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Comments about the soundtrack for Secret Weapons Over Normandy (Michael Giacchino)

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Great to see the continued respect Giacchino video game works receive on this site...
• Posted by: Neo Rasa   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Saturday, January 3, 2004, at 9:48 p.m.
• IP Address: cache-db05.proxy.aol.com

"""In most games, the music --no matter how large and impressive-- is restrained to thematic passages before, in between, or after missions, and stock music is inserted into the game play underscore situations. The challenge for Giacchino in the case of Secret Weapons Over Normandy was to write music that followed basic needs of the game play scenarios. In other words, if you were near victory in a mission, the music would be switched by the game to convey that excitement. On the other hand, if you are blown to smithereens and die an unceremonious death, the game inserts at that very instant the sounds of a tragic cue of failure. This idea isn't novel in this game, but it is utilized to such a great degree that Giacchino ended up doing what the likes of Bernard Herrmann did for CBS shows of the 1950's... writing stock cues for different emotions that the game would choose to insert at any time during the mission."""

I think to say that this isn't novel is kind of an understatement. Not that it's incorrect, but as an extra clarification for anyone who's interested, it's only somewhat recently that video games with a more "cinematic" approach to their production have truly become popular with mainstream audiences. So it's not so much that incidental cues and relatively toned down in-game music (as opposed to between mission, menu, etc. tracks) haven't been done to this extent before, so much as that it's not until now that games popular enough in the western hemisphere to warrant sound track releases would contain them in the first place. While not as easy to find anymore, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill sound tracks both make fantastic use of incidental cues and entire songs. I'm unsure of the status of the Resident Evil sound tracks currently but the Silent Hill franchise is quite popular in Europe so the second and third installments of the game both had sound track releases there. The US missed out on it though. Resident Evil: Code Veronica is a sound track worth checking out if you enjoy horror cues and the like. It was published multiple times and is overall a pretty common find. Generally if you look for it you'd want one with Resident Evil: Code Veronica X Complete in the title as it has the extra tracks that were unused in the original game but implemented in all subsequent versions. Either way video game music is something worth taking seriously and it's great to see several reviews for game sound tracks on this site (even if they're currently confined to Giacchino's works).

It may be considered spamming but a while ago (I believe in the comments for the Medal of Honor: Underground review) I made this post as sort of an inadvertant primer for anyone interested in learnimg more about game music in general. So again for those interested this is the post verbatim:

"""I've been a long time reader of this site but I've never posted til now. It's great to see video games getting more coverage.

I've really enjoyed all of the Medal of Honor sound tracks and I'm hoping it continues to influence US based designers to take the music in their titles more seriously.

It's ironic, video games are my number one passion but it's the gradually increase in the production values of game sound tracks that caused my own musical tastes to branch out into collecting film sound tracks.

If anyone wants to look into game music of the orchestrated, epic style more, check out the music for Headhunter (Dreamcast, Playstation 2), Shenmue II (Sega Dreamcast, X-Box), Xenosaga (Playstation 2), Rygar (Playstation 2), and Eternal Darkness (Gamecube).

Headhunter is a great orchestral score that to me recalls the great action movie scores. Jack's Theme and the other main tracks in Headhunter have a more serious edge to them though.

Shenmue II is basically a LARGE quantity of short interludes and queues that are mostly excellent. Some situation specific techno and hard rock songs work their way in but it mostly has a more traditional sound and arrangement to it than the original Shenmue.

Eternal Darkness has two not so good techno songs and several genuinely scary tracks afterwards. To make up for the relatively short length spoken dialogues from the game are included at the beginning of each track which help establish the nature of the song about to play. The globetrotting nature of the game is effectively dupicliated in the score, however, which manages to get the same feeling and continuity through the music of several different cultures. It and Xenosaga are probably the truest "scores" of the ones listed here.

Rygar is several fully orchestrated queues of a Greco-Roman nature. Very nice and while it doesn't inspire one to take up arms and storm the front lawn of an annoying neighbor the way a Poledouris score would the same sweeping yet visceral feel is attempted (and well met in the Geryon Hill and Colloseo tracks).

Xenosaga the game is an epic space opera, and Xenosaga the original sound track is just what you'd expect from such a thing. Basically a mix of sci-fi inspired orchestral tracks.

Now the hard (or fun, depending on how much you consider getting their to be half the fun) part: There are TONS of quality orchestral game sound tracks out there, but many get a very limited release and, in the case of game sound tracks originating in Japan you won't be able to get any of them stateside outside of an import shop or ordering them online.

The other difficult part about getting into this is, as I said, the production values. Some of the greatest "orchestral" pieces in video game history were programmed and played on various synthesized hardware due to the limitations of the game platforms themselves. Unfortunately as the technology improved music I (and probably many other patrons of this site) would consider noise pollution became popular among the designers, so you have huge production values being wasted on some generic trash while many of the better musical works the video game industry has put out remain in a crude, synthesized form. Arranged and orchestral versions of said sound tracks that take the same composition and set it to excellent sound and instrument quality are commonplace in Japan but have never caught on in most other countries so you have your work cut out for you. Those ASTs usually end up becoming collector's items of sorts in this hemisphere which unfortunate as it means many people can only access much of this huge (and if you ask me not properly appreciated) body of music via the internet. The Final Fantasy franchise is a good example of this. The earlier scores are excellent but made with the sound capabilities of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo in mind, that's not going to be very ear-pleasing to anyone who often listens to a full out orchestral sound track. However by the time technology caught a year after the release of the superb Final Fantasy VI the creativity left, so the recent scores have superb quality, but have many queues lifted straight from other sound tracks that keeps them from being anything more than average when listened to.

The final problem is the album content itself. Video games lend themselves to scenario based gameplay, and as a result many game sound tracks will have a wide variety of genres represented on them which is definitely a BAD thing if you're only looking for a certain type of sound track song, as you'll only get one or two such traks from the whole album. A perfect example is Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory (Neo Geo, PC, etc.). It's mostly hard rock songs typical of the franchise but also contains two gorgeous classical pieces that you're not going to hear on any other album.

The final problem with game music is that, unfortunately, most of it doesn't get published on a sound track cd. Even Headhunter's score, receiving both critial and popular acclaim from anyone who's heard it, was only published as a promotional album to be given away with people who pre-ordered the Playstation 2 version of the game. Eternal Darkness can be ordered very inexpensively from Nintendo's own homepage. Most of the others were only released in Japan so one would have to find a store that stocks Japanese music or order them from www.cdjapan.com or another similar site.

Damn. I began making this post simply to express my approval of Giacchino's work and say I was happy that game music is gradually being more and more accepted and look at the monstrosity it turned into. I guess I could have just said that I feel game music IS worth seriously looking into in general. If anyone wants some help or recommendations based on their tastes I'd be glad to offer what I can."""

As a quick aside to this post, I would HIGHLY advise that anyone who enjoys Giachhino's music for these games seeks out some samples or a copy (if you can find it) of the Headhunter sound track. This patriotic, off to war type music is also prevalent throughout the Metal Gear Solid releases (these games having multiple sound track releases that shouldn't be difficult to track down).




Comments in this Thread:     Expand >>
  •   Great to see the continued respect Giacchino video game works receive on this site...  (1894 views)    We're Here
       Neo Rasa - Saturday, January 3, 2004, at 9:48 p.m.


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