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  1. Introduction 27th March 2018, I claimed Tuesdays as a day I would celebrate pieces of music that resonate deeply within my heart for one reason or another. These Tuesdays would be Christened #TuneTuesday, with the goal of not only showing my appreciation and love for music but to encourage conversation and debate amongst anyone who followed me on social media. The name of the hashtag comes from my love of alliterative titles, which is evident by at least one cue from a project I’ve worked on. ‘Scorching Scrimmage’ from Hartacon Tactics, ‘Recover & Regain’ from Two Point Hospital and ‘Cainite Congregation’ from the Lore By Night Podcast are three such examples. The final #TuneTuesday of 2019 coincidentally falls on the last day of 2019, which got me thinking a lot about the last ten years of my life. In the Summer of 2009, I would decide to study and be examed on music, something that I had previously wanted to remain ‘a nice hobby’. Shameful I know, but I knew not the radical impact it would have on my life. Since the first music lesson someday in September 2009, I found my purpose in life, which is to partake a career in music. A year later, I decided I would compose. I didn’t know at the time how I would make a living doing this, but I was determined to do it somehow. It took ten years of hard work, patience and dedication, but I finally made it. I am a professional composer and I find it incredibly exciting to be a part of the gaming industry, learning and developing compositional techniques and trade secrets within the gaming industry. Certain pieces of music, both in and out of video games, had a huge impact on my compositional sound throughout the last ten years and I wish to do a special #TuneTuesday post dedicated to those pieces of music and the geniuses that wrote them, some I am honoured to call my colleges. They won’t be in any particular order unless I state otherwise. I have spoken about some of these pieces before, so I am probably going to be revisiting old ground here but I’m sure you won’t mind... One little disclaimer before I fully dive into this thread, one that I wish I didn’t have to make but will mention anyway. One of my defining musical influences during my mid-teens was the cue ‘The Street of Whiterun’ from Skyrim. I will not discuss this soundtrack, the cue or its composer for obvious reasons that have soured my previous love for the game and its soundtrack. 1. Nascence (Austin Wintory) I might as well do the most difficult part of this blog-esque post first, as it will probably be here where I will go blind through my own tears as I regurgitate one’s memories concerning this game and these cues. That, and I’m sure some of you are fed up of me entering fanboying Austin Wintory yet again. It was during the later part of my GCSEs, early A-Levels (2011-2012), I decided that I wanted to be a composer and I was fairly certain that I wanted to compose for video games. I never really have been a huge film or TV fan, and I have always idolised video games. That was what I wanted to do. The biggest doubt I had over this was not the struggle that all freelance artists fall into at some point or another (which I was unaware of at sweet sixteen), but whether my more ‘serious’ classical/romantic style would fit into the mould of video game music. I don’t say this with any level of elitism/arrogance. Many orchestral game scores up until the 2010s had a very typical ‘Epic Game Sound’ that would simply loop around until certain trigger points within the game’s engine were met. This is neither good nor bad on its own. I love a good melody and sweeping romantic/impressionistic harmony but did not know how these colours would fit into a game without getting in the way. Alongside this doubt of ‘am I doing the right thing with my life?’, I was beginning to suffer badly from depression and my self-esteem and courage were beginning to nosedive at an alarming rate for a variety of reasons I shan't go into. Wanting to develop my sound further, I took to YouTube and searched ‘Best Video Game Scores’ which led me to a WatchMojo video going through their top 10 Video Game Composers. He was number four on their list because his music for Journey was the first video game ost to be nominated for a GRAMMY. I knew I had to give this game a go and see what the fuss was about. The first thing you hear when you hover on the game icon on the PS3/4 icon is the cue 'Nascence' and I truly overwhelmed with emotion and, at the time, though it was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had heard, and it wasn't even 2mins long! You never hear this cue in its entirety in the game, only short fragments. Journey and the entirety of its soundtrack is inspiring, both on a musical and technical level as the cues are cleverly implemented within the game engine. After playing Journey and wiping away many an emotional tear, I knew that I wanted to do what Austin did. Not to copy his sound or make another Journey, but I heard music with rich colours and unique textures that came and went depending on where and what I was doing on the map. It is a sound that could only exist in that game. That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to contribute sounds to whatever world I was helping to build so that music wasn’t just an afterthought to be slapped on at the last minute. All of Austin’s scores have this quality. None of his scores sounds like another one and I am a huge fan of such diversity. With diversity comes greater appreciation and understanding. With appreciation and understanding of the wilder world, comes a greater knowledge and respect for those around you. I don't have many male heroes in my life, but Austin Wintory is definitely one of them. The music of Austin Wintory will always have a special place in my heart because of discovering him on a Top 10 video (soz). I am ever so grateful to have been blessed by so many wonderful soundtracks composed by him since and many wonderful games that he has worked on. I wouldn’t have had the courage to write music for Two Point Hospital whilst juggling with a dissertation. In short, thank you for the music. 