vincent’s (Michael David Peter) 0:53
53. Waterfall (Michael David Peter) 1:04
54. The Nave (Michael David Peter) 1:05
55. The Reserve (Michael David Peter) 0:59
56. The House Of The Rising Sun (Reprise Version) (Michael David Peter)

I really enjoyed listening to the soundtrack for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. It was a completely different experience (and that’s not a bad thing). While I won’t be able to check out the game anytime soon (I don’t have a VR setup), I do have a great appreciation for any game that features a soundtrack this expansive.

Let me know what you think about the music for The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack Review: The Last of Us Part II (2020)

The original soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II is now available from Sony Music. The music for this soundtrack was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla (who also worked on the original The Last of Us), with additional music composed by Mac Quayle. Gustavo Santaolalla is a musician and film composer from Argentina who has previously won the Oscar for Best Original Score for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Babel (2006), not to mention his work in other film and video game soundtracks. Santaolalla is also slated to compose the music for the upcoming HBO series based on The Last of Us.

Of the soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II, composer Gustavo Santaolalla had the following to say:

“Composing the music for The Last of Us Part II represented one of the biggest challenges of my career. Diving into the universe of the first game inspired me to come up with sounds, instrumentation and moods that became very closely related to the story and the characters. Fortunately, people found in the music the precise emotional support that a story such as The Last of Us required. The way in which fans related to the score of that first game is something I had never experience before.

In that context, writing new music for Part II demanded from me even more soul searching and more experimenting. So just as in the first game, where the acoustic guitar and the vintage 6 string bass played an important role in the narrative, this time the banjo, a special classical guitar (fitted with strings that are an octave lower) and my ever-present ronroco, became the story tellers of the score. Once again, I could only conceive the emotion that drove me to compose this music thanks to the amazing, multilayered story that is The Last of Us.”

Now while I can’t compare the soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II to the original (since I haven’t really experienced that game), I can say that the music for The Last of Us Part II did surprise me. Coming into this series with little to no knowledge about it, I was startled to find that most of the music on this soundtrack is quiet thoughtful and slower in pace than I thought it might be (I freely admit this reveals I’ve likely missed the point of the series entirely). There are moments of action here and there (notably in “The Cycle of Violence”), but most of the tracks feature the sounds of the banjo and the classical guitar. I was briefly puzzled as to why the guitar features so heavily and then I remembered that a guitar features quite prominently in this game (and I believe in the first game too, though I can’t say for certain), so it makes sense that this would be reflected in the game’s soundtrack.

Listening to the music for The Last of Us Part II reminds me yet again that you should never judge a video game by its cover art. If you think the music for this game is generic and action-y, then you have another thing coming. This soundtrack is sensitive, with only an occasional foray into “action mode” music. That tells me that this game is more retrospective than I thought, as it’s my experience that the music largely reflects what goes on in the game (and you’re not going to get calm music if it’s crazy fighting all the time).

If you want to experience the music in this game without the distraction of playing it through, then I highly recommend picking the soundtrack up.

THE LAST OF US PART II (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1. The Last of Us Part II

2. Unbound

3. Longing

4. Eye for an Eye

5. It Can’t Last

6. The Cycle of Violence

7. Reclaimed Memories

8. Cordyceps

9. Longing (Redemptions)

10. Restless Spirits

11. Chasing a Rumor

12. They’re Still Out There

13. Unbroken

14. The Rattlers

15. The Obsession

16. Soft Descent

17. The WLF

18. A Wolf’s Ghost

19. Masks On

20. It Can’t Last (Home)

21. Inextinguishable Flames

22. Allowed to be Happy

23. Collateral

24. The Cycle Continues

25. All Gone (The Promise)

26. Grieving

27. The Island

28. Beyond Desolation

Let me know what you think about the music for The Last of Us Part II in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack News: Ghost of Tsushima Original Soundtrack Available July 17

Milan Records has announced that the original video game soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima will be available on July 17th, 2020 and can be pre-ordered now. The album features music written by both Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi for the latest action-adventure game from Sony Interactive Entertainment.  Included in the album are tracks written by Eshkeri that serve as the sonic companion to the game’s narrative, as well as music written by Umebayashi for the exploratory, open world dimension of the game.

Of the soundtrack, composer Ilan Eshkeri says:

“Ghost of Tsushima is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody. I hope together it creates an emotional world that touches you and draws you into the heart and spirit of Ghost.”

“When I was composing for Ghost of Tsushima, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai,” adds composer Shigeru Umebayashi.

GHOST OF TSUSHIMA (MUSIC FROM THE VIDEO GAME)

TRACKLISTING –

1.       The Way of the Ghost*

2.       Jin Sakai*

3.       Komoda Beach*

4.       The Way of the Samurai*

5.       Lord Shimura*

6.       No Mercy*

7.       Lady Masako*

8.       A Reckoning in Blood*

9.       The Last of Clan Adachi*

10.    Heart of the Jito*

11.    The Tale of Sensei Ishikawa*

12.    Forgotten Song*

13.    Khotun Khan*

14.    Honour to Ash*

15.    The Fate of Tsushima*

16.    Sacrifice of Tradition*

17.    The Way of the Ghost feat. Clare Uchima*

18.    Tsushima Suite: I. Seion**

19.    Tsushima Suite: II. Shurai**

20.    Tsushima Suite III. Bushido**

21.    Tsushima Suite IV: Kodoku**

22.    Tsushima Suite: V. Seiiki**

In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.

The soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima is available for preorder now.

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Soundtrack News: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Original Video Game Soundtrack to be Released this August

As part of Star Wars Day (may the 4th be with you) Varèse Sarabande Records has announced the upcoming special release of the Original Video Game Soundtrack for Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire by GRAMMY®-nominated composer Joel McNeely. The soundtrack will be released for the first time on LP and reissued on CD on August 7, 2020, exclusively from Varèse Sarabande Records. Pre-order for LP and CD are available now

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was developed and published by LucasArts for Nintendo 64 on December 3, 1996, and sold one million copies in its first year. A version for Microsoft Windows followed in 1997, and sold out reissues have kept the game alive amongst the Star Wars fan base since its release over 20 years ago. In the game, which serves as backstory between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the player controls the mercenary Dash Rendar in his efforts to help Luke Skywalker and rescue Princess Leia from Prince Xizor.

As part of the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project, a full soundtrack was composed by Joel McNeely and recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Samples of the soundtrack were used in both versions of the game, with the Windows version containing many of the full tracks. The album art features the main Star Wars characters and was created by legendary illustrator Drew Struzan (Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future).

TRACK LISTING
Side A:
  1. Main Theme from Star Wars and Leia’s Nightmare (3:41)
  2. The Battle of Gall (7:59)
  3. Imperial City (8:02)
  4. Beggar’s Canyon Chase (2:56)
  5. The Southern Underground (1:48)
Side B:
  1. Xizor’s Theme (4:35)
  2. The Seduction of Princess Leia (3:38)
  3. Night Skies (4:17)
  4. Into the Sewers (2:55)
  5. The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace (10:44)

 

You can pre-order the LP and/or CD of the Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire soundtrack at the links below:

PRE-ORDER

 

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