Kenley Kristofferson

Composer.

Tag: into the score

VGM Wednesdays – “Fluffy Sweet” from Cloud

“Fluffy” from Cloud, by Vincent Diamante and released in 2005.

Have you ever put down a game after a few hours (or minutes) or play and thought, “man, that was just so beautiful?”  That’s Cloud.

I was exposed to this game at an IGDA meeting in Winnipeg about four years ago and it really stuck with me.  Noah Decter-Jackson of Complex Games was leading a small presentation about indie games and the industry around it and one of his examples of alternative gameplay was Cloud.  The wiki describes the game better than I ever could…

The game centers on a boy who dreams of flying while asleep in a hospital bed. The concept was partially based on lead designer Jenova Chen‘s childhood; he was often hospitalized for asthma and would daydream while alone in his room. Assuming the role of the boy, the player flies through a dream world and manipulates clouds to solve puzzles. The game was intended to spark emotions in the player that the video game industry usually ignored.

It’s about the experience and that’s what I love about indie games.  I’ve been replaying Bit Blot’Aquaria on the iPad and it’s been such a great time.  The colours are lush, the music in headphones is immersive… Indie games don’t shortchange you on the emotional part of the game and it never feels contrived or forced like in some big budget films or games.

Anyway, back to Cloud.  Episode 14 of Into the Score (my podcast on the in-depth study of video game music) tackled this game and features a great interview with the composer, Vincent Diamante.  What a great guy and very generous with this time.  Definitely check it out.  He’s scored thatgamecompany‘s fl0w, Flower and Journey.

What I love about the game’s score is that the melodic theme is heard first in “Title” often present, but with strange harmonies below it that pull the listener in a different direction.  The title really sets up the brightness and happy feel of theme, which leaves room for the composer to mess with it as the game progresses.  In the second track from the game’s OST, called “Just About Ready,” the theme comes in at about 0:32 and it sounds nice, but is then followed by (what I think is) the VI chord with an appoggiatura, betraying the happy expectation that you thought was coming.  This is what the whole game does 🙂

When we listen to “Fluffy Sweet,” we hear the theme of the game being elaborated and decorated through the harp and piano.  Then what he does (and this is lovely), he turns the theme into the rhythmic ostinato upon which these lush, colourful and vibrant chords sustain overtop, creating this juxtaposing texture of rhythmic-but-consonant and harmonic-but-dissonant.

So much love for this score.  The game is free, you can download it here.

See you soon!
Kenley

VGM Wednesdays – “Colour of the Summer Sky”

“Colour of the Summer Sky” from Square’s Secret of Mana, released in 1993.

We first hear it in Potos Village, but it never leaves us through the rest of the game.  Hiroki Kikuta‘s score to Squaresoft’s 1993 RPG, Secret of Mana is one of those scores that transcends other musical works of its generation and that really isn’t a superlative generalization – it’s just one of those scores.

When I was thinking about doing a post on Secret of Mana, I couldn’t decide which to do at first: The iconic “Angel’s Fear” (or “Fear of the Heavens,” depending on your translation) from the game’s opening? The epic “Star of Darkness ~ Grand Palace Theme?” The victorious “Calm Before the Storm?” The unifying (and super groovy) “Eternal Recurrance ~ Undine’s Cave?”

So we see how difficult this is? How does one choose? Current notion: I’ll choose one now and others later 🙂

The plot of the game is one of those complex-yet-incredibly-simple-but-still-incredibly-complex games, where on the story’s surface, a three young boys disobey the village elder and visit a waterfall where they find the Mana Sword of ages past.  Upon finding the sword, a military higher up (Jema, I think) says that the sword is legendary and tells our hero to go visit the eight Mana Temples and energize it.

There’s so much more, but that’s how we start.

From spritely woodwinds (like in “What the Forest Taught Me ~ Upper Land Forest Theme“, exotic percussion (especially the gamelan-style mallets and harmonic work in “Ceremony ~ South Ruins Theme“), there really is SO much that goes beyond both gameplay and nostalgia – there’s something really happening here.

But it’s not just the music, it’s the interplay between the music and the visuals, the gameplay and the story, for all are cohesive and none are isolated in video games.  Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo talks about this, the synergy of elements in gaming and how the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  He and Derek Yu made “Aquaria” for the PC and Mac… that’s up next week.

Thanks for listening! If you ever want to check out more musings on VGM, come check out my podcast, Into the Score!

Until next time,
Kenley

VGM Wednesdays – “Title Screen” from Kid Icarus

“Title Screen” from Nintendo’s Kid Icarus, released in 1986

Written by Hip Tanaka in 1986, Kid Icarus is one of those pieces that stay with you and you may or may not have it in your head for the next several hours – sorry.  If you ever play the game, you’ll be hearing the music a lot, as the title is notoriously difficult even by today’s standards.

Essentially, Kid Icarus is the story of an angelic character named Pit who seeks to get three treasures and save the Goddess of Angel Land, Palutena.  You start at the Underworld and go up… and up… and up.

This is one of Hip Tanaka’s more straightforward scores – unlike Metroid and Earthbound (as a co-composer with Keiichi Suzuki), which were more in his off-the-beaten-path styles.  There’s a classical lightness that permeates this score, giving it the sense of always moving forward, just like the game.

For the rest of the score, check out the VGMPF’s post about it here:
http://www.vgmpf.com/Wiki/index.php?title=Kid_Icarus:_Angel_Land_Story_(NES)

For more of my video game rantings and learnings, check out my podcast (Into the Score) at http://www.intothescore.com!

Thanks for reading!
Kenley

VGM Wednesdays – VGMPF and Sim City (SNES)

Very few genres of music have affected me as much as music from video games.  They were a huge part of my youth (but I still remembered to play outside and be creative) and, coupled with high school music education, became a driving force of my musical development.

There is SO much great music that has been written over the past 3o years for this dynamic and exciting medium and I really want to highlight some of its repertoire – canonical or not – on my website.  Great music is meant to be shared and I want to spread some of my favourites to you.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “good,” whatever that even means, but simply that they resonate with me and are beautiful in their own way and I am certainly not the only one who thinks that way…

The Video Game Music Preservation Foundation is an archive of the canon and repertoire of VGM.  Some music purists may find it strange to talk about the “canon” or “repertoire” of VGM, but it’s really there and it’s important to so many people.  There is a canon of all genres: Of blues, of jazz, of ’50s, of Baroque Music (or all Classical music, for that matter), pop and yes, video game music.  The archive can be found at…

http://www.vgmpf.com/

… and I have immeasurable respect for these folks.  Granted, it’s not complete, but they’re building and I support that entirely.

Now, onto this week’s selection: “Title” from Sim City for the SNES.


Sim City (by MAXIS) was first released for PC in 1989 as a simulation where one builds their own city, manages its citizens and repels/recovers from natural disasters.  It was ported to SNES in 1991 as one of the first games to land on the system and it made quite the splash.

The menu title is one that really stuck with me, where I would just listen to the music for minutes on end, feeling no need to press start and begin.  When I was 8, I recorded it on an an old cassette player, putting the microphone to the TV speaker and just letting the loop run.

Two of the top comments on the YouTube link sum up my thoughts perfectly:

I love this music, reminds me of my childhood, where nothing mattered at all. Just chilling playing my SNES…ahh good times.  reniisgod

What you say is so true. Somehow nobody ever mentioned it, but you are right: nothing mattered at all.
dedwArzZ 

To listen to the whole score, you can find it at the VGMPF Sim City page.

To listen to more of my rantings on VGM, check out my podcast at http://www.intothescore.com!

Thanks,
Kenley