Monday, May 1, 2017
Prog Rock and Chiptune Music
I had originally planned to write a review, along with some interesting facts, about Aphex Twin's piano works. However, due to my lack of ability to find any new or interesting information aside from a few facts already known to most hardcore fans, I embark now on my next big project, which has to do with a few connections I've noticed within the realm of video game music.
Prog Rock and Chiptune Music
As a child, I often grew up listening to music by Disasterpeace, who did the music, at the time, for the Glyos System Series games and other media, but is most widely known now for his work on Fez, It Follows, and Hyper Light Drifter. However, when I listened to him in middle school, none of these had been released yet, so I was confined to his earlier works. Many of his early works have a very prog rock-ish feel, as is the case in Atebite and the Warring Nations and in The Chronicles of Jammage the Jam Mage. Actually, those two albums are welded together in a broader philharmonic universe the Richard Vreeland created that I believe also has connections into another of his albums, Neutralite the Hero. The second person that I believe is relevant to this discussion is Tim Follin, a much earlier video game composer. Follin was not incredibly well known during the heyday of his compositional output, mainly due to his working on games the either were very obscure or never attained much popularity at the time of their release. However, Follin has recently received a fairly large cult following of people who listen to his old game soundtracks religiously.
The thing that I find most interesting about these two composers is the close correlation with prog rock in their chiptune music. In Tim Follin's case, probably the best example is the title theme that he wrote for the NES game Solstice. While this starts off as a very normal song, it quickly gets very crazy and prog rock-ish. Actually, the music on this game is incredibly extraordinary for the NES. It's crazy arpeggios following the beginning of the song must have been incredibly taxing both for Follin to compose on the NES and for the NES itself to run. The overall complexity of the song and its huge length must have also been particularly challenging.
The huge similarity that I see between Follin and Vreeland is in their musical upbringing. Both of them admit to having been very big fans of prog rock as they grew up, with Vreeland and Follin each citing numerous prog bands as incredibly instrumental in their musical upbringing. This definitely contributed the prog rock kind of sound in their music, I think that the other element that factors into the use of such a sound would be genre.
In the case of each artist, their most prog rock-esque tunes were used on mainly fantasy albums. I think that this is an incredibly important factor to consider. The main reason for this, in my opinion, would be associative elements drawn from the composer to the project worked on. There is a very associative correlation between progressive rock and fantasy, with many prog bands having huge inspiration in stories such as Lord Of the Rings and other manifestos or high fantasy imagery, story, and world building. With this conclusion having been reached, it's interesting to look at the role that a composer plays in changing the overall tone of a work of art, specifically video games, due to his or her own preconceptions and notions about what the game should sound like.
One example of this that I think almost directly contradicts Follin and Vreelands' observations about the fantasy games and projects they worked on would be the soundtrack for the NES game, Wizards and Warriors, specifically the Music Intro. While Follin and Vreeland each saw the fantasy elements of the projects they worked on as having to do musically with prog rock, the composer for Wizards and Warriors took the medieval theme of his game as having more to do with classical music, creating a work that is more reminiscent of Bach's fugues than any piece of rock music.
Overall, I've come to the conclusion that there are two main factors that will factor into how the soundtrack for something, specifically for a video game, will sound. There is the factor of how the composer was brought up musically, along with the factor of associative trends that they apply to that game. In a way, these factors are nearly inseparable, as the upbringing of that composer will determine the way that they see the world and thus, so too the musical aspects of the projects they work on. It's almost beautiful to look at these things and how seemingly random factors can play such a hugely important and vital role into the formulation of labored-over and beautiful works of art.