1. Some Background Information About the Game
1.1 Before We Begin...
If you have absolutely no knowledge of the common features of a Role Playing
videogame (RPG), it might be wise to briefly read the information at the
Since INSIGNIA is stylistically similar to Final Fantasy, there is relevant
further information under “common elements” here:
Lastly, for yet further reading on the typical/traditional musical requirements
of games in the Final Fantasy series (and their contemporaries), take a look
at the “music” section here:
1.2 Defining the INSIGNIA Project
The INSIGNIA project is an adventure videogame, specifically a 1990s-style
RPG (Role Playing Game) similar to the 'Final Fantasy' series from IV to VI.
I am personally creating this game for three reasons, listed below.
1. For personal amusement and artistic endeavour.
2. For the artistic interest of composing its score.
3. It manifests a practical and interactive portfolio for my work as a
composer for adventure games (and films, TV, etc).
1.3 The INSIGNIA Demo and the Full Game
The INSIGNIA project is not finished yet by a long shot. A demo version of the
game (ie just the beginning of it) showing the music in practical action is also
a little way from completion, but slowly getting nearer. This demo of the
game will, in terms of story, end when Insignia and Vladmir, her companion
for the principle quest, leave Mölsata (their home continent in the west) and
begin their journey to the eastern continent, Kono'inu. Their quest leads them
on the trail of the mysterious black magic sorcerers involved in the murder of
their town mayor, who was also a close friend to both of them.
In lack of the finished demo of the game, I shall write a few paragraphs about
the game's world and the characters below.
1.4 Insignia's World and Magic/Sorcery
Insignia's world is a sort of magical, medieval fantasy world setting in a
'Dungeons and Dragons' tradition. In her world, there are two types of magic:
white magic and black magic. Note that black magic is not really featured
within the first chunk of the game (before the demo will end), so I have not
yet composed a theme for black magic. Like white magic, there will be
several versions of the black magic musical theme.
Not all characters in Insignia's world can perform magic. Insignia can; she is
a sorceress of white magic. Some characters (not necessarily antagonists and
not necessarily “playable” characters; more on this below) perform black
magic. Each type of magic has a broad scope of controlling elements (fire,
water, earth, etc). Different characters can have strengths and weaknesses
for different elements. White and black magic are, effectively, elements (as
far as the game's inner-workings are concerned).
There are two kinds of characters: playable (that is, the protagonists) and
non-playable (NPCs). This is a concept common to most videogames.
1.5.1 Playable Characters
There are playable characters who make up the cast of characters that join
Insignia on her journey (the group is technically called a “party” in the RPG
gaming world). Playable characters are characters controllable by the
individual playing the game. Technically, the individual controls the current
“party”, but has control of each character in the “party” during “battles”.
The first of the playable characters, apart from Insignia, is Vladmir. He is
the landlord at Insignia's local bar and a very aloof, emotionless individual.
He is also a rather heroic character with noble warrior-like traits. He and
Insignia clash for the first part of the game. Vladmir does not appreciate
sorcery and considers Insignia a witch. He fears sorcery because his mother
was executed when he was only a boy for suspicion of being a witch. Later in
the game (at the end of the demo, to be precise) Insignia shows Vladmir a side
of her he did not know of and he is forced to accept he may have been wrong
While the cast of protagonists will be extensive, the principle or focal
protagonist is a young woman called Insignia (hence the game title), whose
distinguishing feature is her raspberry-pink hair. Insignia comes from a very
mysterious past; her parents and upbringing remain unsolved enigmas. This
enigmatic past is a puzzle that is gradually solved as the game's story
progresses. Bit by bit, her labyrinthine past unravels.
Insignia is a mythical, misanthropic Orpheus — literally, in many ways akin to
the Thracian poet (whose lyrics were said to entrance animals and have the
power of telekinesis). Growing up, she discovered a form of witchcraft (white
magic) and has taken to it with surprising ease. Since any kind of magic or
sorcery is feared by most of the civilians in the world, Insignia is forced to
lead the life of a mystically-hermetic outcast.
Dino is an eleven year old boy. He is Dexter's roguish, adventure-seeking son.
He is featured in the game only briefly when Insignia and Vladmir find him in
a dangerous forest. Dino joins the “party”, though his actions in the ensuing
battle are automated. Insignia and Vladmir must save him from the threat
he is in and return him to his father.
Dexter is Dino's father. He is a man of tools, machinery and weapons; a sort
of artisan of tools and weapons. He joins the “party” after Insignia and
Vladmir find him in the desert lands beyond the mountains that divide the
continent of Mölsata into green plains and barren desert. This is where
Insignia and Vladmir find themselves in a bustling Arabian-esque village of
murderous merchants selling all manner of spurious contraband.
1.5.6 King Gnarú
King Gnarú is King of Mölsata, the western continent. He lives a castle that is
maintained by seemingly hundreds of workers. His days are filled with the
lonesome task of doing very little except sitting upon his throne. When
Insignia and Vladmir visit his castle to inform him the mayor of their village
has been murdered, a messenger informs him of their arrival. He laments to
the messenger of his growing loneliness and wish for a wife. When the
messenger tells King Gnarú that one of the two people who have come to
speak with him is a girl with pink hair (Insignia), he reveals that a fortune
teller once told him his future queen would be a “Seraph with raspberry hair”.
King Gnarú becomes convinced that Insignia is to fulfil the fortune teller's
prophecy and shyly grows infatuated with her on that basis.
1.5.7 Non-Playable Characters (NPCs)
The second kind of character is the non-playable character (NPC). These
characters are, obviously, characters Insignia and her “party” can meet and
interact with but they do not join the party/quest at any stage. These range
from ubiquitous characters of little importance (shopkeepers, townfolk, etc) to
significant characters like kings, queens, masters of white/black magic, the
antagonists, wise elders, and so on. The finished game (that is, the complete
epic game and not the small demo) will feature a staggering broad cast of
playable characters and a seemingly limitless array of NPCs. Or at least,
that is the plan.
Do not be misinformed by the term “dungeon”. In the RPG world, the term
“dungeon” simply means any wide, labyrinthine, explorable environment
which does not have shops, houses, etc (that would be “village” in RPG
terminology) and is typically quite barren of locations, interactions, etc.
Dungeons usually feature a lot of “battles”, which is another term with a
specific meaning in RPG gaming. It is important to appreciate that not all
dungeons are what is summed up by the dictionary definition of the word,
though some of them are. The term “dungeon” actually originates from the
first RPG games in the 1970s, like 'Dungeon' or the still-iconic 'Rogue'. These
games were set in, quite literally, a dungeon. This was because any other
setting was not feasible on the primitive computer equipment of the time.
These early dungeon-situated RPGs became more of a single element/feature
of 1980s to 1990s Japanese console RPGs (and modern day contemporaries).
Even then, the actual setting of a “dungeon” was conceptualised and made
2. Tracks From Disc One
2.1 Raspberry Seraph of Mountains & Sea (Title)
A big, epic theme with bells and everything for a grand ouverture-esque title.
The principal melody is a leitmotif (“theme” to non-musicians) that recurs in
other pieces associated with the game's focal protagonist, Insignia. Since she is
the title character, it makes sense that the title ouverture should feature the
leitmotif that “belongs to” or, if you prefer, “annotates” her, her presence and
her home, belongings, life, etc.
2.2 Where Mountains Kiss the Clouds (Airship)
Vehicle theme for the Airship that features later in the game and allows the
protagonists to travel to other continents as they please by flight. Note the
overall sense of “lift”. Technically, this “lift” is supplied by the many layers
of ascending movement. The bass line ascends and also features flourishes of
fast notes which also ascend. The cellos repeat this ascending flourish.
Everything ascends; “lift”, sky, flying... I am sure you get the idea now. The
game is graphically primitive. The music needs to fully provide the sense of
being in the air because the graphics will probably not.
2.3 English Valleys of Sun & Rain
This piece is a village theme. It is music for a pretty rural village. There is
something very English and cottagey about the instrumentation of this piece.
For me, it sounds like the colour green, which is a statement best understood
by people with audio to colour synaesthesia (something I mildly experience).
Cottagey and green are exactly the visual connotations wanted to underscore a
pretty village scene. Of course, nothing in Insignia's world is ever what it
seems. A pretty village probably houses some very eccentric characters,
hence the idiosyncratic quality of the inconsistent tempo, which also sounds
2.4 Insignia, the Solitary Enigma
This is one of several variations of Insignia's theme. This particular variation
is Insignia's solitude theme. The minimal instrumentation lends to this sense
of lonesomeness. It is a mysterious piece of music, which coincides with the
character's mystery, enigmatic past and her dormant magical entity. The
eerie, warbling vocal comes from a Mellotron tape, of all places. Its mystical
quality has made me select it as a sound to associate with the Orphic haze
that obscures Insignia; in some ways a secondary leitmotif. It could be said
that in this piece Insignia is represented by the female voice and her
misanthropic loneliness and her consequential forlornness is depicted by the
way the voice is accompanied only by the simple, humble, unobtrusive piano.
