[Editor's Note: SWE3tMadness brings us a great blog on how certain games use dissonance, abstraction, and other musical aspects that don't "follow the rules" to evoke certain feelings or highlight specific themes in the games they are featured in. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs. -- JRo]
Music at its most fundamental level represents order. Nearly every single part of it -- melodies, harmonies, rhythm, and meter are all intrinsically tied to laws of physics and mathematical principles. In this way, it reflects the inner workings of the world around us and is aesthetically pleasing.
Hit the jump!
Pokèmon Pearl/Diamond/Platinum versions: Arceus Battle
I adore the soundtracks for the various Pokèmon titles, and one aspect that makes them unique is the great attention to detail. Specifically, the songs from the earlier titles on the Gameboy featured very complex melodies and supporting harmonies that blend together to create memorable tracks despite the very few layers available and relatively poor sound quality. That is mainly why this track was so surprising when I first heard it. All the melody has been stripped away except for random brassy chords that sound like a cat walking on my synthesizer, and backed by a continual and insistent timpani and snare drum.
Drakengard is a fairly dark game, thanks mostly to its incredibly dark and bizarre plot. Your protagonist is a murder-happy mute with a blood-related sister that secretly wants to bone him, two of your allies are a pedophilic blind man and an female elf who likes to eat children, and together you all fight against an empire led by a demon-possessed six-year old girl. However, the really weird stuff doesn’t happen until the later missions; the canon ending is mainly your standard dark, gothic high fantasy. The soundtrack for these parts also reflects that tone with a loud, bombastic orchestra. But once all the seals have been destroyed, hell breaks loose and gigantic evil babies start raining from the sky (for those not familiar with the game, I am honestly not making this up), and the music changes to more appropriately match the look on the player’s face.
The implication of all this is that the seals were what kept the “Grotesqueries”, godlike abominations that will royally screw over pretty much all of existence, from descending upon the world and doing just that. Without the seals, the babies start falling. Now that such an alien presence has been unleashed, the music still retains much of its orchestration, but now is cut, choppy, and interspersed with strange effects, or has segments that should belong in other songs altogether.
This boss battle is against the demon, Samael, that an old lady, Dahlia Gillespie, had been trying to resurrect through her daughter, Alessa. Alessa’s rage and anger at her situation (being stuck with a horrendously burned body and pregnant with an ancient demon will kind of do that to you) is mainly what creates the “dark” side of the town of Silent Hill. Of course, a lot of the plot is open to interpretation since the sources of most of it are fairly unreliable, or overly symbolic. Despite that, the one thing that you really can be sure of during this fight is that there’s a GIANT-ASS WINGED MONSTER TRYING TO KILL YOU.
Earthbound: Final Boss Battle against Giygas
The four songs I talked about before this point all represent a specific aspect of “anti-music” and what it can represent in games. The Arceus battle theme is primarily meant to invoke the primal -- the void or chasm that existed before creation, but one that creation was borne out of nonetheless. The Drakengard mission music invokes a more Lovecraftian feel by representing the characters coming face to face with something that causes the order of the universe to break down in its presence. “My Heaven” from Silent Hill represents the evil that corrupted the once-peaceful town into a physical hell, and its embodiment in the final boss. And then the Twilit battle theme from Twilight Princess evokes an alien world and its inhabitants, but a world that is not intrinsically evil itself.
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