For the first part of the assignment I will be comparing two pieces of gaming music. The games these pieces of music come from are, The Last of Us (2013), and Halo 2(2004). Both pieces of music are the main theme's to the game.
The Last of Us main theme
Before I discuss the music, I will give you the background of the game. The Last of Us is a game which is set in a post apocalyptic future were a deadly virus has turned everyone into zombie like creatures. The protagonist of the game is called Joel, he is a man who's family has died due to the virus. His role of the game is to protect a young girl called Ellie- who is immune to the virus. The game is very tense, and has quite a dramatic story.
The music has a very western feel to it, but it leans towards Spanish flamenco style of classical acoustic guitar; this could be because of the composer-Gustavo Santaolalla, as he is from south America- and South America was rules by the Spanish Empire hundreds of years, so it makes sense for there to be many Spanish influences in South American culture. Gustavo Santaolalla is from Argentina, Argentina shares similarities with the American western culture, instead of cowboys Argentina has Gaucho's. Gaucho's are cattle drivers who still exist today, the music they would play on their cattle drives would be a traditional folk style of music, played on a classical acoustic guitars. So I thought all this could have inspired it's style. Because there is a good deal of time spent in the game on horseback.
The Song is in the Key of Em, the minor is good because it is a sad sounding chord, and is showing the mood of the game even before the game has started; it also has a moderate tempo, this shows the pace of the games itself, The Last of Us has some dramatic moments, but a lot the game is about travelling and surviving. It uses a variety of american instruments, for example a slide guitar, harmonica. The main instrument is not a traditional acoustic guitar, it's an instrument known as the Ronroco- this is a small 10 string guitar, which originates from Argentina. When listening to the song, I noticed that it could not be a normal acoustic playing- at first I thought it was some sort of banjo- but after finding a video of Gustavo Santaolalla, I researched and found out about the instrument. The soundtrack to the Last of Us aims for a very emotional melancholic sound- rather than going for a horror sound, which similar games do- this sad sound shows what the characters are going through.
Halo 2 Theme
Halo 2 was a sequel to the Xbox classic of 2001. The game was released in 2004, and was very popular. The game is about a interstellar war between humans, and a alien alliance known as the Covenant. The game is a first person shooter which incorporates both sci-fi lasers and guns with bullets; this makes it to appeal to people who are not into sci-fi.
The main theme of Halo 2, is a "Rocky" version of the original from the first game, it uses an electric guitar- which is being played by Steve Vai. The opening of the song starts out with some low operatic tones- this is part of the original theme tune, a lot the original orchestral sequence can be heard in the background throughout the song; but the electric guitar is the most dominant instrument in the song. The guitar is simply a rendition of the original orchestral piece- as it sticks to the same rhythm, and a similar melody; the original melody is done using multiple violins, the rhythm guitar does stop for some parts to allow the original violins to play, I think this is good because it provides are break in the song, and after this the song starts to wrap up, the solo guitar starts to "shred", and improvise melody; I'm pretty sure i heard a few "dive bombs"- this is when a guitarist will perform a harmonic, and then push down on the tremolo, to lower the pitch on the note- it's called a dive bomb, because it sounds like a bomb dropping from the sky. Steve Vai makes good use this early in the song- at about 33 seconds into the song. The song ends on the operatic vocals heard at the beginning, but only with time with some input from the guitar.
This song is in the key of E Major (E), it has a very epic sound to it- it does start out quite quiet and slowly paced, but it rises up and becomes truly epic; and I think this is suitable for an action packed game like Halo 2. Towards the end the song starts to slow down, and go back to how it was at the beginning. The song seems to represent a battle, a slow tense start, and quick and epic middle, and a slow and brutal end, the ending of the song is similar to the start, with only a little extra guitar- which sounds quite melancholic- it's almost as if the song is giving out a anti-war message. Halo 2 is about war, and battles, and the destruction it causes, you play Masterchief- an important soldier- in the game you can lead npc soldiers into firefights, and it's not uncommon that those soldiers will die.
The Original orchestral song would have been recorded in a large recording studio, because it is an orchestra; or they could have been split up into different rooms. The guitar would have been recorded in a much smaller room; and the guitarist-Steve Vai- would be playing along with original recording. The people who composed the original piece of music were the same people who recorded this version- Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori- because they produced the original soundtrack, there is no legal issues with using it again. If someone else were to use the original in the background, they would need to ask for permission if they intend to release it- or put it in a game.
The Last of US
The soundtrack to The Last of Us, was recorded in many different rooms. The composer Gustavo Santaolalla did because the team wanted to "reflect the games AI", in the game the characters are walking through abandoned buildings, playing a song in a bathroom or kitchen will create some natural reverb, so it will fit the current setting of the game. The file format used can add to the effect too, an umcompressed or lossless file would maintain a very natural sounding piece of music- so a WAV file would be good.
A problem with recording in a bathroom or a kitchen is the recording equipment used to do it. In a studio there will more than likely be a mixing console, with many dials and buttons, which make the recording clear and free of feedback. The portable equipment used for recordings in the bathroom and kitchen cause audio restrictions, one of them is the reverberation of sound, if you don't want too much echo in your sound, it's possible that putting some sound proof foam on one wall of the room, will maintain slightly lower the amount of echo in the recording. When recording outside of a studio, you will need a more portable audio recording device(or system), the problem with the portable devices is, that they are not as high quality recording devices. It is possible to create a good portable audio recording system, for example a vocal booth can simply be a microphone surrounded by foam padding for the acoustics.
|These are pretty cheap to buy, and create a very professional sound|
The bit depth of audio determines the dynamic range of sound signals, if a recording device has a high bit depth, the recorded sound will be of better quality, and will have greater range, so there will be a more obvious difference between sounds of different pitch. This affects the resolution of the sound too, a low bit depth sound will sound quite distorted. Clearly Gustavo Santaolalla knows what he is doing, because his music is very well recorded even if it was recorded out of a studio. Games have become a lot more in depth over recent years, soundtracks has become a lot more important to the game as a whole, now games commonly have released soundtracks, but these soundtracks have to fit into a game, along with the game itself, many games do not use a lot of compression- for a greater sound- because of this games are commonly on two discs nowadays.
|A mixing console- these are commonly found in recording studios.|
It's clear that this piece of music was recorded in a studio, because there is barely any reverb in the recording, the guitarist Steve Vai doesn't use much effects in the studio- "He doesn't use it much in the studio because he says he prefers to record dry and add effects later." This suggests that the effects were added using maybe using a mixing console, or a digital audio work space after the recording was done. The guitar is not too noisy, it's distorted- via distortion channel on an amplifier. The guitar has also been double tracked, there is a rhythm section we sticks to chords and is really used to create a background, the main attraction to this piece of music is the lead guitar track; Steve Vai is a incredible guitarist known for his talent on lead guitar. I believe the recording has been compressed, as the guitar does not sound too loud, when compared to any other distorted guitar. I can understand why it would be compressed, as the piece of music is being played alongside another; this would take up a lot of memory, A WAV can be compressed- because it is a very flexible file format- but it is probably a MP3 file. The other main reason it should been compressed is because Halo 2 is a game from 2004 released on the original Xbox, modern consoles can handle uncompressed audio just fine, but back then there was not as much space to work with- it only had 64 MB of RAM.
|This is a TV from Halo 2's era, an Xbox would have more than likely been used to play on one of these TV's.|