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Video game music

Video game music
July 22, 2012, 07:05:56 PM
I'm sure some of us recall playing certain games and thinking that the background music was more well-composed than most modern music.

In particular, I thought I'd share some Matt Uelmen. He wrote a sort of pastoral Romanticist gothic/horror ambient infusing the likes of Brahms, Tangerine Dream, Beherit's EDS, Lord Wind, DCD, etc. into a sort of moving landscape for the first 2 Diablo games. The music is clearly designed as background, but is not without its structural and melodic merit. While not valuable for its development (though it does manage this to some extent), I think it's a good study as a way to fuse various dark and Romantic aesthetics in a modern context.

Original theme from the first game. Probably the most overtly developed piece. I would again term this a sort of pastoral/idyllic ambient mixed with acoustic folk. Some very beautiful melodies intertwining amongst each other and some of my favorite use of orchestral instruments outside an orchestral setting.


Catacombs theme. Something of a darker Dead Can Dance at first and then turning into some really haunting vibes replete with depraved voices scattered throughout as if momentarily intruding the soundscape to remind one of their dread. Like most of Uelmen's soundtracks, cyclical phrases ebb and flow and give way to new developments that arise organically to develop a consistent level of suspense. Unfortunately, it doesn't really "arrive" anywhere in the end, though one certainly gets the sense that in a more ambitious project and without the limits of writing for a video game, Uelmen could flex a wider range of his compositional muscles. That said, the atmosphere is beautiful and it is yet another great example of an ambient aesthetic that has not been explored.


Another haunting piece. Slightly reminiscent of something Endvra could create, albeit a little more Romantic.


This is a little further in his career showcasing a more vibrant, Romantic landscape bringing to mind music befitting a race of noble and proud people. Some brilliant melodies in there and almost a shame they're not given the chance to flourish in the context of a more ambitious form such as a symphony. Nonetheless, powerful.


Another one I very much like and showcasing a very prominent Romantic darkness. One might ask (reasonably) why he should listen to this over Brahms for instance and my answer is that classical music will always be far and away more developed than anything that even so much as aspires to its greatness. However, I like this as an ambient re-interpretation of Romanticism and the melodies themselves are strong. Once again, another drawback here is that it can feel cyclical, though given that its intent is to ebb and flow rather than swell to greater heights, it does quite well.



Re: Video game music
July 23, 2012, 05:18:54 PM
As someone who has put dozens, if not hundreds of hours into Diablo II and its expansion, I have to say that the soundtrack goes massively under-appreciated by most players, myself included. Lots of people play the game in multiplayer as if by rote, and the atmosphere the game and its soundtrack can evoke is ignored in favor of endless loot grinding.

The general explanation for good video game music, in my opinion, is simply that most games aren't sold on the virtues of their music, and therefore a gifted composer can do great things without having to worry about accessibility. Mostly this assists the ones with an ambient approach; the ones who can pull the most from a few words of description or gameplay footage/screenshots, etc. Obviously those composers who can coordinate well with developers are going to create the best overall experience.

Mostly unrelated - as a fan of old electronica and such, I've been listening to a good deal of music composed for old computers and consoles; specifically the sorts that don't rely on digital-analog conversion for their sound. This song is fairly short, but it was basically written as an overture for the game it was attached to, and as far as I can tell fits. It's also notable in that it makes excellent use of the Commodore 64's relatively limited sound capabilities .


Re: Video game music
July 24, 2012, 02:52:33 PM
Doom (1993) has some great music. It's inspired by metal, techno and dark ambiant. Some of the sounds are a bit dated but it only add to its charm in my opinion.


I really like the soundtrack in icewind dale. It sound really mysterious and beautiful. Some songs are more ambiant but some others are more symphonic. It was composed by Jeremy Soule who also provided the soundtrack on some of the Elder of scrolls games.

I also like the music on warcraft 1 and 2


When done right, midi sounds can give you a certain feeling that is hard to convey with other instruments. It's a sound that is close yet strangely distant at the same time. it can create a feeling of longing, of nostalgia or a certain mystery.

Re: Video game music
July 25, 2012, 09:26:49 AM
Indeed, those are all solid. There's some very solid composition if you dig into all of these lost games.

I recall playing this game ages ago. Just dug up the soundtrack and it's really solid dark ambient:


Planescape: Torment unsurprisingly has some great soundtracks as well: