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Author Topic: Making the Dawntide Theme and the rest of the OST  (Read 5727 times)
dannthr
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« on: August 29, 2010, 04:33:44 PM »

Hey guys,

As some of you know, I worked on a still-in-development MMOG being produced by a Danish company by the name of Working-As-Intended and while the game is still in Beta, most of the soundtrack has been cleared for promotional use.

I always look forward to the opportunity to share something I've worked on and I thought it'd be interesting to expose a little bit about the process I went through in developing the work.

There is also a bit of a story here...

When I was first hired by WAI Soft, they wanted to set me to work on a main theme right away.  Of course, that's fine with me, the longer I get to work on the main theme the better it will be.  So I started out asking them questions about the vision they have for the game's soundtrack and the kind of music that inspired the design and development.

Without hesitation, the director pointed his finger to Jeremy Soule's opening music for Oblivion.

This is always dangerous territory for a composer--when a client asks for a sound-a-like, you have to dance a pretty fine line.  On the one hand, you want to make sure your client is absolutely happy with your work, especially since they're paying, but on the other hand, as a composer you have the responsibility to provide a unique musical experience to the game and for the players and also the integrity to fulfill the artistic need to express yourself uniquely (afterall that's why you're hacking an uneasy liivng in music to begin with--to write the music you want to write).

So I say "sure, no problem, that's a cinch." Wink

Now, I put together a sketch of a main theme I had already started brainstorming on during contract negotiations, before I was actually hired.

When I sketch, I sketch on the piano (I'm not a great pianist) and really for my own purposes it doesn't matter: I hear a piano key and my brain already has assigned an instrument, I hear a chord, and my brain has already assigned a motif or other orchestrational concept.  So what most hear as piano mumblings, I hear a full orchestra exploring directions.

Dawntide Initial Piano Sketch

For me, the purpose of that piano sketch is to hear how the theme would play out in different emotional contexts.

Unfortunately, sending them my brainstorm was a misfire and my first step with the client out of the box was a flop.  They felt it was nice, but weak sounding.

Of course, if only they heard all the instruments I heard, I knew they'd dig it.  So I resigned myself to defend my concept by fleshing out a mock-up.

Dawntide Theme Mock-Up Pitch

I didn't bother doing any mixing or articulation programming and I mocked it up in a different key because I wanted it to go faster.  This was same-day, first-day-on-the-job kind of stuff.

I went for the throat with the copy-cat of the Oblivion track, I did the slow cymbal ride and everything.

This eased their concerns a bit.  But for me, I realized that my main theme sounded too close to Lord of the Rings' fellowship theme, so I decided to invert the melody in the beginning.

Dawntide Theme Mock-Up Pitch Edited

Everyone being satisfied with my first day of work, they started putting me to work on sound design while I slowly cooked on the main theme in the background.

Since it was a quick sketch the original template for the track was very messy and ad hoc, so I started up a new template in my DAW and decided to very slowly push away from Oblivion and toward influences I thought would bring a little something more unique to the blend.

There were three film soundtracks I thought would be great supplimental influences considering that the MMOG featured heavily on seafaring: Cutthroat Island, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, and Hook (for that sprinkle of John Williams magic).

I slowed the theme down a bit, as I felt it gave it a larger feel and threw around some BIG DRUM HITS!

Dawntide Main Theme Version A

I still liked the B section from the pitch, so I cut it into the current version and worked it out a bit further, at this point I think they had me focusing on weapon sound effects and I was finding background time to develop the theme between foley sessions and field recording and so much editing.

Dawntide Main Theme Version B

Then I went back to that John Williams magic thing--to me, the player hears this when they're entering another world, we're trying to bring them in and as cheesy as it is, I wanted to sprinkle a little fairy dust in their eyes.  So I went back to rework the beginning and give a little more orchestration color to the main melody (especially the splashes of ocean with the crash cymbal).

Dawntide Main Theme Version C

The WAI Soft crew really liked it and decided to start using it in a sneak trailer for the game--the players seemed to like it too.

Then something bad happened.

The Danish economy kinda hit some rough water and WAISoft had to suspend development for everyone but their core team.  Which meant I was essentially laid-off.

 :wacko:

But to keep things on good terms, I proposed that they hire me contract freelance just for music and put things together piece by piece.  That sounded fine to them, but they weren't sure when that would be.

That's life, I guessed, and I moved on to other projects, went back to a regular job as the economy here fell into raging tumult.

6 months passed...



Finally, they emailed me, they had secured some new investors and they wanted a dozen or so brand new tracks.  Cheesy

Since I was constantly irked by what I felt was the incomplete main theme, I said, sure, but on the condition that I can redux the main theme.

I redid everything from the ground-up, new template, new articulations, orchestrations, arrangements.  And the main theme had a focus, it was to introduce the players to the game, then segway into the menu music.  I added sticks/bones to emphasize the wooden-ness of the ships and to give it that triple feel of sailing music (which is long built upon jigs), I added an irish flute to give it some character and atmosphere, and tightened the string arrangement:

Dawntide Main Theme Final

And with that I felt like I had given it a more unique focus while still incorporating all the various elements and influences.

And the rest of the OST:

02 - The Tilled Earth (feat. Jeff Ball on Violin)
03 - Down in the Square
04 - The Howling Wind
05 - Through the Twisted Branches
06 - Otherworld
07 - The Breeze in Our Sails (feat Hannes Frischat on Cello)
08 - A Flower in the Sand
09 - Only Seen by Torchlight
10 - To Trek in the Footsteps of Giants
11 - Of Fire and Stone
12 - As the Sea Runs Red (Epic Battle)


Gotta end with the epic battle track! Cheesy

Wellp, I hope you liked my shameless exhibitionism.  As always, comments of the good, the bad, and the ugly are welcome and encouraged!

Cheers,
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MaxLeonhart
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2010, 01:42:47 AM »

Hey Dan!

That's some awesome music and great backstory to go with it... I've been meaning to reply to this topic for a while, but even now, I'm pressed for time, so I'll be quick...
At the first hearing, it reminded me of Bill Brown's score for Lineage 2. I have to listen to it again and maybe I'll try to talk about it some more...

I'll be sure to look for you on the IM, I've got lots of stuff to talk about too... Anyway, great job, great music, hope to hear more from you soon!
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Music is the only art that does not merely copy ideas, but actually embodies the will itself.

Arthur Schopenhauer
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