2. The Show Must Go On (Queen) My final year of studying my GCSEs (2011-2012) proved to be an important time, for that was when I decided to become a composer, as previously mentioned. Despite this, one was destined to perform an ensemble piece. In less pompous, academic terms, I had to form a band. All the other music students formed their own bands, leaving me and my friend P. by ourselves. With help from the guitar and bass teacher on bass and vocals and a Year 9 pupil named T, we had a band-I mean, ensemble. Learning to play an instrument through sheet music is one of the most important skills I ever learnt as a musician, for one can physically see how piece unfolds and how it is structured and arranged. Studying Queen’s swansong is particularly fascinating because of such exotic harmonies and key changes (Bm-C#min for the verse and choruses and F major in the bridge because fuck any sense of normality!). One type of harmony that is used throughout the piece is what is known as the suspended harmony, otherwise known as the sus chord, which is a form of suspension. A basic chord is made up 3 notes, the root, (note 1 of scale) mediant (note 3) and dominant (note 5). The mediant can either be major or minor, which are semitone/half-step apart. If you use the 2nd note (the supertonic) or 4th note (the subdominant) you form a sus 2 or sus 4 chord. They are very simple chords but are effective at creating beautiful tension without throwing tonality out of the window. The one that got me the most is the Dsus4 chord to D major at the end of the bridge, creating an almost religious sense of home. I don’t think enough composers use suspensions. They are incredibly effective harmonic and melodic devices. It was also with this song that I discovered I was both a perfectionist and procrastinator (both have been demolished now) because I spent a good hour dicking about with a keyboard to get the right synth string/pad tone to make it as similar to the original as possible. I learnt what ADSR meant that day. I think it is because of that assessment that I spend at least an hour acquiring the exact synth tone now. 3. Insane Family (Olivier Deriviere) Similarly to Journey, the score to 2018s Vampyr is rather interactive and manages to capture the dark and gritty atmosphere of this intriguing game. Whilst not as technical as Journey (few games are), this particular cue can enhance different emotions depending on your actions in the game. In Vampyr, you play as a Dr Jonathen Reid, who has returned to post-WW1 London to carry on doctoring and visit his ill mother, only to have been embraced and is now a (particularly strong) vampire. This is a game with a morality system. You can get to know the civilians and increase the value of their blood, which acts as this game's EXP. Doing so will make you stronger and life easier for you, but doing this makes the surrounding districts worse off and people start dying. You can get through the game without sucking any civilians dry, but the game becomes much more difficult as a result, and you may have to kill that guy trying to turn his life around. It is a brilliantly frustrating balancing act that is much more fun than I just described. My issue with morality systems, in general, is that the game either forces to be either cunt or saint, with somewhere in the middle being all that boring. There is rarely any real consequences either until the end game. Vampyr is a tad different (cue context/spoilers): Towards the end of the game's first act, you have to locate some other vampire who has been killing people off willy-nilly, and you chase them to a graveyard. This vampire is your presumed dead sister, Mary Reid, who you accidentally turned into a vampire. She, of course, is not all too pleased to see you and has bought your mother along, who has become Mary's brainless puppet. A cutscene plays, which can go in one of two ways. If you haven't killed any/few civilians, Jonathan is incredibly sympathetic, begging Mary not to kill their mother out of spite, assuring her that he can find a cure for vampirism, willing to save them both. She reluctantly listens and sends mother home. If you have been sucking off people left right and centre, Jonathan is incredibly angry and hostile with her. She is with him also, because she knows how merciless you have been. She kills your mother, angering Jonathan further. Regardless of your morality, you have to fight Mary, which is where today's cue enters. Now whilst the cue during the cutscene (titled; 'The Funerals') is far more interactive, as you won't hear certain elements depending on your actions and the boss music is broken down into different segments, which come and go, depending on how low Mary's health is. It fairly simple and rather typical for video game music interactivity. 'Insane Family' is far more interesting to me for the following reasons. Other than being incredibly dramatic (which is amazing, considering it is just one cello some percussion, and thunder samples(?)) but depending on how you have played the game (shown in the previous cutscene), one can interpret the emotional delivery of this cue, on an emotional level differently. If you have been a morally good vampire, this can be the anger coming from Mary, with the pitiful sorrow of Jonathan riding underneath, not wanting to end his sister. If you have been a morally bad vampire than this is just pure hatred for his Mary, wanting to eliminate his once-beloved sister who has clearly gone mad (from Jonathan's perspective). Whilst the interactivity/implementation of music in video games is incredibly important to me, what has (and always will) exceed that is the need to imply certain emotional responses in the player. Games are no different from films in that regard. To create a cue that has two different responses depending on the outcome requires a huge amount of thought and understanding in composition, and love the music for Vampyr because there is simply nothing else like it. You may not like it's extensive dialogue trees and the inability to run for long periods of time without the game crashing, but I can guarantee you will feel that you are in a dark, gritty TV drama about vampires. 