FATE: A Tribute to Majora’s Mask

Of all the game music that I’ve been wanting to arrange/remix as part of the Materia Collective, the music from The Legend of Zelda series has been at the top of my wishlist. Last year Materia Collective released an excellent orchestral Ocarina of Time album Hero of Time from Eric Buchholtz. This year I was able to join in on the Materia Collective album FATE: A Tribute to Majora’s Mask to cover music from the Nintendo 64 sequel.

Majora’s Mask has been one of my favorite games in the Zelda series, despite it being one of the more unusual entries. It’s been nice to see the game become more popular among the fan base, especially with the re-releases on handheld. For this album I had the opportunity to arrange the tracks “Snowhead Temple” and “Final Hours.”

Often in my approach to arranging music, I will try to imagine what a particular artist would do with the melodic and harmonic material of a piece. “Snowhead Temple” has a very loose and improvised sound, so a jazz ensemble seemed like a good fit. One of my favorite avant-guard jazz albums is Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and it became the primary inspiration for this arrangement. You can hear this most prominently in the opening and closing sections of my arrangement.

 

The track features two soloists from Materia Collective whose performances really helped bring the piece together. Sean Schafiansky performs on Soprano Saxophone and Ken Crouch did some wonderful work on Trumpet. This arrangement was wildly different from what I’m used to creating, but it was a lot of fun and I love how it turned out.

The track “Final Hours,” aka “Last Day,” was a more straight forward orchestral arrangement for me. The original track plays during the last five minutes of the game’s three day cycle. The first time I heard it in the game it caused me to stop and just absorb the atmosphere of the game in that moment, even with the clock ticking down to the end of the world. The original track is foreboding and eerie, so I wanted to create something that evoked that same experience from when I first played the game.

 

One of my fellow Materians Lauren Liebowitz performs a solo on Flute for the opening of the arrangement. While it’s a brief cameo, it provides an appropriately haunting introduction of the main melody. I also did some sound design for this track. Throughout the piece you can hear low rumbles of the moon coming closer, boulders crashing down, and a handful of other atmospheric effects. This is one of the more cinematic sounding arrangements that I’ve done and I’m glad I was able to create it for one of my favorite pieces from Majora’s Mask.

In addition to the above tracks mentioned, I contributed vocals to a number of other arrangements on this album. This includes Nautilus T Party’s rock cover of “Ikana Castle,” titled “Ikana’s Wrath;” Fredrik Häthen’s orchestral arrangement of “Calling the Four Giants,” titled “Termina’s Last Hope;” Laura Intravia’s orchestral reimagining of the final boss music called “The True Face;” and Garrett Steele’s short but sweet arrangement of the “Missed Event 2” track. Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a full Materia Collective collaborative album without an entry from Bonnie Bogovich’s Bwak Choir. I contributed the usual chicken vocals and played some kazoo in this goofy rendition of the “Min-Game” track, titled “Mini Bwakky Cheepy Game“.

FATE: A Tribute to Majora’s Mask was an absolute blast to work on. There’s tons of great arrangements and remixes on this album, so definitely give the entire album a listen. You can find FATE: Majora’s Mask Remixed on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Google Play.

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LAUNCH: StarCraft Reimagined

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the original StarCraft game. To help celebrate, Materia Collective has released an arrangement album of music from the original soundtrack. The album is split into three EP’s, with each one representing a race from the game. The separate EP’s also focus on a set of genres to represent the different races. The Zerg album “RUSH” is all high energy electronic, rock, or EDM covers. Meanwhile, the Terran have a funk and disco themed EP titled “Funk Bunker.” Finally, the Protoss album centers on acoustic and ambient arrangements on the “Nylon Pylon” EP.

I don’t have a lot of experience playing the original StarCraft. I remember playing a few custom matches against friends at party’s back in the day, but it was never a game I really delved into. Upon listening to the soundtrack again, some of the tracks that drew me in came from the Protoss race. They are wonderful ambient tracks, with really cool shifts in tone. I ended up choosing to arrange “Protoss Two” for solo piano.

