Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beyond The Horizon (Listening Guide)

Every role-playing game that exists has an airship in it. It's the part of the game where the player is given ultimate freedom and exploration, and it's my personal favorite part of most RPGs (role-playing games).

Furthermore, I can't think of one RPG airship that didn't have a theme. Thus, I set out to create a tune of exploration and adventure for our game.

Here is the current version of Beyond the Horizon:

Beyond The Horizon by Project Panda Music

Hit the jump for the guide.

0:00-0:06: A powerful string section carries the main melody while a french horn section supports from the middle range. A cascading square-wave is lightly placed on the left and a kick drum drives the song forward with a quick paced rhythm. The low-range bass holds long notes, sliding its pitch downward before snapping back up for the next note. The bass is lethargic, but attacks its notes fervently.
0:06-0:12: Everything repeats once more, except for the percussion. A syncopated snare drum appears. Following the snare is an open hi-hat setting an expectation which a snare roll transitions into. 
0:13-0:39: A distorted guitar takes hold of the main melody providing for a bolder sound. On the right, trumpets are heard at the end of every measure. This is what is labeled a "Call and Response" style, where the guitar "calls" the trumpets with a short riff, and the trumpets "respond" with a riff of their own. The drums settle into a steady beat, with a few double-hi hat or snare beats to make the rhythm groovier. The hi-hat is closed now as well, lessening its presence and shortening its time heard per beat which reduces the momentum of the piece. Hi-hat pacing is an interesting concept that I want to write about in the future (after I learn some on my own)! 

Don't you feel like you're going somewhere?

0:40-0:52: The breakdown. A flute melody contently soars through the skies while a synth-flourish pitch sweeps up and down and flies from left to right. The bass begins to walk, striking a note on every beat and the french horns continue their support form the mid-range. This part of the song feels airier and lighter than the previous part. The lack of percussion and trumpets, as well as the timbre of the flute contribute to the airiness.
0:53-1:05: The drum and trumpets re-enter. The trumpets perform a staccato rhythm underneath the flutes high-flying melody. The trumpets and drum are striving to be somewhere, leading us. The hi-hat kicks in again with the snare drum, providing more momentum towards the impending transition that the snare roll leads in to. The trumpets, right before the transition, have a moment of optimistic discovery which they exclaim loudly and excitedly.
1:05-End: Repeats main section with an altered trumpet riff. The trumpets, now having discovered something, have become more optimistic in their responses, and even take part with the guitar in leading the melody as well.

I spent a great deal of time listening to other video game airship themes, and I came to the conclusion that they all have a hilariously similar feel. I tried to mimic the feel as best as I could here.

  1. Call and Response - A structure of music where one or more sounds "call" or play something which is followed by the "response" of another sound. The two sounds will never be from the same source. A singer cannot call and respond to himself. 
  2. Measure - A small section of music usually containing four beats.
  3. Riff - A musical section of a song that is often repeated and is more rhythmic than the melody.
  4. Square-wave - A fundamental sound wave, shaped like a square. 
  5. Staccato - Abrupt and short sounds.
  6. Syncopated - When the emphasized beats of a song are shifted from 1 and 3 of a measure to 2 and 4.
  7. Timbre (Pronounced TAM-BER) - The specific sound of a sound. It is what

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