Brain + Brawn (Original Game Soundtrack)

I’m happy to announce that my soundtrack to the game Brain + Brawn is finally out. Brain + Brawn is a space themed puzzle game by developer Spork Games that was released earlier this year for the iPhone and iPad. In addition to creating the sound effects for the game, I wrote a few pieces of music for the game.

 

Because there are only two backing tracks written for the game, a main menu theme and the main game theme, I wanted to add some extra music for anyone buying the album. As a result, the two main tracks each have a piano arrangement counterpart.

 

The Brain + Brawn OST has been released through Materia Collective, a game music label which I’ve worked with before on a number of game music arrangement albums. The label has been publishing original soundtracks in addition to their amazing arrange albums, so I’m delighted to have my original music included among their other releases. If you haven’t listened to the other albums they’ve published, you should definitely take time to look through their catalogue.

In addition to the album, there is digital sheet music available for the Brain + Brawn piano arrangements “Robot Lullaby” and “A Puzzling Ship” on Sheet Music Plus. A big thanks to Sebastian Wolff for the music engraving to help get the sheet music ready for publishing.

Working on and releasing this album was a lot of fun and I hope people enjoy listening to it. You can find the full Brain + Brawn OST on Bandcamp and Google Play. Versions of the album containing just the in-game tracks can also be found on Spotify and Amazon.

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SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X

As has been a continuing tradition of Materia Collective, the group has released another arrangement album based around one of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. This time around the focus is on the music of Final Fantasy X, from composers Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano. This double album is titled SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X. The albums are organized as two mixes called Zanarkand Mix and Besaid Mix.

Like many of the previous Materia Collective releases, the albums consist of covers, remixes, and arrangements from a large group of artists and musicians. The Zanarkand Mix primarily features electronic, synth, and rock arrangements, while the Besaid Mix is mostly comprised of acoustic covers. There are a few exceptions to this rule, primarily to avoid too many iterations of the same theme showing up on either album. For this project I produced two arrangements and contributed my vocal talents to a number of other artists’ tracks.

 

The first track I took on for the project was “Besaid.” The original track and its remastered counterpart are both relaxing and tranquil pieces, so I decided to go in an ambient electronic direction with my arrangement. All of the instruments are either electronic in nature or are acoustic in origin with some type of processing applied. The wave sound effects that bookend the arrangement are from field recordings that I took last summer on the coast of Maine.

 

The second arrangement I produced was “Movement in Green.” The piece was a last minute entry from me, so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to work on it. Despite the limited time, I think the track came out well and I accomplished what I was aiming for overall. The track takes heavy influence from the work of Joe Hisaishi, particularly his work on the film score to Spirited Away. Like many composers, I’m a huge fan of his music, so it was a fun challenge to emulate his style in this piece.

As I mentioned, I also contributed backing vocals to other artists’ tracks for this project. This included John Robert Matz’s two tracks “Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Spaghetti),” an arrangement done in the style of a spaghetti western score, and “Bemknesyka (The Trials),” a Red Army Choir-inspired version of “The Trials” sung in the Al Bhed language from the game.

I also participated in some backing vocals for Jordan Chin’s “This is Our Story” an arrangement of “This is Your Story.”

Last, but not least, I participated in a Bwak Choir arrangement by Bonnie Bogovich of “Bravely Forward” titled “Bravely Bwakking Forward.” The track features the largest ensemble for a Bwak Choir arrangement as of this writing.

The SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X albums Zanarkand Mix and Besaid Mix are available on multiple services including Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp. The albums boast a large range of styles from some very talented people. If you’re a fan of the Final Fantasy X soundtrack definitely check these albums out.

Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the indie game FEZ. On top of being a great exploration and puzzle game, FEZ has a wonderful electronic soundtrack created by Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland. To help celebrate the puzzle game’s anniversary Materia Collective has released an album of acoustic covers of the game’s soundtrack titled Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album. As part of Materia Collective I contributed a cover to the album.

There are a few reasons for restricting this album to an acoustic direction for the arrangements. First, by distancing the album from the electronic sounds of the original music, it gives the album a distinct sound. Taking a soundtrack that existed in the realm of synthesizers and digital effects and bringing it into a world of acoustic instruments makes for a much different listening experience. It also forced those of us creating arrangements to come up with different approaches for interpreting the melodies and harmonies of Rich Vreeland’s score.