I suppose, if we were being very poetic and philosophical, we could suggest the
piano represents Gobbolino, Insignia's much loved cat.
2.5 Stalker in the Sands (Desert Map)
This piece is for desert continents or other barren desert areas. In Insignia's
world, a desert is a dangerous and foreboding place (I suppose sometimes the
same could be said of our real world, too). This piece has a throbbing pulse
courtesy of the bass and violoncellos, which lends an appropriately foreboding
suspense. Note also the use of the heavily reverbed alto flute. The warm
timbre of the alto flute is similar to that of the double stone flute used in
eastern and jungle music. In this instance that is backed up by the fact this
alto flute is playing in a very eastern sounding modal scale. I'm sure you'll
notice I couldn't resist the ubiquitous Egyptian/eastern cliché roughly half way
through the track on the quiet passage. Consider it an amusing tip of the hat
to every Lawrence of Arabia type film ever made and, perhaps, also to heavy
metal band Iron Maiden's songs 'The Nomad' and 'Powerslave'. As a nugget
for any musicians reading this: this piece is *not* in the phrygian mode, as
you might think to hear it at first. It is actually in a scale known as the Hijaz
Maquam, which is almost identical, bar a few anomalies, to the fifth degree
mode of the harmonic minor (which some call the “phrygian dominant” or
“phrygian major third”). If you want to play this scale, just play a common
phrygian but raise the third (pretty much; the proper Hijaz Maquam has
anomalies relating to the 6th note in the scale, though).
2.6 Raspberry Waltz (Western Map)
This piece is for Mölsata, Insignia's home continent. This explains my
decision to make it a rearrangement of Insignia's theme, specifically a waltz.
Beyond that, there is little scene setting necessary for this continent, other
than it being a largely rural area with grass plains and forests, so something
upbeat and quite plain sets the scene perfectly well.
2.7 Vladmir, the Man of Sentiments
This is one of a few renditions of Vladmir's theme. This one is Vladmir's
“sadness” theme. Despite his aloofness, Vladmir does have some reasons to
be sad sometimes. This piece underscores a conversation with a local
shopkeeper in which the story of Vladmir's past (the loss of his mother etc)
and how that relates to his disagreeable temperament towards Insignia is
explained to Insignia. The piece bares some similarity in instrumentation and
overall colour/texture to Insignia's solitude theme. However, there is nothing
mystical to the sound. The mysterious female voice is substituted here for a
flute. The flute implies an unexpected lightness contrasted against the dark
piano, mirroring how sadness is an unexpected emotion in an emotionless
character like Vladmir. It is also my personal opinion that flutes convey
sadness and sorrow quite beautifully.
2.8 Insignia, the Determined Heroine
Another rendition of Insignia's theme, this one heroic in its nature with
marching snares and a dramatic, slightly staccato brass section. Brass
instruments, played medium to loud, have connotations of majesty and
bravery (usually), a theory which recurs in King Gnarú's theme (later).
2.9 Adrenal Pulse (Battle)
As the title mentions, this particular action cue is a generic battle theme. In
the game, “battles” occur relatively frequently. I am sure looking up RPG on
Wikipedia (see web links on page 1) will explain further what a “battle” is
within the RPG context and what its purpose is. Naturally, “battle” music
needs to convey a sense of immediacy, drama and action. At the same time,
it does not need to actually be immediate or brief in its nature; a startling
crash is not the idea, but a loud, upbeat, pulsing piece is. In this case, there
are many traditions/clichés from rock or heavy metal manifested within an
orchestra. It is also worth noting the use of electric bass guitar as opposed to
the traditional orchestral contrabass. This is due to the electric bass guitar's
tighter, more percussive sound that affords the ability to play fast, rhythmic
lines without saturating the lower frequencies of the piece with swampy decay
(which is what happens when contrabass is plucked and playing something
fast and rhythmic).
2.10 Subterranean Catacombs
This piece is the score for a gloomy set of labyrinthine catacombs that are
underneath Insignia's home village. These catacombs are dangerous and
extraordinary, so the musical score should lend to the suspense. As for this
piece, think of Indiana Jones exploring and getting lost in a maze of
subterranean catacombs with all sorts of sinister things lurking. Amusingly,
the picked bass towards the end reminds me of 'Scooby Doo' when Shaggy and
Scooby would tiptoe up a corridor in a haunted house.