4. La Cathédrale Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral) (Claude Debussy) My school was an all-boys school, which also had its own sixth form, which was where I studied my A-Levels. One of the selling points for the school was its smaller classes, which meant that A-Level classes had no more than 5 pupils at a time. In the case of music, there was two. The other pupil left at the end of the first year, leaving me having one-on-one lessons with my music teacher, and I would love every music lesson that year. It was during this second year of my A-Levels (2013-2014) that my teacher went full-throttle with the music theory, which I have always loved because I am incredibly weird. I still have the old exercise book written by Ann Rice that was helpful during one’s dissertation. Anyway, a lot of the music theory taught by my teacher and this exercise book was what is considered the true classical approach to composition, which I found pretty odd (and by Classical, I mean the Classical period of music, not all orchestral music that is coined classical). One of these practices was not constantly using consecutive fourths and fifth intervals, be it in motion or to form a chord/two-part harmony. If that doesn’t mean much to you, think of any rock song by The Who, Green Day or Nirvana. You have heard this open sound before, many, MANY times. One lunchtime, the GCSE and A level music students were made to attend a lunchtime music concert. Someone from a nearby college was entering a competition and used us as a practice audience. He played a handful of pieces by Liszt, Chopin and Mozart, all of which were masterfully performed and interpreted. The opening piece was The Sunken Cathedral by Debussy, who was a huge rule-breaker in 19th Century France. The piece is filled with these huge consecutive fourths and fifths and excessive pedalling on the piano, often the sustained one being held for most of the piece, creating this wash of sound that transported me to places I had never been before. In addition to this, I just fell in love with the constant extensions heard in the chords, which essentially means Debussy just added notes on top of your basic chords, usually in clusters to create a brilliantly warm sound. I can remember going to my music teacher after the concert and telling him about how much I loved this piece and Debussy’s use of harmony in that piece. During the following lesson, we discussed the piece in great detail, tearing apart and putting back together again. When I was allowed to compose a piece of music for an assessment that wouldn’t penalise me for following Classical tradition, I adopted harmonic cluster chords and extended close harmonies, both are things I practice to this day. 5. & 6. Riverman & Introduction (Nick Drake) When I went to college (2014-2016), I studied Music Tech, to further my music production skills to improve the quality of my orchestral mock-ups and recordings. Despite it being a Music Tech course, it focused a lot on performance and songwriting/craft. I had lots of experience with the former at school and the sixth form, but not the latter. I learnt a lot during those two years about that though. During my second and final year, I felt more confident than I ever had done before. My guitar playing improved, as did my songwriting. That being said, none of them is mainstream radio material. They were good though...or so I was told. One afternoon, I auditioned to play in a college gig that would take place during an opening evening. One of the three songs caught the eye of one of my lecturers, for it reminded him of a Nick Drake song. At the time, that meant very little to me, so I wasn’t sure that it was a compliment or an insult. So when I naturally investigated this further, I searched for Nick Drake on the YouTubes and found Riverman, which is in 5/4 time that couldn’t decide whether it was in C major or C minor with this incredibly chilling string arrangement, with Nick Drake’s vocals that could easily be a sax line. I love it! Nick Drake would become my favourite guitarists and one of my favourite songwriters. His lyrics were incredibly poetic and fuckin’ miserable that toyed with death and insecurities with unique chord voices and string tunings unique only to Nick Drake. I quickly saw what that lecturer saw in that song of mine. As I do with most pieces of music I love, I have a habit of studying other works that they did, which led me to ‘Introduction’, one of the few instrumental tunes of his, and one of many string arrangments done by the great Robert Kirby. Lyrical and simply subline, with legato lines that soar like songbirds. It is quite easy for anyone to over saturate one’s orchestrations with notes and movement where it is not needed. Less is often more, and any writer/arranger for strings should study Robert Kirby’s works. 7. The Lark Ascending (Ralph Vaughn Williams) On the topic of brilliantly British writing, I return to one of my favourite pieces of classical music, a piece I discovered whilst transition from college to university. It is a tone poem set the actual poem of the same name with a solo violin and chamber orchestra accompaniment. The observant ear will notice that the strings will have mutes on the strings, not to interfere with the delicate virtuosic pentatonic/folky melody (the harmonies are also rather simple). Likewise, and solos from the horns, clarinets, flute etc. are all literal solos. Nothing interferes with the melody, which is just as useful composition advice, as it is on a music production level. As is the case with many of the pieces on this list, The Lark Ascending tells a story through music and create many stirring emotions in the process. It is an important principle I stand by when composing. 