2017 was a year FULL of incredible soundtracks. The amount of experimentation that occurred in game music this year was off the charts. Believe me, we’re going to be touching on all of these games eventually as there’s simply too much good information to pass up. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is probably my soundtrack of last year, and truthfully, it’s why I decided to start this musical journey. Breath of the Wild does an insane amount of good for the video game world, but how does it do it? And what inspiration does it draw from to do this? Let’s talk about Impressionism to find out.
Let’s get a timeframe of this concept first. Impressionism falls at a unique place in music history, and can be viewed from a few different perspectives on the timeline. Many subscribe to the idea that it falls as an extension of the Romantic Era (Beethoven, Chopin, Mahler, Wagner etc) and took harmonic extremities of the time to a new level by doing (somewhat) away with common music theory practice in western music. Others view it as a kind of bridging the gap between modernism and classical music innovation of the 1900s.
But it could also be viewed as the start of modernist movement, as the Impressionists were trying to break away from the shackles of the common man’s music. I like to think of it in this last way, even though the true answer is that it’s probably a combination. Regardless, there’s only two Impressionists in music history that we talk about: Ravel and Debussy. Going even further, I’d even say that Ravel blurred the line between Romantic and Impressionist.
Let’s start our journey of looking at concepts of new ideas in music by first focusing on everyone’s favorite animal life simulator, Animal Crossing. But Kyle!? Why Animal Crossing? That’s so laid back, how does the music do interesting thing?! Because not only is it my favorite game, but because it’s a great example of using thematic material! Also, the soundtracks are surprisingly large, and this leaves us a lot of inspiration and ideas for us to use. Granted, there’s better music out there, and much of the Animal Crossing soundtrack is similar, but the importance of this music shouldn’t be overlooked. Ideas gained from the music of Animal Crossing can be applied across all genres of video games and music.
And where else would be a better place to start off with other than with our favorite in game dog musician: K.K. Slider.
Someone once said that if you have thoughts, you should put them out in the open so others can read them to tell you "you’re wrong."
I’m Kyle Martin, or you can call me Kylydian as I probably have the second most common name after something like James Smith (Sorry to any James Smith’s out there!) I’m a composer and sound designer for video games based out of Seattle Washington, and I’m going to talk to you about a bunch of video game music related topics that everybody needs to hear.
Here’s a bit of background on me so you can trust me a bit hopefully!
I’ve been a composer for around 10 years now, but I’ve been playing saxophone for around 17 years or so. I attended Central Washington University for seven years where I was put through hell and back, learning literally everything about music to earn two measly pieces of paper. One said I could teach music, and one that said I can play saxophone (I could do this already…) I decided eventually that teaching wasn’t for me so I decided to turn to my childhood dream of getting into the video game industry.
As a game composer, I was staff composer and sound designer for a start up company called AeonSigma, and I’ve picked up small contract work elsewhere. Before this, I was requested to compose and arrange for numerous college recitals, have debuted works at national conventions and am currently being commissioned to write a piece for a very high quality high school wind ensemble.
Naturally, classical is my favorite genre to write, but I feel just as comfortable writing symphonies as I do dropping bass at this point. My extensive background and research into music history, ethnomusicology and current video game music trends allow me to stay on top of my game. Ha..ha!
But you’re probably wondering, why am I starting this blog?
Well, for a few reasons.
One: I love game music. I really really really love game music. And I ESPECIALLY love unique game music. I’m a firm believer in stealing ideas from each other, and I hope that you as a game developer, composer or person can steal some ideas or knowledge/insight from me. If you walk away from even one of my posts with a new idea I’ll be doing my job here.
Two: This is a testing ground for some talks I’m writing up. This blog will hopefully allow me to receive feedback and learn from you! I’m very open to writing on topics that you want to see within video games or even general classical music.
Three: I want to. Kay!?
But what am I going to talk about here?
Well, that’s everything. Literally. Everything.
Again, I love video game music. But I think that video game music as a medium is somewhat stuck in a rut right now. There’s some really great music being written every day, but it feels like it isn’t…doing anything. It’s just pretty background noise.
There’s composers out there though who are fighting against this. There’s game soundtracks that are taking unique ideas and shoving them subtly and some not so subtly into people’s faces. When we think about the soundtracks that stand out today, they all do something different, something a bit out of the ordinary. Or maybe they do something really ordinary, but do it extremely well. Together we’re going to take some really good game music, and figure out musically, conceptually, and philosophically why this music is damn good. In addition to this, I’ll go over some techniques that these soundtracks do to get the desired effects so that we can begin to implement them in our own music, or maybe even improve on them! Some information is going to be purely speculative, some is going to go over music theory, and others might just be for fun. But we’re in this journey together.
Before this though, we need to come to some mutual understandings. We need to tackle the daunting task of defining music. This blog is about pushing boundaries in music. If we can’t define what it is we’re talking about, we can’t hope to find new ideas. We’re going to get really weird at times, and push the definition of music to its extremes. Other times we’ll be back at a safe normal home for music. And who knows, maybe sometime I’ll even talk about some techniques that I’m doing in my music or personal life to continue pushing the boundaries.
This information is going to be for everyone. My goal is to educate developers and musicians on more possibilities and opening some minds.
Let’s make music together.