2.11 Ice Goddess of White Sorcery
Several things in the game have a musical theme, from characters to specific
locations and even elements. White sorcery and black sorcery are elements
that have themes. Currently, there is not a theme for black sorcery as it is
not something that really features in the demo of the game. This piece is a
version of the white sorcery theme that is intended for many things. It is
intended for supernatural scenes of a white magic nature, perhaps even a key
scene later in the game (beyond the scope of the demo) that involves Insignia
and blinding bright light. The female choir lends some religious connotations.
2.12 Show Your Fangs (Crucial Battle)
As the title makes mention of, this music is for crucial battles (such as “boss”
battles etc). Essentially, it is for harder or longer battles. As such, it is a
longer piece than the normal battle cue, 'Adrenal Pulse (Battle)'. It is also
darker and more lingering, thanks to its use of a sinister-sounding male choir
and the quieter passages with the cellos. There is also a sense of heroic
adventure lent by the dramatic violin line, which is also repeated later by
trumpets (which slightly lend an unlikely mariachi sound like the old films
with gun-toting Mexican bandits). 'Show Your Fangs' is also edgier as a battle
cue than 'Adrenal Pulse' because of its uncommon/odd seven beat metre.
2.13 Funereal Flutes of Sorrow
'Sorrow' as a mood relates to the character Mr Jacobs, the mayor of Insignia's
village, who is found murdered in his house early in the game. In a way, this
is his theme, of which there are a couple of versions. This 'Funeral Flutes'
version is a piece for two flutes; one alto flute and one normal concert flute.
It is a lachrymose yet somehow uplifting or hopeful piece (mostly because of
the bright timbre of the concert flute). In the game, the piece is “played” by
flautists (NPCs) at Mr Jacobs' funeral, making it diegetic in its function.
2.14 Unleashing a Mystical Power From the Orbs
This piece is almost an action cue, but not quite. It lends a Delphic, mystical
underscoring to a foreboding or pre-catastrophic event/happening in which
some kind of magic/sorcery (possibly black sorcery) is a focal feature. In the
demo of the game, it is used once for a scene where an antagonist manipulates
a “magic” mirror, turning it into a portal, before walking through it and
vanishing. Note the use of chorus effect on the two glockenspiels, which
“fattens” them and gives a mystical warbling sound.
2.15 King Gnarú, a Prisoner in His Lonely Castle
See section 1.5.6 for details of King Gnarú as a character. The bold brass
section (enriched/deepened with bass clarinets) with its simple I to IV
progression outline epitomises nobility, grandeur and monument. Hence, it
lends itself well to the grand, monumental nature of King Gnarú's castle (or, I
suppose, any huge castle). On its own, this could sound too robust and detract
from the affluent nature of the castle; the choir brings a finishing touch that
brings an affluent polish. From this A-section, I also wanted something that
would work well if re-arranged into a march, which will be another piece (not
yet featured) for King Gnarú's army, or King Gnarú leading his army to “save
the day” in some way. As King Gnarú is quite a young character, I wanted
something more princely than “ageing emperor”. The youthful quality, apart
from being manifested by the affluent polish of the choir, is depicted through
the playful B-section with its flowing melodic line led by the fruity tones of
the bass clarinets that added body the heavily brassy A-section.
2.16 Kids Play Outside Proletarian Towers
This is a musical theme for the village of Xobar, a village not far from
Insignia's home made up of two large towers of small apartments, housing
mostly proletariats and the lawless. Children are often found playing outside.
This piece needed to have a child-like playfulness but also some edgy drama
brought by the unusually chromatic B-section. It also needed to still sound
very much “green” (to my mild audio to colour synaesthesia) and lend itself
to the rural nature of Xobar as a village.
2.17 Galloping Through Linton Forest
Linton Forest is a forest near Insignia's home, where Insignia goes to practice
combat with her small dagger against the amassing dangerous creatures that
reside there. It is also the place that some children, like the unsupervised
children in Xobar, mischievously run off to and play despite the perils. This
piece is an action cue for this forest setting. The forest is depicted by the 6/8
rhythm and Celtic undertones of the viola melody, which hints at 'Robin
Hood', for example. The hard plucked higher octave bass line sounds like
horses galloping through a forest, say in pursuit of someone, which delivers
the action factor. For interest and suspense, there is a break featuring the
Wagner-style sinister male choir which recurs frequently in the game's
2.18 Dino, Roguish Child of Wonder
See section 1.5.4 for details of Dino as a character. As the title plainly
implies, Dino is a child and a slightly mischievous one full of roguish
adventure at that. He finds himself in trouble in Linton Forest and must be
saved by Insignia and Vladmir. This is his theme; there are no variations of it
since Dino is only featured in the game briefly and only needs this simple
playful theme. Try singing the words “a little, tiny child went wondering
through the woods...” to the B-section.