8. Literally any Pokemon Game Score… (Various, mainly Junichi Masuda & Jo Ichinose) I have always been heavily passionate about the Pokemon games and their accompanying scores, even though I have rarely talked about them on my social media pages. I should make an effort to address throughout 2020. But I digress. I think I have always been influenced by the game design and music of the Pokemon games. I learnt I loved RPGs (and by extension, JRPGs) with simple battle mechanics strengthened by strong narratives. The Pokemon games have played their part in my love for catchy melodies and interesting nonfunctional harmonies that I try and incorporate into my works as I deem appropriate. 9. The entire Oneknowing Album (Lena Raine) I first heard of Lena Raine in a similar fashion that so many others did, which was through the critically acclaimed game ‘Celeste’. I haven’t gotten round to playing the game or listening to the soundtrack in full, as I have a rule of thumb that I won’t listen to a soundtrack before experiencing the accompanying media, to minimise spoilers. I will admit that I have heard snippets of it through social media. Of course I have. There has been no avoiding it, as both the music and the game have been very popular. ‘Celeste’ is one of many games this decade that tackles difficult mental wellbeing. In particular, anxiety is a focus of the game, in addition to overcoming all the odds that life throws at you. It saved a few of my friend’s lives, something I am grateful for. I said this to Lena when I briefly spoke to her at the 2019 BAFTA Game Awards, thanking her on their behalf. She seemed pleasantly surprised that her music had that effect on these people. What makes the music of Lena Raine stand out to me is how unique her sounds are. I say ‘sounds’, for Lena has a wonderful take on synthesis and production that you just don’t hear anywhere else. And there is no better place to experience such wonderful electronic soundscapes than with her latest album (as of 2019), Oneknowing, which is the most refreshing albums I have heard in years. So many contemporary artists follow similar production techniques and harmonic progressions that have become stale and boring to my ears. With Oneknowing, you are never quite sure what to hear when you listen to this album and I love that. One moment you are in a New Age bed of dreams, before being teased with a mini-D&B backbeat that pulls the rug beneath your feet, with strangely hypnotising lullabies that could fit nicely into the ‘NieR’ franchise. In case you’re curious, my favourite track on the album is Momodani. 10. GIANT (IMERUAT) I have been in awe with this piece and its music video with the same level of intrigue and childish wonder since the first time I watched it on YouTube. It was one of the more influential YouTube algorithm recommendations of my life. IMERUAT is a duo consisting of composer Masashi Hamauzu and singer Mina Sakai. Masashi Hamauzu is most famous for composing the soundtrack to FINAL FANTASY XIII, which is one of my most favourite games in the franchise (don’t at me) in addition to one of my favourite soundtracks. Mina, whilst most famous for being the face of IMERUAT, she was also a vocalist on the FFXIII score (‘Sulyya Springs’, ‘Will to Fight’, and ‘Gapra Whitewood’). The arrangement of this is deceptively complex as the sections hop back from 5/8 time to 6/8 time, meaning an additional quaver (or eighth-note to you Yanks) is added, which is just enough for the piece to remain interesting on a rhythmic level. That is not to say the harmonic content and melodies aren’t interesting. I think it is a beautiful violin melody that has clearly been double-tracked (you can hear a slight chorus effect, implying the same violinist played the same part twice) to create a richer and stronger sound. What is also deceptive is the harmonies found in this piece. The syncopated piano chords could easily be found in any jazz standard. Jazz is hidden behind many of Masahi Hamauzu’s works, usually with close voicings (ie, the notes are close together, not spread out) which create a warm texture, like a hug. Then there is the dance that accompanies the piece, which is incredibly captivating. Music and dance have gone hand in hand with each other for literally thousands of years, so it is only natural for us to seek pleasure out of the relationship between song and dance. This especially so because I find it so unprecedented. I long for the day to have a piece of music of mine set to dance or write a piece of music to be set to dance. Coda There are hundreds of pieces that have played a huge part in my compositional style, so to name just ten(ish) examples across a 10 year period is painstakingly difficult, so I will leave some honourable mentions for to explore at your leisure, in no particular order of preference. Some are albums, whilst some are specific pieces of music. The soundtracks for Silent Hill 1-4 by Akira Yamaoka 'The River Cam' by Eric Whitacre The soundtrack to the Kharon's Crypt by Tony Manfredonia when that releases (I had the pleasure of hearing snippets of it whilst it was being worked on, as my friend Tony would ask for my help concerning production (things like EQ, compression, etc.)). Any score done by Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman & Erich Wolfgang Korngold Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim The Music from Riverdance by Bill Whelan Wicked by Stephen Schwartz 'The Light We Cast' from Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture by Jessica Curry The first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, performed by Jacqueline du Pré The soundtrack to Shadow of The Colossos by Kow Otani 'Music' by John Miles Nick Drakes albums. All of them! Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of The Worlds (Original cast recording and New Generation cast) The soundtracks to Dark Souls & Tales of Berseria by Motoi Sakuraba The Bloodborne soundtrack, composed by various fantastic composers. The soundtrack to CHAOS;CHILD by Takeshi Abo Oxygene by Jean Michel-Jare 'Fire on High' from Face the Music by Electric Light Orchestra The soundtrack for The Last Guardian by Takeshi Furukawa Requiem for My Mother by Rebbeca Dale Literally, everything done by Kate Bush, Earth, Wind & Fire, Motown, CHIC & Shoji Meguro and the rest of the ATLUS Sound Team.
