The soundtrack to Dyadic is complete and now there are just a few sound effects to go! Yay! In my previous blog, I mentioned that I was working on a timeframe of a new track every two days, which worked out to be 2 minutes of music a day. This was a fun challenge and let me really get in the “Zone” (pardon the pun!).
Dyadic employs a Chinese aesthetic, so I kept the majority of the music inline with the visual style. There were moments however, that I used some western sounding passages to convey particular emotions and made use of an eclectic ensemble of instruments from around the world, using them in a western fashion. Let’s take a look at the OST and delve a little deeper into what is happening with the music for Dyadic.
Solitude had to convey a sense of timelessness. The mood was to be sombre and the tempo relatively low. In the opening passages we hear Tuned Gongs strike melancholic single notes before the melody is introduced by a solo Cello, with the Shakuhachi playing a haunting counter-melody. The interplay of these instruments is akin to a love story of sorts, the Cello introduces the theme and the Shakuhachi briefly echoes it before the two instruments play together for a few bars. The coming together of the instruments is short-lived and then they go their separate ways.
STREAMS OF SAPPHIRE
Streams of Sapphire worked to convey a sense of wonder and beauty. Water cascades from the ceilings and shimmer’s where the small fragments of light filter in from above. The Kora, an instrument from West Africa introduces a motif that appears throughout the track before the Persian-Ney and Fula Flute play the melody that brings the Chinese aesthetic to life. You may think it is odd to use this combination of instruments for the chosen aesthetic but the musical information shines through and gives the listener the feeling of being in the environment that our Artist, Angelica Zurawski has created. The combination of Persian-Ney and Fula-Flute is also a winning combination I had discovered whilst composing “Erhu, The Dragon” and conjures the right feeling, because “if it aint broke, don’t fix it!”. When listening back, the track still felt a little bare, so I used a synth from Retro-Machines by Native Instruments, and set the arpeggiator to on, then sent the MIDI sequence of the Kora to it and transposed it down a couple of octaves. The result was a very interesting Synth-Bass rhythm that filled the track out nicely.
Underground City is undoubtedly one of the most “Traditional” sounding tracks in the Dyadic OST and features pentatonic melody played by Shakuhachi, Violas and Gamelan. Making the Violas glissando into certain notes gave an Erhu type of sound and the Shakuhachi over blowing key notes added to the sound I was trying to achieve. I wanted a Sheng to be in the ensemble, but did not have the appropriate sample library, so I used a Harmonium playing repeated 32nd notes to emulate the sound of a Sheng. This “fake” Sheng turned out to be quite convincing. The use of Synth-Rhythms helps to convey the alien side of the main characters, this is because there is no real back story about where our characters come from, so I chose to bring in a back story through the music itself.
Cavernous once again features the Shakuhachi, yes, the Shakuhachi is Japanese but for Dyadic the beautiful bamboo flute worked wonderfully. The airy quality of the sustained notes and the accented notes felt right at home in the soundtrack and to the end-user, the gamer, this sound will hopefully resonate with them. The relaxing nature of the sound of the Shakuhachi is inline with the pace of the game, which after all is a puzzle-platformer, so anything to harsh-sounding may distract the players. The Ngoni and Kora were used in this track as well, both instruments coming from West Africa. The way they are played and the notes they play imitate the Guzheng, an ancient Chinese stringed instrument.
Desolate was another track that had the mission of conveying a sense of timelessness. The main melody is heard from the very beginning of the track, this time by two Bamboo Flutes, accompanied by the Kora. I have mentioned leitmotif in previous blogs and Desolate would have to be the prime example of it. The flute melody is a version of the same main theme from “Erhu, The Dragon”, in Desolate the theme is heard as a heartfelt version instead of an exciting one. After the first statement of the melody, Choir, Pizzicato Bass and Gamelan enhance the emotion, this is largely due to the Choir dissonances, a sound that I love and have adopted from composers like John Tavener and Howard Shore. The ostinato of the Basses help to give momentum but keep the track at a low tempo. The Solo Cello enters with a variation on the main theme that is in a key one tone higher than the original statement, this technique of transposing the themes a tone higher keeps the song interesting but doesn’t travel too far from the original statement, getting value out of the musical information and keeps the player in the right head space for the environment.
Eclectic has a vast range of instruments from around the world. Ngoni, Kora, Kalimba, Fula Flute and Bolon are from Africa. The Gamelan is from Bali, the Shakuhachi is Japanese. The Synthesiser originated in the US. The Tympani was used in ancient Hebrew ceremonies and the Viola is a descendant of the Viol, developed in Italy. The Xylophone originated in South East Asia and the Human Voice heard in the Choir would have to be the first instrument to have existed and is universal. The melody at the 2:19 mark is one of my favourites of the Dyadic OST.
Relics goal was to create a sense of wonder and amazement, a job helped by the use of the G Phrygian mode played over a C major accompaniment. By raising the sixth degree of the Phrygian (E flat to E natural), you get a sound that is similar to the modal quality of Ravels “Bolero”. The wonderful introduction gives way to a Viola ostinato that plays a Major arpeggio with the addition of a raised fifth (C,E,G,G#), this enhances the supernatural feeling. The Japanese Hirojoshi scale is then used which marries the visual aesthetic with the music and adds to the mystery.
There you have it! Some secrets of how Dyadic’s OST was created. If you need to make your own soundtracks sound a certain way then I suggest researching modes, scales and instruments from the region you would like to emulate. Also, watching videos of how the instruments you are using in your sound library are played in real life helps enormously. Less than a month for Dyadic’s release so stay tuned for updates! Thanks for reading!