2.19 Murderous Arabian Merchants
Music for the Arabian-esque desert village where many merchants sell their
spurious contraband from tethered tents. It is a bustling village where sand is
blown by the wind and Insignia and Vladmir must try to stay out of trouble as
they search for Dexter, Dino's father. Dexter is an artisan who is said to have
information about the masters of black sorcery responsible for the murder of
Insignia's village mayor, Mr Jacobs. The piece is the first on the soundtrack
to feature a broader range of ethnic instruments, in this case a fitting use of
eastern/Indian instruments like the sitar and some traditional Hindi female
vocals. The upbeat section later in this track has a kind of “magic carpet
ride” feel. Like 'Stalker in the Sands (Desert Map)', this also mostly uses the
Hijaz Maqam scale (see section 2.5).
2.20 Industrial Metropolis By the Sea
This piece is what the title says. It is for an industrial town with a port where
ships set sail to other continents. Bear in mind that I mean industrial by the
standards of the game world's medieval steampunk-ish setting. In composing
this piece, the industrial port town setting is best broken into “industrial” and
“port”. First, the “port” is best symbolised by the colour blue (the sea, if you
like). Subjectively, and this may be my personal opinion, the best timbre for
yielding a sense of the colour blue is bassoons and English horns in unison. I
realise the idea of musical timbre depicting a colour is possibly only really
understood by people with sound to colour synaesthesia (like David Hockney or
Franz Liszt). The other analytical segment of the arrangement is the
“industrial” part. This is depicted in the piece by the offbeat violins and the
clanging sound of the anvils, which for obvious reasons sounds like machinery
or a blacksmith at work. Lastly, the overall arrangement has a lot of
movement; you could call it “busy”. This mirrors the animated daily life in a
bustling industrial port town; the townsfolk beavering around like ants.
3. Tracks from Disc Two
3.1 Mysterious Journey
This piece is for any “dungeon” (in the RPG terminology sense) that is
mysterious or magical. Bass plus highs typically have mysterious or
foreboding connotations. Also, the Wagner-style male choir is quite
foreboding. Notice, however, the use of the mystical female vocal. As I
mentioned in commentaries for other pieces, this female vocal is intended to
be associated with the character Insignia as a kind of secondary leitmotif for
her. For whatever reason, the “dungeon” this piece is for has some
significance to Insignia. Perhaps she is there alone and it is her personal fight
to conquer the maze-like area and its dangerous inhabitants. On the other
hand, perhaps it is a location from Insignia's cloudy past which happens to be
a “dungeon” in its form. Either way, it is a dark and mysterious place.
3.2 Vladmir, the Courageous Warrior
Vladmir's heroic theme, for Vladmir's moments of courageousness, bravery,
chivalry, etc. Those are prominent qualities in Vladmir, so this piece could be
said simply to be his theme. It does have other variations, though. Powerful
brass, like in this piece, implies majesty and heroism (usually).
3.3 Elder's Timber House of a Hundred Clocks
This piece is a version of the white magic theme for an old antiques shop,
filled with old-fashioned clocks, owned by a wise sorcerer of white magic. The
woody timbre of the cellos echoes the wooden timber (pun intended) of the
flooring and most of the shop. For an ethereal quality, cue the arpeggios on
the mellow piano. A harp, while more ethereal, would not continue the woody
texture of the piece.
3.4 The Ship Departs, the Quest Begins
An extremely loud, dramatic, heroic theme for a scene where Insignia,
Vladmir and Dexter, having boarded a ship heading for the eastern continent
of Kono'inu, embark on their journey and, hence, begin their quest together.
This music underscores the scene where the ship departs from the port, with
the townsfolk wishing it a good voyage. At the key change in the middle of
this piece, the scene changes to a horizon with the ship gradually disappearing
into the distance beneath a glowing moon. I think it is the subtle ghost notes
in the trumpet parts that really make this work as a dramatic piece.