  2. This weeks winter edition of #TuneTuesday tune does not have the word 'snow' in its title. It is Ice Mountain Zone Act 1 from Sonic Advance on the GBA, composed by Tatsuyuki Maeda & Yutaka Minobe. Everyone knows Sonic the Hedgehog and the concept of all of the games. You 'gotta go fast' to defeat Dr Robotnik/Eggman from taking over the world with his evil robot minions, usually with the aid of at least one of the Chaos Emeralds, which I've never really fully understood what they do other than make Sonic and other characters go Super Saiyan/hedgehog. Levels whiz past in a dizzying blur as run, jump and spin your way through levels and enemies. The music of the games usually reflect this adrenaline rush, but this cue (and the slightly varied Ice Mountain Zone Act 2) is somewhat laid back, as more delicate platforming is involved. That said, there is some brilliant cross-rhythms and almost jarring time syncopations, allows players to continue to fill excited and pumped as they are moving forward in the stage. The plinky percussion is the main instrument that suggests we are entering a winter wonderland, one that is covered with ice or snow. It was also the first level in the game to have an underwater segment, which does slow the player right down because of science. I could be wrong, for it was almost 20 years ago since I first played that game. Fuck, I feel really old now...
  3. As we're now in December, I am going to cover tunes that either Christmasy, Snowy or Icy in nature for this months #TuneTuesday tunes. To kick things off, here is the #Persona3 FES version of Snow Queen, composed by Idehito Aoki & Kenichi Tsuchiya, arranged by Shoji Meguro. This is the version that most Persona fans would be immediately aware of. The original comes from the original Persona, which I will include here also, for comparison's sake, which definitely has a more snowy flavour. I've discussed the Persona games in great detail before, so I will just give a brief overview. Take your favourite shonen, slice-of-life anime, slap it with Pokemon with an existential crisis, and you've got yourself every Persona game. The plot of Persona 3 revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids (surprise-surprise) who hit the books by day and hit the Shadows (daemons essentially) with their powers of Persona summoning by night. These are manifestations of one's inner self, which are essentially more mature 'Pokemon' based on real-life mythic deities. Persona 3 had an extended version (like the Pokemon games) do call Persona 3 FES, which didn't add in a whole, besides previously Japan-only DLC 'The Answer', an epilogue to the original story and additional music for the dungeon areas, known as Tartarus, a seemingly neverending tower that reaches the heavens by the end of the game. The remix of The Snow Queen was one of those included tunes, which is in A minor, not in the original's C minor and is an emotional dance track and not the whispery orchestral version found in the original Persona game. It's inclusion in FES is a very good one, as it works well as you make your ascent in Tartarus, especially when you reach the final few floors at the game's climax. Another altered version is also on 'Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight', which just adds to the emotional drive of the tune. The Snow Queen is a famous boss in the Persona universe and some gaming circles for two reasons. 1) She is a gruesomely difficult boss, as is her arc in the original game. It is not part of the main story, and players can only do that route of the main story route as if The Snow Queen was DLC or a story in an alternate universe. The reality is that both The Snow Queen and the main route happen at the same time, but with different members of the party, depending on one which ones you choose to explore with or what you decide at a certain point in the story. 2) The Snow Queen questline is not found in any version of the original Persona, outside of Japan and no one seems to know why (inform me if I am wrong about this!). I am presuming it is because of it being too difficult for western audiences, but I am not certain. Both versions of the cue have become iconic within the Persona fanbase, for good reason. They are both incredibly moving, delivering on the intended emotions and setting of each perspective game.
  4. To conclude this years #Spooktober's Edition of #TuneTuesday, I will talk about the panic-inducing Taurus Demon cue from Dark Souls, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. I'm fairly certain everyone at this point is familiar with how difficult the Soulsborne series is, which would soon create the 'git gud' mentality from many players, but you may not be aware of the story, which I will briefly go over for you, for context sake. You are undead, and you must go and link this great fire. That's it. Everything else remotely narrative is built upon various bits of lore that you can choose to read on items and weapons you find, and the occasional NPC who talks at you. But one does not play the From Software games for stories, they play them because they are masochists who like smacking their head against a brick wall 100s of times to defeat the franchise's gruelling boss fights. It is also during said fights you will hear music, as the games are pretty mute otherwise (with a couple of areas having some music, and Sekiro having music practically everywhere). First time players would have struggled with the game's first proper area, Undead Burg, as they learn that anything can easily kill you, enemies often ambush you and not to take on the Black Knight, lest you get completely destroyed. You finally ascend the inner works of a castle, pass through a fog gate, and wander around the very narrow Crenellations, which can be easy to fall off of, should you not pay attention to the environment. The next thing you know, a large, sheep/bull demon with a huge axe leaps off of the opposite tower and begins to charge at you. This is where today's cue enters. What I think many fans of Dark Souls and video game soundtracks overlook is the size of its orchestra. Most games that have symphonic sounding soundtracks have full-phat orchestras with lush reverbs and may have screaming full-phat choirs. I don't need to go into more details about that I'm sure. Dark Souls has a much smaller ensemble, most likely a chamber orchestra, recorded in a much smaller recording space. The choir seems to be much smaller as well. Because it sounds smaller, does not mean it has any less punch. In fact, I would say that it was more because of this orchestration/compositional decision, which adds to the fear of whatever hideous boss monster, demon or dragon is tearing your arms and pancreas apart, the vast majority of these cues being atonal messes. If the orchestra was the more typical 80-100 piece a lot of the unique energy the cues had would be lost. There are very few soundtracks to that of the original Dark Souls, where the soundtrack is just boss cues. Some of them are rather moving and emotional, whilst others, like Tauras Demon, induce PTSD-esque flashbacks. And of course, there are very few games as frighteningly frustrating as Dark Souls.