I also think that it was good to avoid synth remixes of FEZ, since there are already some excellent electronic re-imaginings of the soundtrack on albums like FEZ: Side F and FEZ: Side Z from the game music remix community. With Tesseract, we are taking the music in a less explored avenue.

My arrangement on this album was for the track “Progress.” Much of the music in FEZ has a minimalist composition structure, with “Progress” in particular having some similarities to the music of composers like Steve Reich. The music is constructed out of multiple ostinatos and rhythmic patterns that stack and build on top of each other. In the actual game, these adapt and shift in real time with the gameplay. For the arrangement I stuck with the structure that Rich Vreeland created on the official soundtrack.

Since this arrange album was emphasizing the use of acoustic instruments, I did as much of the track with live instruments as possible. Normally I use virtual instruments for the music that I create, so tracking live audio for a majority of a project was a new adventure for me. The guitars, bass guitar, organ, and bits of the percussion were performed by me live, with the remaining accompaniment instruments played with sample libraries. My idea was for the music to sound like an improvised jam session, using the guitars, bass guitar, and percussion to provide a steady backing texture, with the other instruments soloing over them.

 

The two instruments that I knew had to be performed with real instruments (as opposed to samples) were the flute and trumpet, since I had arranged them to have the melodies that play over the other instrument’s rhythms and chord patterns. I was delighted to bring my Materia Collective friends John Robert Matz, on trumpet, and Yishan “Catboss” Mai, on flute, for this track.

This was my first time having other musicians contribute to one of my tracks, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Their performances really brought the quality of the arrangement to the next level, and I will definitely be bringing Materia Collective members onboard for future arrangements when possible.

Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album was quite fun to work on and a great learning experience. There are some great arrangements featured on this album. Be sure to check it out if you’re a fan of the original FEZ soundtrack or enjoy acoustic music arrangements. You can find the Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album on Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes.

Train Jam 2017 Albums

On my way to the 2017 Game Developer’s Conference, or GDC, I took part in the Train Jam. Like all game jams, Train Jam is an event for game developers to get together and make a game in a limited time with specific restrictions. The Indie Train Jam takes place on a the Amtrak California Zephyr line running from Chicago to San Francisco. The trip was a 52-hour journey across the western half of the United States that resulted in some fun collaborations and interesting games.

As with many game jams there was a mix of artists, programmers, and audio people all working together to create games within the time limit. On this jam we had more than 20 composers/audio designers participating among the 300 game jam attendees. By the end of the Train Jam, over 70 games were finished.

Charlie McCarron, one of the other composers on the Train Jam, had the great idea of collecting all of the songs created by the composers during the jam, and putting them up as a set of albums on Bandcamp for free. There are over 60 tracks created by the twenty or so composers that participated in the event.

The music is divided into five different albums, with each one representing a music genre of sorts. For example, my piece from the game Chicken Fight is on the Train Jam 2017: Chip album, since I went for a retro synth style on that track.

 

The games from Train Jam 2017 can all be played on the itch.io website and you can find all five Train Jam 2017 albums on Bandcamp. There’s some excellent material here from all of the composers who participated. A special thanks to Charlie McCarron for taking the time to gather all of the music from the composers and assembling everything into a coherent set of albums on Bandcamp. The Train Jam was a lot of fun and I hope everyone enjoys the games and music that we created.

Brain + Brawn Is Out Now!

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I’m happy to announce that one of the games that I’ve created audio and music for has received a release for iOS on the App Store. The game is titled Brain + Brawn and was developed by Rohit Crasta and David Wallin.

Brain + Brawn is a space themed puzzle game where you guide two robots through a spaceship to reach their color coded goals on each level. You move the robots by swiping the screen to switch the gravity in the spaceship, causing everything on screen to move in the chosen direction. The robots, named Brainy + Brawny, have different abilities for solving puzzles. For example, the smaller robot Brainy is capable of turning on switches and passing through tight passageways, while the larger robot Brawny can crush aliens and smash through certain blocks.

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I composed two pieces of music for the game. One is calming electronic music box like melody for the menu area. The other track is a more energetic synth piece that is heard while you play the main game. I’ll be putting up an official soundtrack soon, with some extra piano arrangement versions of the tracks.

In addition to the music, I created the game’s sound effects. The sounds are all designed to have a musical quality. For example the sounds for Brainy activating the switches are tones in the same key of the music. The developers wanted to have sounds that matched and blended well with the music, so it was an interesting challenge to create a seamless audio experience between the music and the sound effects.