3.5 Retrospective Lament
Little needs to be written about this piece. It is a short, simple blues track
with a lachrymose and lonesome feeling. It underscores a scene aboard the
cargo ship where Insignia, unable to sleep, reminisces about Mr Jacobs, her
village mayor (and close, almost grandfather-like friend) before going for a
wander out on deck where she finds Vladmir (at which time the next piece is
cued). The bassoon is a very “blue-coloured” timbre. The descending bass
line on the piano strongly provides a feeling of descent into misery. Were it an
ascending bass line (say, if you reversed this piece) it would probably be
strangely uplifting (theoretically, though it probably wouldn't have much
artistic merit). This piece is intended to be a little bit of a tip of the hat to the
bluesy saxophone-led jazz traditionally featured in film noire.
3.6 Musing By Starlight (“Do You Think There's an Afterlife?”)
This music underscores an emotional cut-scene aboard the cargo ship sailing
for Kono'inu. This cut-scene follows the scene where Insignia reminisces
about Mr Jacobs. Strolling on the ship deck underneath a night sky washed
with purple nebulae and twinkling stars, Insignia spots Vladmir. It seems he
is also mourning and troubled by insomnia. Insignia joins him and a dialogue
ensues in which they briefly bicker about their reasons for embarking on the
quest (each side not fully understanding the closeness of the other's friendship
with their town mayor). They are then brought closer by the realisation that
they share the same feeling of loss and the quest is equally personal for both
of them. In a moment of introspective reflection, Insignia contemplates about
religious/spiritual beliefs with Vladmir. Vladmir explains he doesn't really
have any such beliefs or any opinion at all on the subject. By this stage of
unveiling Vladmir's character, we are already understanding that there is
more to Vladmir than his stubborn, emotionless exterior shows. To break a
tense moment, Vladmir asks Insignia what she believes. Insignia gazes up
mystically at the stars. The scene pans up to the sky with its twinkly stars
and purple nebulae. At this point, there is a definite dynamic change in the
music (the middle section that gets louder and the chords deliver an increase
in tension). Insignia proceeds to explain her psuedo-religious spiritual beliefs.
In a moment of deliberation, she explicates how the laws of physics state that
energy can never be “consumed” or “used”, it merely changes form. When
you pull a bow back, the cord stores potential energy, maintained by friction
energy, and then is transformed into kinetic energy when released. As the
arrow flies, moment becomes further kinetic energy to keep the arrow
moving. Energy changes form and moves to a different place in the universe.
Insignia's belief is that the “soul” of a person is a kind of energy and when we
die, the energy changes form and translates elsewhere in the universe.
Maybe, far away elsewhere in the universe, there is a cloud of animated,
intelligent energy comprised of a society of “souls”. A shooting star passes
coincidentally as she explains this. Following Insignia's meditative
explanation of her psuedo-religious beliefs, the music changes back to the
original. At this point, Vladmir is stunned that such philosophical articulation
should come from someone he calls a witch. After some more dialogue, there
is the feeling that Vladmir has learnt that maybe he has been wrong about
Insignia; maybe she is not just a witch. As the scene ends and Insignia
complains she is cold and will retire to her cabin, Vladmir pleasantly bids her
a good night and watches her intently as she returns inside. Insignia asks
what he's staring at. Vladmir tells her, “nothing”. Once Vladmir is alone on
the ship deck with the night sky and the calm waves of the sea, there is the
very subtle feeling that maybe Vladmir could be just beginning to have a mild
romantic interest in Insignia, now that she has proven herself much more of
an interesting, intelligent young woman than he previously thought.
3.7 Wood, Waves & Weapons (Pirates Attack)
An action cue for a battle or heated action at sea, involving a pirate ship.
Specifically, the extended combat between the cargo ship Insignia, Vladmir
and Dexter are stowing away on and a ship commanded by pirates. First, the
fight is between the ships, but once their ship is sinking, the pirates swim to
the cargo ship and Insignia's “party” fights them. This music spans all of
that. The slow-moving modal cellos represent the timber of the ship rocking
back and forth on the waves. The timpani depicts the battalions' footsteps as
they run around on deck. Lastly, the trumpets represent, for example,
cannon fire. The result is a musical canvas that instantly pictures pirates
waging war upon the sea.
3.8 Temple of Dao Poets
A simple musical wallpaper comprised of gamelan instrumentation. Its
purpose is exactly what the title says. The Dao poetry monologue throughout
is technically diegetic as there is a background character in the game who
appears to be some sort of preacher or oriental beatnik. The temple is an
ethereal place, where protagonists meet Nobuo, a ninja of black sorcery.