  5. Carrying on with the paints-shitting terrifying music, this weeks Spooktober #TuneTuesday is Peak Level from 'Chaos;Child', composed by Takeshi Abo. I did cover this game in a recent(ish) #TuneTuesday thread, but to give a brief summary, Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of The New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so death is commonplace within the narrative. Various members of the cast are thrown into mortal danger constantly. This is when today's cue enters. When 'Peak Level' is heard in the game, it is usually in direct conjunction with murders related to the Return of The New Generation Madness. In other words, it is played when someone is being murdered, usually horrifically and slowly. Chaos;Child doesn't fuck about either, as it does not shy away from any of the horrific imagery of someone chopping up their own arm and eating their own fingers, to use the very first thing you see in the game. And being a visual novel, the sound design and descriptions is just so much more immersive than your typical game, for a lot of the work is done by you. These are genuinely terrifying moments to sit through. In the early sections of the game, it is other people who are killed when this cue plays, but when the cue plays when you and/or your school buddies are around, that is when the fear goes from 0-to-10 really fucking fast as you are forced to watch your near defenceless protagonist and friends flee from whatever is attempting to tear them apart (literally in one case!). On its own, without any context, 'Peak Level' sounds like a broken Trance/Dubstep with some weird tribal vocals going on. But when 'Peak Level' is played in-game, it makes Chaos;Child one of the most frightening narratives to experience. There are 2 instances where this cue is it's most frightening, which is the end of Chapter 6 and 8. I won't tell you why so you'll have to experience Chaos;Child to find out.
  6. Week 3 of the #Spooktober takeover of #TuneTuesday has us look at a more intense #horror game cue, one that I think is terrifying, both in and out of its associated game. The cue is 'Suitor Attacks' from Justine, the DLC from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, composed by Mikko Tarmia. You play as Daniel, a young man from London who has awoken in the dark and empty halls of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle with little to no memory about himself or his past. All he can remember is his name, that he lives in Mayfair and that a 'Shadow' is hunting him. It does not take him long to find a letter from his past self, telling him that he has deliberately erased his own memory. But before doing this, he instructed his future self (ie, you) to kill Alexander, the castle's baron (it's set in 1839). Why he didn't kill Alexander before wiping his memory is beyond me... Gaping plot flaw aside, it is considered to be one of the greatest horror games to have spawned from the mouths of hell, and I am in that mindset. The Dark Descent takes many influences from Lovecraftian horror, using the famous quote “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” to it's fullest. I discussed in a previous #TuneTuesday thread (almost a year ago) about the impeccable sound design and score, both of which scares you more than the monsters themselves. You cannot fight the monsters, so your only option is to hide. They are sensitive to the light from your lamp, so you have to hide in the dark. Problem is, Daniel is scared of the dark and can start making whimpering noises, should his Sanity drop too much. You can't really look at them drains your Sanity Meter, which is not good for Daniel. In short, you're fucked. As for today's cue, this is found in the game's only DLC, Justine. Here, the player takes control of an unnamed female character, who awakens with amnesia in a dungeon cell, accompanied a phonograph. It contains a recording by a woman named Justine, who tells you that she is the subject of a psychological test. The player character is then allowed to escape, or die trying. In some ways, it is more frightening than the base game, for reasons I will avoid for spoiler reasons. In addition to the new monsters that you can't look at, there is also permadeath, so if you die in the game, you have to start all over again! Where it excels is its ability as a laxative. You will die a lot in this DLC, especially at the DLC's penultimate puzzle, which involves you moving about in a pool of water, so your movements are slower, whilst you are being chased by one of these Suitors, who is much faster and aggressive than the ones before it. Accompanying this is this uniquely aggressive cue, which is horrible in every sense of the word. I won't begin to attempt to pull it apart in a music theory sense, because (as I'm sure you can hear) is an atonal mess of screeching strings, harrowing synth pads and thumping percussion. As I said on November 2018, I do believe everyone should experience this game, whether you have the stomach to actually play it, or watch someone else through a let's play. One could argue it is because of PewDiePie's Lets Play that Lets Plays are a thing at all. It certainly made PewDiePie an internet sensation which, in turn, made gaming more mainstream, rather than just an expensive waste of time to the general public.