Brain + Brawn is currently available on iOS through the App Store for $1.99. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan of puzzle games. I’ll update when the game is released on more platforms.

Zodiac: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed

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One of the groups that I’ve recently been involved with is a music arrangement group called Materia Collective. The collective comprises of musicians, composers, and arrangers who come together to create albums that cover the music of various game titles. A majority of these albums focus on a single game soundtrack like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture or Undertale. Other arrange albums have a wider range like Mobius, which covers music from multiple Sonic the Hedgehog games or charity albums like Multiplayer III: Wave, which emphasized water themed game music to tie in with the water charity the album raises money for.

This year I had the opportunity to arrange two tracks for Materia’s latest Final Fantasy arrangement album Zodiac: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed. The album focusses on the music of the first Final Fantasy Tactics game written by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata.

Like many of the previous Materia Collective albums, there’s a wide variety of styles present in the arrangement of the tracks. Everything from rock, jazz, classical, to synth genres are represented on this album, so there’s bound to be something from the 60+ arrangers that speaks to you no matter what your music tastes.

I arranged two tracks for this album. The first was a piano arrangement of the battle theme “Antipyretic.” I’ve always enjoyed the official Final Fantasy Piano Collections arrangements and I wanted to do something similar for one of the pieces from Final Fantasy Tactics.

 

The second arrangement I created was a synth/orchestral hybrid version of “Requiem.” The original track is calming and tranquil, so a synth hybrid sound seemed like a natural fit. This track was recently nominated for an award at the Game Audio Network Guild’s Remix Competition at MAGFest 2017. While it didn’t win in the end, it was an honor just to have the piece considered in the first place.

 

In addition to my arranging work, I contributed a few vocals on the track “The Bwak Choir Cadets” as part of The Bwak Choir. The Bwak Choir is a “Muppet-style chicken chorus” and is the brainchild of Materia Collective member Bonnie Bogovich. The first Materia Collective album Materia: Final Fantasy VII Remixed featured an arrangement of “Waltz de Chocobo” from the group and there was even a music video.

For the Zodiac album, Bonnie arranged the track “Cadets” to be sung (clucked?) by the Bwak Choir. Contributing to the Bwak Choir for the first time was a fun change of pace from the other work I was doing for the album, and listening to the finished product is something that will always make me smile.

 

The Zodiac: Final Fantasy Remixed album has a ton of great music covers from some incredibly talented artists. If you are a fan of the original soundtrack or a game music fan in general, you’ll want to check this one out. You can find the album on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. You can also find out more about Materia Collective and the various albums that the group has released on the Materia Collective home page.

Multiplayer III: Waves

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Over the summer, I had the opportunity to contribute a game music arrangement to an album created by the Multiplayer Charity. This group comprises of musicians, mixers, composers, and arrangers who come together every year to produce a charity album. This year’s album Multiplayer III: Waves was created to raise money for Water.org.

Since this year’s chosen charity is an organization dedicated to providing clean water, all of the game tracks being covered in this album are water themed. The source material for the project comes from a variety of games including Chrono Trigger, Banjo Kazzoie, Sonic Adventure, and Assassin’s Creed. Like many of the other Multiplayer Charity and Materia Collective albums, the music genres represented are quite eclectic. These genres include ambient synth remixes, energetic rock and metal covers, and relaxing acoustic arrangements.

The piece that I selected to arrange for the album was the track “Submerged” from the game Earthworm Jim. The track, originally composed by Tommy Tallarico, serves as the background music for the game’s underwater levels “Down The Tubes” and “Tube Race.” Earthworm Jim was a game that I really enjoyed playing back in the Genesis and Super Nintendo era, so this was a fun opportunity to revisit that game’s soundtrack.

The original “Submerged” track has a natural upbeat bass groove throughout its run, so arranging it as a rock track seemed like a natural fit. The original version also reminded me of the scores from spy movies like Mission Impossible, so I ended up featuring the flute quite a bit for this arrangement.

A lot of great game music is represented on the Multiplayer III: Waves album, so definitely check it out if you’re a fan of the genre. There are some incredibly talented musicians featured on this album, and it was an honor to be able to contribute to the album and raise money for a good cause. All of the profits from Multiplayer III: Waves goes to the Water.org charity. You can get check out the the entire album on Loudr, iTunes, and Spotify.