How we make music (Part Two – Examples and a Music Tool!)
Hi again, this is Fenton (composer) and we will be delving into part 2 of our music blog for Trip the Ark Fantastic.
Last time we talked about how the music will be an adaptive score and take the form of an instrumental opera, following the player and reacting to their location, decisions, and situations in the game.
We will follow this up by looking more in-depth at the challenges of making a Romantic style score adaptive, as well as giving you a taste of how this will work with an early build of the music tool that we will use for the game.
So why is making a 19th-century orchestral inspired challenging to make adaptive for a game like Trip the Ark Fantastic?
First, let’s look at an example of a Romantic score.
Below is a section of the score from Movement 4 of Brahms 2nd Symphony. This part of the score is about 0:35” seconds in length and you can listen to it in the video linked below at 1:33” (the score starts at 1:36”).
There are 4 distinct sections here.
The Green section is continuing the leading melody (the purple block) in the 1st Violins in the key of A Major, with counterpoint and backing from the rest of the Strings and Bassoons.
The Yellow section introduces the rest of the woodwinds and half of the horns to slowly build the dynamic and tension.
The Orange section continues to build on this and starts off with a forte (loud) dynamic and raises the melody we’ve been hearing a whole octave as well as adding a D Sharp to the harmony to increase the intensity.
In order to make the score feel authentic, we must give the music room to breathe and complete phrasesFenton Hutson
The Red section then reaches a climax by changing the key to E Phrygian, hitting a dynamic peak, and changing the phrase from a rising melody to a falling melody.
All these sections of music are different in many musical aspects, and very importantly, it never stays the same, but is always in a constant state of changing motion.
How they start, end, and follow into one another is always different too, meaning we could not just switch different phrases around, or even insert a new piece of music without disrupting the whole phrase itself.
So why is this important? Because in order to make the score feel authentic, we must give the music room to breathe and complete phrases.
So we’ve taken the decision to sacrifice immediate transitions, such as crossfades (the quietening of a current piece of music and the loudening of a new one), in order to achieve this and make it feel as if the music is truly being “written at the moment” for the player and telling their story.
So the solution here is to create the music into a “form of blocks”, with each block representing a fluid musical phrase distinct in character, and then to create moments of ‘equilibriums’ between those blocks, which offer the score an opportunity to transition to something else should it need to.
(To add, we also couldn’t use ‘Music Layering’, a popular technique first developed in LucasArt Video Games’ iMUSE, as this requires the music to be comprised of short and static music phrases, which would not work for this type of score).
And what do I mean by ‘equilibriums’?
These are defined as moments where when a musical phrase (or block) ends, the succeeding musical phrase starts in a similar way. It is essentially something like a game of Dominos in how each connected Domino block needs to match. In a linear musical sense, you can imagine it as somewhat similar to the equilibrium between the troughs and crests of waves. Let’s look at an example of this.
In the slider below, Picture 1 shows a part of the score for a section of an early area of the game (you will be able to listen to a mock-up of this later in the blog).
The green section represents the end of the first musical phrase, whilst the red section shows the beginning of the succeeding musical phrase. And finally, the blue section is our ‘equilibrium’ that joins both of them.
Notice how it is a staccato rhythm played on the bassoons, violas and celli at a mezzo piano (moderately quiet) dynamic in E Major.
If we look at Picture 2, we now see an ‘Exit’ transition from this equilibrium into something else. Notice again the staccato rhythm from the bassoons, violas and celli in similar dynamic and key.
In Picture 3, which is an ‘Enter’ transition for the music that is used in Picture 1, we again see this musical ‘equilibrium’.
By using this technique, we can put transitions that will (fingers crossed) go unnoticed whilst you’re playing the game, and therefore (fingers crossed) help you sink and be immersed in the game.
Whilst each piece of music must be composed in blocks, we need to create a similar construction for all of the music in each area of the game. Therefore, we must construct a flowchart that can show the potential paths a player can take within each area, which helps us understand the potential linear progressions of the music. Below is a current flow-chart for the score that we saw earlier.
Our Lead Developer, Piet Bronders, has designed a musical tool that enables the music to go through varying transitions depending on the players actions, and we wanted to share this with you so you can see for yourself how the music will work.
The current score is in MIDI form and therefore an early representation of how the score will roughly sound (but we are extremely excited that this will be recorded by a Croatian orchestra at some point!!).
Click on the picture below and mess around with it – see for yourself how the score transitions and see if you can figure out where these ‘equilibriums’ are.