  7. This weeks #TuneTuesday is a guilty pleasure of mine within gaming music. It's Pepsi Man, composed by James Shimoji, performed by his band 'James & The Gang'. This will require some explaining, as I'm sure many of you have no idea what's going on. Having survived the great Game Crash during the mid-late 80s (yes, this was a thing), video game popularity skyrocketed, thanks to a little Japanese company known as Nintendo. Up until then, they made playing cards. They would change the world of gaming. This of course inspired all sorts of people in the 90s who played Nintendo's games during the 80s. Many non-game companies saw the opportunity to promote their goods to children through video games such as horrible Yo!Noid (Dominos Pizza) Cool Spot (Sprite) and of course, Pepsi Man, who was only ever marketed in Japan, as was the game...despite being in English. It didn't sell well. The game itself is really weird. It is in the style of Temple Run, where Pepsi Man must run to people who need help, not to be rescued from a burning building or a plane crash (which are actual scenarios), but to give them a drink of teeth-rotting Pepsi. If you can get past the over the top advertising, strange logic and Mike Butters watching you (it makes sense (almost) in the game), it is not a terrible game by any means. It's not great, but not terrible. What I especially like about the song is how all the instruments are live. This game came out in 1999 on the PS1 and many at the soundtracks relied heavily on MIDI. Not our Lord and Saviour Pepsi Man! He gets his own band! Maybe someday when I put together my own game music concert/show, I'll include Pepsi Man. I mean, how many surf-rock game cues can you think of? It will certainly spice things up a bit...
  8. To carry on this musical #Spooktober, this weeks #TuneTuesday is the creepy cue 'Who's There?' from Persona 4, composed by Shoji Meguro. Persona 4, like the Persona games before and after it revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids who are granted magical powers by a man with large nose to defeat this impending evil that lurks in the shadows. These powers allow them to summon a Persona (the protagonist can summon multiple), which is a manifestation of their inner-self. It is essentially Pokemon with an existential crisis. There are two things that have made Persona 4 particularly famous: 1) How hard ATLUS has milked the franchise with a variety of spin-offs, including an extended version (Persona 4: GOLDEN) 2 fighting games, surprisingly good dancing game. In addition, there are also 2 animes and manga. 2) How happy-clappy much of the game is. If you are a fan of slice-of-life anime where everyone and everything is fine and enjoy the schoolfriends having fun and solving problems in their life, you will enjoy Persona 4, without a shadow of a doubt. You'll probably enjoy GOLDEN more because there are more in-game events where the characters have even more fun with each other. Such as them going to the beach, bringing it all the more closer to its slice-of-life anime counterpart. Now what I have avoided is the plot, because it is actually incredibly dark, the severity I feel is overlooked from time-to-time with fans within the Persona community. The plot revolves around a strange case of murders, where people are being wound up dead, strung up by TV aerials, the first two being young women, one of them a teenager. Besides this, what they also had in common is that they both appeared on TV, as would the other targets on The Midnight Channel, which is only on during midnight in the rain. The protagonist and friends become an Investigation Team to solve the case by entering the TV World and saving those who appear on The Midnight Channel. It is during the more sinister moments in the game where this creepy piano motif plays. Either when an antagonist threatens the party, horrible truths are discovered. The cue is at it's strongest when it plays just before the game's climax when the party has to make decisions that not only affect the outcome of the story but whether certain characters live or die by your direct hand. You can become a heartless murderer in this game if you wish. Similarly, there is a secret(ish) ending you can achieve in GOLDEN which is just as, if not more heartless as the previous one. You can work out that one for yourself... As for the cue itself, it's barely in F#minor, which can be worked out from the haunting tremolo strings and stabbing celli (plural for cello) and basses. It works so well in distilling horror to the players in the game, especially as one that is as upbeat and as jolly as this one. You can be having fun with your friends or working on that social link when BANG! The scary music returns and someone is dead or about to die with next to no chance of saving them. In an instant, your lives are in turmoil once more. This is one of the few cases where the music of a Persona game delivers horror brilliantly.
  9. I have decided to celebrate Spooktober by choosing #TuneTuesday tunes that are either spooky or paints-shitting terrifying. To kick the scarefest off, this weeks #TuneTuesday is 'Black Fairy' from Silent Hill 2, composed by Akira Yamaoka. Set some undetermined time after the events of the original Silent Hill, you take control of Jaaaaaaaaaames Sunderland, who returns to the eponymous town after receiving a letter from his wife, Mary, to come to their 'special place'. It's a fairly normal premise, but what makes it odd is that Mary is dead and has been for 3 years. Regardless, James sets out to the monster-ridden town that is enveloped in a strange for. From this opening, the astute player will work out that James isn't ok, and neither are the few people he encounters on his journey. I'll say no more on the matter, as I will enter massive spoiler territory. That being said, this cue is played during the final boss and is a perfect culmination of the game's themes and ideas. James finds out that <<INSERT SPOILER>> and his whole world begins to crumble. The strange, almost atonal synth pad just pulsates, not really going anywhere creating this incredibly uncomfortable tension for the player. Yet somehow, there is something about it that makes you want to listen to it over and over. Like much of the game's soundtrack, 'Black Fairy' has a strange dreamlike quality, or more appropriately, one befitting an awful nightmare. I highly recommend lovers of horror games and game soundtracks to listen to experience Silent Hill 2 and it's trippy ambiences, for it is arguably one of the best horror games to exist, with one of the most unusually pleasing soundtracks.