3.9 Born in a Different World (Insignia's Dream)
Later in the game, Insignia and her friends find their way to a rural village in
Kono'inu. The village is very much like rural Japan. Upon her arrival, she
seems to have a sense of deja vu, like she had been there before. But to her
knowledge, she had never left Mölsata. A cut-scene follows where her
surroundings turn glowing white and her friends disappear. She finds herself
in a dream, perhaps a flashback. She witnesses herself as a small child with
a couple who are evidently her parents. Some very strange events follow that
open up a little more of Insignia's mysterious past. The instrumentation in
this musical accompaniment is mostly a striking contrast to the rest of the
soundtrack. The digitally-detuned Chinese bells introduce an artificial sound
(technically, artificially-manipulated in an unnatural way) to an otherwise
very natural, real orchestra and piano that makes up most of the soundtrack.
To make sure it still sounds like it belongs on the same soundtrack, the cello
and viola sections are minimally used to break from the detuned Chinese
bells. There is also something ethereal, otherworldly and dream-like about
the sound of those detuned Chinese bells; an unforgettable, affecting sound
that attaches perfectly to the glowing white visual tone of Insignia's dream.
3.10 Marching Skeletons Beyond the Portculis
This is one of many castle themes that will feature in the complete finished
game. This piece is for a castle haunted by an army of skeletons, an army
that is commanded by a sinister black skeleton who is a master of black
sorcery and manipulation of water and ice. Insignia first encounters him in
the catacombs beneath her village. The piece is broken into two distinct
sections. The first section is a climbing march, with regal undertones
appropriate for a castle. The march climbs because progressing through a
castle normally means climbing its towers, etc. The second section is a
suspense section. It prominently features a Wagner-esque sinister choir sound
which recurs often throughout the game's orchestral soundtrack.
3.11 A Fearsome Ghoul Appears at My Bedside...
A music cue for a scene featuring something mysterious and slightly
unnerving, for example a ghoul or a mysterious object or apparatus of alien
origins. Because of the minimal instrumentation, this music is, naturally, for
a claustrophobic scene; perhaps the only witness to the ghoul or bizarre
apparatus is the principal protagonist. Although, the use of the mystical
female voice associated with Insignia suggests she might actually be the ghoul
or alien apparatus... Since this track is Delphic in its nature, I'm leaving its
explanation here relatively equivocal and tenebrous.
3.12 Isolated Clarinet of Sorrow
Another version of the 'Sorrow' theme associated with Mr Jacobs. It is a very
slow version and yields an alternative piece for scenes of a lonesome, isolated
nature. The clarinet is a very smooth, featureless instrument. It is hardly
ever played with vibrato, for example, so it lends well to the sense of
barrenness and isolation.
3.13 Farewell, My Love! It is Not the 1950s!
I have little to say about this particular piece. It is a very cliché romantic
piece for a scene of farewell. It features the over-used 1950s R&B (“doo wap”)
progression, most recognisable from songs like Blue Moon, Stand By Me and,
perhaps most pertinently, Unchained Melody. I actually mildly dislike this
piece for its hackneyed boorishness and may not use it. If necessary, I may
replace it with something less banal. Well, nobody's perfect. The best
baseball players in the world occasionally swing and miss!
4. Tracks From Disc Three
4.1 Church Organist ~ Power Hymn
Diegetic music, played by a church organist in the game. This song is very
much a traditional, dynamic western hymn full of plagal cadences; the kind of
thing the power ballad partly stemmed from. Hence, I call it a power hymn.
4.2 Church Organist ~ Ambient Plagals
Diegetic music, played by a church organist in the game (though in places it
may not be). This song is ambience. It is comprised of a series of chords
making a plagal cadence repeated in several keys.
4.3 Church Organist ~ House of White Sorcery
Diegetic music, played by a church organist in the game (though in places it
may not be). This song is a rendition of the theme for white sorcery. Hence,
its purpose is for churches or cathedrals and other seemingly holy places that
practice white magic (and have an organ).
4.4 Bar Entertainer ~ Cockney Knees Up!
Diegetic music, played by a bar pianist in the game (hence the audience
applause at the end). This song is clearly a good old-fashioned upbeat cockney
rock (“rockney”) song in a sort of Chas n' Dave tradition. It seems fitting to
me that a bar entertainer should play in such a style. Note that the term
“bar entertainer” does not portray a jazz pianist in a cocktail bar, but rather
a humble Honkey-Tonk pianist in a seedy bar room.
4.5 Bar Entertainer ~ Tribute to Insignia
Diegetic music, played by a bar pianist in the game (hence the audience
applause at the end). This song is an amusing rendition of Insignia's theme in
a sort of Chas n' Dave “rockney” style fitting for a bar entertainer.
