Thursday, March 23, 2006

MUSICAL CRITIQUE: Oblivion Title Music

Wow, sorry about all the Oblivion posts, but I’m just so impressed by its technical, artistic, and gameplay genius. And, though it may be really incredibly geeky and nerdy, I just can’t stop listening to the title music of the game…and I don’t even have the game yet! So, as a precursor to the day (tomorrow) when I can finally hear the music in its original setting, here is a little musical critique and analysis. For the UHS folk out there, umm…think of this like Western Civ turned inside-out, flipped over, inverted again, stretched, and fanaticized. Maybe I should hand this in to Doc, huh? Maybe not. Hehe.

(if you want to follow along with the music, here is the link to the title track (Right-Click -> Save as... to download) in its full glory, or you can click play on this embeddable quicktime player I've provided :-) )

When you listen to the theme music of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you are thrust into an epic tale that invokes every single emotion within your body to well up and overflow into each of your limbs. It destroys all of your mental faculties and grasps you with the force of unknowing gravity. This is it. You cannot escape now.

The steady bass drum beats and low percussion sound throughout your bones and they resonate with a passion that rivals that immaculate chivalry of medieval knights (a signal of impending battle). The underlying stringed instruments weave a web of uncertainty that is only accentuated by the precise, staccato hemiolas. The homophony present also adds to the whole ideal of mental incapability and the cerebral pushes aside all emotion as you are left struggling to find where you are within the music. The entrance of rolling crash and ride cymbals from a drum kit (as well as traditional cymbals) at 0:10 crescendo into an oeuvre that throws one of his chair after arriving at the edge of undeniable anticipation.

At 00:17 the horns come in with a bright timbre, similar to a royal fanfare, calling all heroes to embark on this journey. At 00:27, violins take up a primary melody with the bass instruments creating a fugal subject underneath; adding more instruments through the fugue acts as a sort of dumbed-down “Rossini crescendo,” adding only strings to raise the volume as the music progresses. The section opens to the deep voices of the bassoon and horns at 00:42 with the steady accompaniment of drums. The base, gruesome quality is centered on a native blend of erratic rhythm and sound. A vocal chorus adds even more color.

The strings are overshadowed by this, playing at forte only to be covered by the tone color of the brass and winds. The emotion is dark in comparison with the previous heroic strings section. When we think the strings cannot emerge out of this mess of volume and sound, a lone piccolo emerges with a harp and solo vocal soprano accompaniment that produces a light and airy, yet bright color. Evolving into a string melody once again at 1:08, the tone turns into a swelling, yet calm, melody, with natural subsets of gloss. After a monumental rollercoaster ride of theme and variation, the piece ends with an afterthought that, should the player choose to, allows the music to be completed in a way that is bound only by the limits of imagination.

Clearly drawing upon all walks of musical history, award-winning composer Jeremy Soule manipulates the score to be the perfect companion to this massive, enthralling story of a game. From Romanticism to the Baroque, the styles are melded into one minute and fifty seconds of pure, evocable genius. The theatricality, though there, is perfect for the setting, drawing upon creative insights from tales like The Lord of the Rings or other medieval fables, fantasy or historical.

Couple this with the excellent voice acting of Patrick Stewart (Emperor Uriel Septim VII), Sean Bean (The Lost Heir), and Terrence Stamp (Daedric Lord Mehrunes Dagon) among others, and you’ve got yourself the kind of story depth that Oblivion offers.


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