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.

Future Dance Land: An Electronic Tribute to Diddy Kong Racing

One of the great things about working on Materia Collective arrangement albums is that there are plenty of opportunities to try something new in terms of genre or collaboration. Electronic Dance Music, commonly just called EDM, is not a style that I usually write in. So when this latest EDM project was proposed, I jumped on board.

Future Dance Land is an EDM themed arrangement album of music from the hit Nintendo 64 game Diddy Kong Racing. Because EDM contains a wide spectrum of genres and sub-genres, there was plenty of room on this album for a variety of stylistically different interpretations of David Wise’s score.

For Future Dance Land I covered the track “Boulder Canyon.” My original plan was to do a Trip-hop reinterpretation of the track, significantly slowing down the tempo to create something drastically different from the source material. However, during the writing process it became a more atmospheric downtempo remix, than anything that could be considered specifically Trip-Hop. It wasn’t what I set out to do originally, but I like how this arrangement came out in the end.

 

There are some wonderful arrangements on this album from a great group of remixers and artists. There’s also a ton of variety present, despite the album’s concept being limited to the EDM genre. You can check out the full Future Dance Land album on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Google Play.

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. (Update! The official soundtrack is now out on my Bandcamp page!)

 

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 USD. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan of puzzle games. I’ll update when the game is released on more platforms.