4.6 Bar Entertainer ~ Tribute to Vladmir
Similar to 'Bar Entertainer ~ Tribute to Insignia', this is a rendition of
Vladmir's theme in the bar entertainer Honkey-Tonk “rockney” style.
4.7 Dramatic Suspense Cue I
Sinister growing noises courtesy of the string section. For times of suspense.
4.8 Dramatic Suspense Cue II
Aggressive slapping on the basses with a heartbeat-like pace yields huge
amounts of “edge of the seat” tension. Add to that some sinister growing
cellos for even more suspense. This piece does what it says on the tin: a
dramatic piece loaded with suspense for times of tearful joy... just kidding.
4.9 Dramatic Suspense Cue III (Grave Concern)
This dramatic music is in some ways a suspense cue. It is for moments
where characters are feeling concern for a grave situation. It features in the
demo when Insignia and a reverend are knocking on the village mayor's door.
There is no answer, but Insignia has already looked around and can not find
him. At this time, Insignia is increasingly concerned for his well-being. The
heartbeat-like throbbing pulse of this music's repeating movement creates the
4.10 Game Over!
Event cue (musical sound effect). A short phrase on a harp accompanied by a
large choir to depict defeat, eg death of one or all protagonist(s) or a “game
over” condition. The triple-reiterated low note on the harp immediately
provides a sinister, dark quality. The note is a D, said by audio to colour
synaesthetes and musicians to be one of the darkest, most morose coloured
notes. The chromatically descending minor triads of the choir (D minor, D♭
minor, C minor) denote disappointment or a mishap.
Event cue (musical sound effect). A short phrase on a harp to depict the
passing of time while the protagonist(s) sleep(s). It is hard to describe the
technical composition of this track; it was composed instinctively.
4.12 How Strange...
Event cue (musical sound effect). A short phrase on a harp to depict the
mood of uncovering an object, tool or apparatus that seems peculiar, curious
or out of place. It says, “how odd...” or “what's that for?”. The single chord,
broken, is an augmented triad. The raised fifth of an augmented chord
preserves the augmented chord's place as the number one chord of mystery.
4.13 Dramatic Crash!
Event cue (musical sound effect). This is a sharp hit, intended to be startling.
4.14 Objective Achieved
Event cue (musical sound effect). This is a kind of “ta da!” fanfare.
4.15 Comical Calamity
Event cue (musical sound effect). A fluttery muted French Horn. The
chromatic sequence of major third intervals sounds playful and circus-like,
denoting humour and, as the title says, comical calamity.
4.16 Victory, Light
Event cue (musical sound effect). A short phrase on a harp to depict victory
to the protagonist(s). In the game, this is typically used after defeating all
opponents in a battle. The three rising major triads are often associated with
elation, which suggests success.
4.17 Victory, Super
Event cue (musical sound effect). A short phrase on a harp accompanied by a
large choir to depict victory to the protagonist(s). In the game, this is
typically used after conquering a harder opponent in a battle. Again, the three
rising major triads have been used like 'Victory, Light' (section 4.16, above).
4.18 Victory, Ridiculous (Power Fanfare)
Event cue (musical sound effect). A longer musical passage featuring a large
orchestral sound to depict a more serious victory to the protagonist(s). In the
game, this is typically used after conquering a major (“boss”) opponent in a
battle or series of quick-thinking tasks. Once more, three rising major triads
are featured at the climax of the piece in a dramatic crescendo punctuated
with a large gong.
4.19 Victory, Ludicrous (Explosive Fanfare)
Event cue (musical sound effect). An even longer musical passage featuring
the loud, powerful orchestral sound to depict the most dramatic and
prestigious victory to the protagonist(s). In the game, this would be rarely
featured; perhaps only at game completion or defeating a Herculean foe. Its
ending cadence suggests not so much elation or success, but conclusion. The
rising volume and powerful climax suggest an extremely potent nature to the
conclusion. There are, in fact, several layers of crescendo occurring at once.
The trumpets have their own crescendo in the machine-gun-like blasts with
rising pitch, notes on the strings get shorter and the tempo changes drastically
throughout. It is punctuated with a canon blast, one of the loudest most
prestigious and explosive (literally and figuratively) elements of an orchestra.
Personally, I describe this piece with the tongue-in-cheek phrase “orchestral
pornography” because of the sleazy cliché of it as well as the sexual subtext of
such a powerful, over-the-top musical climax.
That concludes this document. I hope my commentaries were interesting.