  10. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite JRPGs. It is 'The Way of The Embodied Dragon' from Tales of Berseria, composed by Motoi Sakuraba Tales of Berseria is the most recent entry of the Tales and acts as a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, some 1000 years prior. The Tales games take the usual anime adventure, happy-clappy setting of a group of varied and talented friends off to vanquish some great evil. Berseria is not so jolly. Velvet Crowe and her younger brother Laphicet are saved by her brother-in-law Artorius when a Scarlet Night occured, causing daemons to attack their village. Seven years later, Velvet takes care of her sickly brother with Artorius. The Scarlet Night returns, with the entire village succumbing to the Daemonblight: when Velvet finds Artorius, sacrificing her brother as part of a ritual, known as the "Advent". Artorius attempts to use her for the Advent as well, but she fights back and the Daemonblight possesses her arm, mutating it and turning her into a Daemon called a "Therion", with the ability to absorb Daemons. In a rage, she slaughters the nearby Daemons before passing out. She awakes in a prison for Daemons on the island Titania, swearing to kill Artorius and avenge her brother's murder. Velvet does encounter others who wish to stop Artorious and his newly founded Church, but for different reasons. Every character in the party is incredibly selfish, acting in their own accord, using the others for their own benefit.It is not until the very end of the game's narrative that they acquaintances. It is where this cue sneaks in. This cue plays during the final area, where Velvet and co. are off for that final showdown with Artorious, ending his tyrannical rule. I can't reveal why the cue is named as such without spoilers, but as the dragon and the dungeon itself, it is quite the epic cue. The cue begins in G minor, but doesn't really stay there for very long as it leaps and stabs its way into other keys totally detached from the starting key. The constantly shifting harmony creates a lot of tension, which is added to the excitement the player climbing higher and higher through this last dungeon to fight the final boss after a good 60hrs of compelling narrative and frantic fights. I don't usually make comments about samples, but I feel that it's required here to note that whilst I would have loved have heard more live instruments in this cue (and the rest of the soundtrack), there is a certain 'punch' that has been achieved that I don't think one could have replicated with a live string section and drums. I could be wrong in that assumption, but if there are any live performances of it out there, chuck it my way and prove me wrong!
  11. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from the visual novel I have just finished playing/reading/experiencing. It is 'Visible Essence' from 'Chaos;Child' composed by Takeshi Abo Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of the New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so many of the cues are varying degrees of creepy and frightening, depending on what is going on at a certain moment in the story. With Japanese high school students as the protagonists, there are some lighter relief moments where some of the cues are more upbeat and pleasant, as well as some appropriately sad ones for certain moments. It is not a terribly interactive soundtrack, but music in media should always enhance the emotions on screen first before you throw all the clever Wwise toys at it. The cues never feel repetitive or monotonous, which is why this soundtrack is just fantastic. Then you have today's cue, which is very different from what the player is used to hearing in the game. I personally get Jean-Michel Jarre vibes from it, probably because it sounds very similar to one of the Oxygene tracks that's in G minor. Visible Essence plays towards the end of the visual novel, in association with a certain group of characters (who are nameless here for spoiler reasons) and certain climatic plot revelations that are true 'mind-blown' moments. The cue represents these people perfectly. They are frightening, extremely intelligent and have this strange brewing power that is never truly explained. That is all I'm going to say on the cue, for I fear I have said too much already. Go play Chaos;Child, for it is one of the best narrative experiences I have encountered in a game. It's sound design and voice acting is top-notch as well. I have very little to fault this game on, which is incredibly rare to find a piece of media this good.
  12. This week's #TuneTuesday is from #VampireTheMasqueradeBloodlines, that PC game I keep coming back to. The cue is Downtown Theme composed by Ric Schaffer. In case you're not aware, Bloodlines is based off World of Darkness' LARP (live-action roleplaying (game)) 'Vampire: The Masquerade' and has you play as one of 7 vampiric clans, each with their own quirks and powers (note: VtM has 13 clans...for the most part). Once you are embraced in Bloodlines, you are pretty much a puppet to a Sebastian LaCroix, who is the leader of a vampiric group called the Camarilla, who are enemies with a slightly freer group, the Anarchs. I could go on more about the story, but I do not want to spoil more than I already have done. I may have made the rivalry sound very simplistic and uninteresting, but that is not the case at all. VtM (and by extension, VtMB) is, and always has been, a game of politics, as these two factions (and the more primal Sabbat), have their own beliefs and systems as to why they are the better than the others and why their way is the best way. To be very crude, the Camarilla is basically 'fuck you, peasants, bow down and kiss the knee', the Anarchs is 'fuck da police' and the Sabbat is 'fuck everyone'. So where does this cue play into this? VtMB has you, the player, explore 4 different hub zones in a really small version of LA; Santa Monica, Chinatown, Hollywood and Downtown, each one with their own theme that plays on a loop as you explore each hub. Whilst VtMB does have its own theme, which is basically a rip off of 'Angel' by Massive Attack, I think Downtown Theme reflects the gritty politics found in the game (the Camarilla and Anarchs have a strong footing here) much more. It's dark brooding F minor riff is the darker reality of a modern vampire stalking the streets on modern bystanders, not some Count Dracula 'I hath come to suck'th the blood', luring innocents into their lair. And with almost every American able to carry around guns easily, no Kindred is safe...
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