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[GRiM] Lemme borrow your ears for a bit

Started by Marshall Burns, November 05, 2008, 09:41:00 PM

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Marshall Burns

Ok, so, as you probably know, I put together a CD of original music to accompany the Rustbelt ashcan.  The idea was for the songs to serve the same purposes that illustrations serve.  It worked on at least one person that I've heard from, and that's enough for me to call it a success.

I also plan to do this for GRiM, the game of operatic horror adventure (which is to say, Castlevania: the RPG).  The style is, in true Castlevania form, a smooth blend of Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, prog, and dance forms.  I've been composing for it for a while now, using a midi sequencer on my computer.  Which turned out to be really appropriate:  the cheesy midi synth sounds really hearken back to the old 16-bit and sometimes even 8-bit days.  I'm planning to just record it straight from the midi sequencer (perhaps using a few tricks I know to get some better timbre out of the drums), because it really just adds to the vibe I'm going for.

At least, I think it does.  It's possible that I am too close to see any problems with it.

So, I'm gonna post a bunch of pieces and get some thoughts on them from you guys.  As you listen to them, here's the questions I'd like you to be thinking of answers for:

If you're familiar with Castlevania, does this music remind you of it?  Does it seem derivative, or does it have enough of an original flair to it?  Does the cheesy synth sound add to the atmosphere, or does it make you want to curse the sky and shake your fist at heaven?

Even if you're not familiar with Castlevania, what kind of moods, feelings, and images does this music invoke?  Does it seem appropriate for a game in which you storm the fortress of a malevolent, supernatural entity, doing battle with his legions of hideous minions in your relentless quest to put the master of the castle to death -- not just to save the world, but for intense and personal reasons?

To listen to the midis, you'll need to go to this page here.  They are composed using the synth patches of the Microsoft Wavetable Synth, which you have if you're running Windows.  Unless you bought a fancy soundcard or are using soundfonts of some sort, it will already be the default midi device.  It's important that you listen to these using the Microsoft Wavetable Synth, because each melody is done with a layer of instrument patches playing the same part, in order to achieve special timbres (not unlike mixing paint to get certain colors).

By the way, bonus points to anyone who can identify the first piece used in the Medley.  Because, for the life of me, I can't remember what it is or who composed it.  In the interest of non-plagiarization, let me go ahead and say that the other two pieces used in the Medley are Bach's "Toccata & fugue in D minor" and Beethoven's "Fur elise."  And while any hack could have done said Medley, it's a fun piece, so I don't mind its hackiness.


Marshall Burns

I've recorded some of them as mp3s.  I was originally only going to apply effects to the drums, but I couldn't resist tooling around with the whole thing.  These are just some first cracks at it, but they should give you an idea of what the finished product will sound like:


You'll need to right-click and save-as, otherwise the links won't work.
Play 'em on your stereo system.  Loud.

David Berg

Ballade: the first 23 sceonds are perfect.  The lead melody that comes in for the next 30 seconds seems less Castlevania to me, somehow.  Either the sound is too bright, or the melody is too jaunty... or maybe it's just the very non-8-bit drum line.

Scherzo: excellent.  In Castlevania, I'd expect this to be slightly faster, but personally, I like this tempo.  I'd ditch the high drums, more on that below. 

Toccata: the other two might actually make good background music.  This one is too dynamic for that, and as such reminds me less of playing a video game.  The piano sound is perfect in the lower registers, but too crisp in the higher ones.  More subtle, buzzing synth sounds in the background might get the "soup" effect I equate with videogame music.

Overall, I think this is right on, with one notable exception: the high drum sounds.  They strike me as somewhere awkwardly between performance quality and deliberate super-low-fi, and they just hurt and jar.  The high-hats especially.  I'd guess that assembling these drum parts took you a lot of work, and it's a shame to waste that, but I really think these would be more apt with just the kick and snare with VERY occasional accents.  That kick drum sound is perfect: a sort of muted tapping.  If you can find an equivalent high-hat sound, you may have an option there, but I dunno...  At the very least, turn the high drums way down in the mix.

Dunno if you were looking for this kind of feedback, it's just what stuck out for me.

Hope this helps,

P.S. Disclaimer: my speakers are NOT top-notch.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Marshall Burns

So, this has been interesting.  I also posted this request on Story Games.  All in all, the responses have caused me to realize some interesting things.  Before anyone reads on, they should keep that the following is my personal thoughts, without sugar-coating.  As such, they are judgmental, inconsiderate, and unfair.  Don't bother taking offense to any of it.

Here's my realizations:

1.  I am satisfied with the pieces on the level of pure composition to a very strong, perhaps even dangerous degree.  There is nobody around here, either on the Forge or Story Games, whose musical opinion I respect enough for it to prompt me to re-compose even the slightest fragment of the music.

2.  Given that I am entirely satisfied with the composition, the only thing that's up in the air are the matters of production and presentation.  I also realized (or, more aptly, remembered) that, in my view, most peoples' standards of presentation in music are stupid, and that most people merely hear music rather than listen to it, which renders their opinion (as far as I'm concerned) useless.

3.  I play way more Castlevania than anybody else.  This realization has been prompted by several people telling me that "such-and-such was not very Castlevania," when it seems patently clear to me that it is.  I have Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, & Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse on NES, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Dracula X on SNES, Castlevania: Bloodlines on Sega Genesis, and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness on PS2.  I play at least one of them almost daily (it's one of my favorite ways to decompress after work).  So, I'm dangerously confident that I know what I'm talking about.

4.  And this is the big one.  Given the (clearly) low value I place on the opinions of [everyone who isn't me] regarding this issue, why did I ask for said opinions?

Obviously, I just wanted to say, "HEY!  EVERYONE!  LOOK AT MEEEE!"

There's a thing to keep in mind.