VoidExpanse: Music, long version!~

Added on 14 October 2014 by Lurler.

This time it's a long one :)

We are continuing working with Konstantin Glazunov, our composer for VoidExpanse to bring even more different music to VoidExpanse, but aside from that we decided that it might actually be interesting to have an in depth explanation on how music is created for VoidExpanse, and here it it.

Konstantin Glazunov:

"Music creation starts with a simple basic idea, where and when a particular piece of music should exist. Some text description, a few screenshots, maybe sketches, pretty much anything goes - as it helps to start the creative process. It is very important, at least for me, to actually like the game I am creating a music piece for. Even if it's a simple concept on paper.

For VoidExpanse we decided to use darker style, you will rarely hear elements like peaceful modulations of “heaven bells” in major key or something similar. The reason for that - the game universe, according to the backstory is a dark place, with many uncovered mysteries and tragic events. Everywhere you go is danger, such as pirates or hostile aliens. But there is definitely a place for heroism of the main character or interactions with other people and many wonderful places to discover. Music follows the story, sometimes it is heroic, sometimes insinuating, and there are some places where it is completely special – for example, in the “dump” star systems (that piece of music is one of my favorites).

I have two methods for writing – to use some music parts created earlier or to compose completely new one. For VoidExpanse I opt for the latter. I start to improvise, using my digital piano or MIDI-keyboard, to see what I can come up with. We, musicians, sometimes call it "to rave" :) But thankfully the more I work on a particular project the easier it is for me to generate interesting ideas in improvisation. The most difficult thing is definitely to start, create one or two first tracks. Though there may be hard tasks at any stage of work. So, I catch good ideas from my improvisation and create some sample or draft record (or several records). The sound used for improvisation is also very important, therefore I first try to collect rough sounds for my project and utilize them in this draft.

Then it is a long way to get this piece of music into shape. The main goal is to obtain intermediate version of the track which I can send to developers. And this version, first of all, must convince me. Choosing right samples and sounds takes the majority of the time in this process, and writing instrument scores is comparatively fast. All work is done in Cubase. I use different virtual synths, samples and sample libraries. I like to combine samples of classical instruments, such as strings or brass, with modern pads and effects. This gives music depth of symphonic orchestra, while at the same time modern “acid” sounds accentuate and diversify this symphony. In VoidExpanse many technogenic sounds are used, in addition to different kinds of variable frequency filters, stereo delay, phaser and flanger effects. This adds “space” character to the music. And, of course, it complicates selection and combination of sounds for arrangement, it is much easier to work with traditional instruments.

Maybe now I need to mention, what an “arrangement” it. It is the creation of all scores (melodic or rhythmic “lines”) of all the instruments in the music piece. Process of arrangement differs from track to track. If composition has expressed melodic line or written according to “classical” scheme (for example, “contrapunctum”), then I try to denote all scores for the whole track at once and don’t care about perfect selection of sounds, because main idea is obvious anyway. Sounds will fit together a bit later. Examples of these tracks: outpost station theme (“Mechanical Realm”), combat theme “High Energy Particles”, science station theme (“Tree of Eternal Evolution”). In other cases I compose only a part of the track but use the right sounds and make this part nearly complete, in order to hear the final music "picture". Then I compose the next part, and so on. I often use improvisation to create an instrument line, selecting the most appropriate version of the score after that.

And the last stage – finalizing of arrangement and a rough mastering. This happens after developers approve my version of the track. Often all work is done towards this moment except some details; the more filled is arrangement, the easier it is for me to deliver music idea to customer. As for mastering, this is volume and frequency levelling to make the track shine and to comply with some technical specifications requested by the developers. The stage of mastering is very important, but it’s not so critical in case of game music, it comes much more critical while creating music albums and singles.

And this is how music composition for VoidExpanse comes out."

Well, that was definitely an in-depth explanation. I personally found it extremely interesting to read and I hope you did too!