Soundtrack to a Game that Doesn’t Exist – released 6/12/12

cover copy

1.  Intro Sequence
2.  Night Driver
3.  Dr. Hugonaut Escapes
4.  After Him!  Through the Wormhole!
5.  Where Is This Place? (Lost in the Ice Caverns)
6.  Captain Trips Victorious (Thanks for Playing!)

I’m the world’s biggest hypocrite, because I think listening to film scores for pleasure is kind of weak.

How could I think that? I’m not sure. Lots of people do it. I like film scores too. It just seems to exemplify a certain absence of musical engagement. If someone’s listening to the score from Gladiator, my immediate reaction is that they can only enjoy music if it reminds them of something else they also enjoyed. It’s a stupid reaction to have, I don’t rationally agree with it, and I’m a huge hypocrite because I do the exact same thing with video game soundtracks. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself; I am large and I contain multitudes.

If someone asked me what my two biggest influences were musically, I’d be forced to answer “Mozart and video game soundtracks”, because those were the two things I listened to most as a child. My dad had a ‘greatest hits’ Mozart CD he played incessantly, and I played a lot of Super Nintendo. Those roots run deep. I’m certain I’ll never be a composer for a full-scale orchestra, but I’d love to write music for a video game. Given the rise of the indie movement in gaming, that might still be a possibility.

I do love those soundtracks, though. When I was drawing How the Whole-Hearted Live, I spent a lot of time listening to music from the likes of VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, Final Fantasy VI-IX and Yoshi’s Island. It’s music that’s specifically designed to be catchy, set the atmosphere and be listened to incessantly without becoming annoying. In other words, perfect for making the hundreds of hours I spent tracing photos go a little faster.

I was enjoying them so much, in fact, that I decided my next collection of laptop songs was going to take the form of a video game soundtrack, even though I had no video game to set it to. I sketched out perhaps 20 ideas; some were almost-complete, others were short, unlistenable messes. I had to abandon the project, however, because it was taking too much time away from rotoscoping, and I’d soured somewhat on the idea of making laptop music. It felt like I was avoiding the real issue as far as my music-making was concerned: that I played it safe, didn’t adhere to clear standards, and would consequently beat myself up for not creating something truly great. I went back to the guitar, resolved to start anew, finished How the Whole-Hearted Live and I’ve been working on my new music since.

It’s tough going, however. Those clear standards I mentioned? Turns out they mean you’ll spend 49 hours (25 minutes and 58 seconds, to be exact) trying to get things just right, and only have the instrumental track for a single song to show for it. It sounds pretty good, but there’s still a lot to do. I needed a break, but I wanted it to be a productive one, so I went back to my abandoned video game soundtrack project, fixed up the mostly-complete ones and did some ZX Spectrum inspired cover art. It’s actually something of a shame, looking back on it. I don’t think it was that bad an idea. I feel if my passion for it had lasted long enough and I’d applied the same attention to detail to it as I have to my current project, it might’ve ended up being pretty good. But hey, it was a fun diversion.

Sure, it’s not the great, honest work I’ve been writing about for the past six months. But it was fun, creative and productive, and I’m glad I did it. It’s better than the project joining the hundreds of other song fragments I have sitting on my hard drive that no-one ever hears. Not only was it good to work on something different for a change (instead of simply playing Europa Universalis III to pass the time), I figure that if someone hears it and gets even ten seconds of enjoyment out of the experience, it’ll have been totally worth it, because that’s ten more seconds of enjoyment I’ve contributed to the world that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.

I hope one of you gets something out of it, I know I have.

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