This is going to be a sort of grand finale type cue to go along with a scene near the end of Tinselfly.Finale
My computer’s hard drive died last week, and life has been one giant install party lately. Everything was backed up, and the backups were backed up, so thankfully, this is just a minor annoyance and not the crisis it could have been.
The first application I reinstalled was Flash Builder (which I use for work-work). I’ve been trying to squeeze in as much real work in as possible between reboots and progress bars, trying to catch up. But in the interests of keeping my creative side happily fed, the second app I installed was Mixcraft, my music composition software. And the only creative, pet project type thing I’ve done in the last few days is work on this new piece of music, since I didn’t get my personal files restored until yesterday.
It’s not done of course, but considering the relatively small amount of time I’ve spent on this, I’m pretty happy.
what went right
- Getting ideas. It would seem that nothing helps me flesh out a level design or story beat like composing music for it. While working on this, I figured out a pretty satisfying through-line for my protagonist that is sort of an anti-power-fantasy, but still feels heroic in its own right. That’s been the goal of the project since its inception, but I wasn’t sure how to end it in anything other than a bleak, nihilistic, deconstructive sort of way.
- Short bursts. I work best in short bursts. I can engineer short bursts, but it’s difficult to fake the sort of burning need to work on something that you get when you’re desperately trying to squeeze it in with more important tasks.
- The rhythm. I’ve always wanted to do something in 5/4 time. So what I did here was, I created a single-measure, blank drum track and had it loop incessantly while editing it. I could move the beats around in realtime until I got something I liked, and didn’t think about chords or melody at all. I’m pretty happy with the results. This should probably be a standard part of my process; usually, I don’t give much thought to rhythm.
- Structure. There’s a bridge, and an ending — two things I’ve never done before. They need some work still, but I’m glad I forced myself to add those things in, so at least I have something to work with now.
- Changing time signatures. The piece changes to 6/4 time just for the bridge. I originally had the bridge in 5/4 like everything else, and it just felt wrong. I think that was a good choice; it adds variety but doesn’t feel jarring at all to me. Also, when I use the main melody elsewhere in-game, I’d like to have it be 6/4, so it just goes to 5/4 for the finale.
what’s going wrong
- Length. This is just over three minutes long, and is the longest piece I’ve ever made. If this were part of a movie or something, I suspect that would be fine. But as something you play through… my gut feeling is that anything you’re imagining as a movie scene is going to take at least 3 or 4 times as long if you want to express the same concepts as a level in a video game. While I get bored easily with repetitive action in movies, action is the supposed to be meat of the storytelling here, and repetition becomes more important.
- Totally 80′s. This is supposed to feel more modern, more synthy than the other pieces of music in Tinselfly. I know it’s not everybody’s favorite thing, but I like it when movies do that during important moments. It’s a reminder that you’re being told a story; that this is, after all, about real world issues and not the issues in this made-up one. But unfortunately, I don’t think this is synthy enough to feel different from my other pieces.
- Cryptomnesia. I am, as always, worried that I’m just dutifully copying something I heard before, and don’t realize it. Like, I dunno, some 80s sci-fi like Solarbabies. The beat reminds me of Mars, Bringer of War and We Belong; the introduction of the chimes make me think of Curtains, used in Myst IV; the first couple measures of the bridge, I have just realized, are just a single note off from the intro to I Dreamed a Dream. And the image I have in my head, of the visuals that go with this — a circular panning shot of a bunch of random people rushing to the edge of a sort of open-air space platform perched above a stormy gas giant — just feels like it’s been done to death. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve just forgotten that this is all only a few days old, which I am wont to do. But, the more specific things I can think of that this is like, the more comfortable I am; the more likely I am to question what I’ve done and make this my own.
- Transitions. I’ve got a main section and a bridge and an end, and that’s good… but for the most part, I think the transitions from one section to another need to be smoothed out.
- Muddiness. Some of the instrument clusters just sound messy. Need to clean those up too.
- Adding more themes. I really want each theme to have a clear connection to a specific character or place, and I want to make sure I don’t have so many that the whole score for this just feels like a bunch of random things I threw up there with no relationship to each other. But… I’m not sure what this theme is… maybe it will be my protagonist’s theme. Strangely, I don’t think I have one yet.