The leitmotiv of Merx:
Again? Yes, indeed, I used a leitmotiv also for the planets sometimes. But here it is even more simple and basic than for our character, it is not really a melody, but just 3 successive notes, making it much more malleable, adaptable to the various situations encountered on the planet.
This small figure can be heard for the first time in the village (at 0.15 precisely):
Then we will hear it everywhere on the planet, for example here at Li King Pei’s house, very quickly at the beginning of the theme, and then played by a Japanese flute (at 0.29):
Merx is the starting planet. With Reymantha, we call it la-la land. Everything is beautiful, calm, and very (nearly too much) naive. I obviously wanted people to feel it, almost humorously, with very soft, relaxing, and cute music at the same time. That’s why it’s mostly played by a flute, or a piccolo, the most aerial and light instruments, as here in the grasslands of Merx (at 0.34 precisely):
A small anecdote, this theme, by its lightness, its naiveté, and its aerial side supposed to represent the song of the birds, is a small reference to a studio Ghibli film that I like very much: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, more precisely the theme representing the joie de vivre of the main character at the beginning of the film (from the beginning of the music):
By creating this small 3-notes pattern, which will be modified in a large number of musics, I thus introduce a musical peculiarity to Merx, which, if it can’t be felt from the beginning (because there are no points of comparison in the adventure), will take its full meaning medium-term and long-term, without (at least I hope) becoming a too annoying melody.
This notion of leitmotiv is not only felt in this small figure but also in the instruments chosen to represent this planet. I choose a set of precise instruments for each planet, and even if I authorize myself a few exceptions, I try to remain faithful to this, for more coherence.
The basic instruments I chose for Merx are: flute, piccolo, folk guitar, harp, violins, soft synths. An example with a good part of these instruments in this excerpt (starting from 4.20):
Flutes, harps, or violins are often used in video games, the folk guitar is much less. It's a touch that I liked, because with percussion and synths, it allowed me to have a slightly "weird bossa nova" style. Here I am inspired by the soft guitar musics of Ian Snyder in The Floor is Jelly:
But the whole principle of what I try to do on the planets is in the hourly evolution of the music. The basic idea, as most often, comes from a problem related to gameplay: the planets are cubic, so one can almost instantaneously go from day to night. This is the basis of my reflection: how can we go from day to night, or from morning to dusk, without shocking the ear? Elements of response are in the video that follows:
What is heard in this video is that the orchestration and even the melodies evolve over time, becoming more and more electronic and abstract when the night comes, and conversely more and more organic and real by day. The process consists in the creation of several musics, of strictly equal lengths, and similar harmonies.
The hourly cycle of the game will then pass these musics from one state to another, in a fluid way, and it will function if the player stays on the same side of the planet or if he decides to change abruptly. In the next example, I will make the music pass from day to night and then to dusk, which is normally totally illogical, but entirely possible with the structure of our game:
It is almost the same principle that is applied to the environmental sounds, and that is more easily understood via the sound interface that we use in our game (Wwise):
Here we see that following the advance of the time of day, different atmospheres can blend into each other.
There you have the basic things I used to create the music of Merx. There are still a lot of things to talk about, especially in caves or underwater, but I cannot explain everything. In the next episode, we will concentrate on the small details, anecdotes, allusions or references, hidden here and there in the music of Stellar Overload.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, see you soon!