Sunday, April 12, 2015

Getting Real Pt 4. - Origins

In parts 1-3, I talked about setting some high-level goals, scoping out the production, and a rough understanding of the environment I was going to be working in. But I haven't really talked about the elephant in the room, the original score.

In my opinion, the original score for Second Reality is one of the greatest demoscene music productions ever laid down in a tracker. It perfectly fuses the different styles of the two composers, mixes a variety of styles, stays interesting during the entire length, and keeps the listener engaged through many many very listenable musical vignettes. However, it's not entirely timeless, it's also very situated in the milieu of early 90s dance music (at least the Purple Motion portions) -- being called by one of my non-scener co-workers "the Mortal Kombat music?".

Skaven and Purple motion are also two of my musical heroes -- working in their scores constantly put me in the feeling of standing on the shoulders of musical giants. (to this day, Starshine is one of my favorite works of music in or outside of the scene).

The way the score is structured, and how the work must have been divided between the two composes, is actually pretty simple. The introductory sequence and the final credits were composed by Skaven and the all the middle scenes were scored by Purple Motion. It turns out that this was a perfect choice. Skaven's music is generally more orchestral and mood inducing, while Purple Motion's more structured synth-pop and techno is great at driving along a scene.

It turns out that the song files themself are split up more or less this way -- with Skaven's portion in one file and Purple Motion's in another. After the Introduction, Skaven's music is simply stopped, Purple Motion's is started. After Purple Motion's music is finished, they start Skaven's music again from where it left off.

So while we had decided to cut the end credits entirely, and thus cutting out quite a bit of Skaven's music, we still ended up with two files, and for the purposes of the production, they needed to be cleanly merged. This is tougher than it sounds as both composers used entirely different sets of instruments, have radically different composition styles and even used different tempos (remember, no effects means no tempo changes).

Some hard parts, being sample-based songs, the composers made extensive use of samples that would be very hard to replicate in either softsynth. Skaven used lots of difficult analog percussion and sound effects, and Purple Motion used voices and had an unfortunate love of the old fashion orchestra hit. None of these were possible with either softsynth, and getting approximations of the rest of the sounds was going to be a very hard stretch.

Just as important, for an 4k/8k production, you want lots of easily compressible note data. This means lots of repeated sections, with low variation and relatively few notes. For Skaven, nearly every single pattern is almost entirely unique, and Purple Motion's sections are packed full of notes and effects intended to give the productions a rich and full sound.

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