 

This ended up being an interesting challenge, since the piano needs some creative solutions for imitating the long-held chords and low drones of the original track. A big inspiration for my approach came from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for solo piano. Particularly the “Old Castle” and “Great Gates” movements, which respectively feature quiet, atmospheric passages and large bombastic chordal passages. It was a fun arrangement to work on for the “Nylon Pylon” EP and i really enjoyed the creative challenge.

LAUNCH: StarCraft Reimagined has a lot of different styles and genres represented across the three EPs. There’s something for everyone who’s a fan of the original StarCraft soundtrack or just enjoys good music. You can check out the LAUNCH LP’s on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Google Play.

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.

Zodiac: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed

zodiac-final-fantasy-tactics

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 BandcampiTunes, 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

multiplayer-iii-waves

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 BandcampiTunes, and Spotify.

GDC and PAX East 2015

One of the goals I’ve set for myself has been to get out to more of the big video game industry events. I started going to conventions with PAX East back in 2012. I went there as a regular attendee and I ended up having a blast. PAX East is an event that I make sure to get out to every year and this year will be no different. It’s close enough to where I live that I can get out and meet people without having to spend too much money on travel. Since that first trip to PAX East, I’ve been making an effort to go out to more local gatherings for game development and networking. One of my much bigger goals has been to get out to the Game Developers Conference, or GDC.

GDC is one of the major conferences to go to for game industry networking. Unfortunately for me, it’s an event that’s held out on the west coast and it’s been too far for me to travel there from New England. However, this past year I managed to save enough money to finally go and check this convention out. So I’m happy to report that this year I will be going to my first Game Developers Conference. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to meeting people and having a good time.

For better or worse, I won’t be able to attend the entire GDC event. It so happens that PAX East 2015 is being held on the same weekend that GDC ends. So yes, I’m going out to GDC for the week and then heading straight back to Boston for PAX East for the weekend. This will no doubt be incredibly exhausting, but I’m still really looking forward to it. I’m hoping to make some new connections and catch up with some of my friends that are attending these events. It’s going to be a wild week, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share when I come back. If you happen to be going to GDC and/or PAX East, be sure to say “Hi” if you see me.

Upcoming Events: Boston Festival of Indie Games 2013

If you’re looking for a new gaming convention to check out in the New England area, there’s a one-day gaming festival taking place in Boston, Massachusetts next month. On September 14th, the MIT campus will be hosting the Boston Festival of Indie Games 2013. The event is in its second year and will run from 10 am until 10 pm. The event features show floors for tabletop and digital games, a game jam that will go on for most of the day, an art exhibit, and screenings of feature films about gaming. There’s also an off campus concert in the evening running from 7pm – 11:30 pm titled Boston Plays Indies. The concert will feature music performances by Deadbeatblast, Darren Korb, Control Group, DJ Cutman, and Boston’s own Video Game Orchestra. The festival is free to attend, so if you are in the area on September 14th it will definitely be worth checking out. Tickets to the music concert Boston Plays Indies will require you to buy separate tickets and the concert venue requires you to be 18 or older.Boston Plays Indies

The primary focus of the festival is to promote the digital and tabletop games of independent game developers. Over 30 different developers will be at the show to feature their games, which you can play and help test out. The event also features guest speakers include Robin Hunicke, the executive producer of Journey, Chris Remo, a composer and writer currently working at Double Fine, and Brian O’Halloran, an actor/writer probably best known for his role as Dante Hicks in the movie Clerks.

It’s great to see more events taking place on the east coast, especially in the New England area. I’ll be heading to the festival myself and checking out everything on display, including the Boston Plays Indies concert in the evening. This will be my first time attending this particular convention. I’m not sure what to expect, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I’m especially looking forward to seeing groups like the Video Game Orchestra and Control Group perform. The last time that I checked, they are still looking for some volunteers to help them set up and run the festival. They’ll provide you with a t-shirt, food, drinks, and lunch for helping out. Be sure to check out their volunteer page if that sort of thing interests you. Again the main festival is free of charge, so give it a look if you plan on being in the area on September 14th. Hope to see you there.