Scoring with musical genres and themes

I recently read a very interesting article written by composer Bear McCreary about how he used musical genres and themes to score SOCOM 4. Essentially, the game has three main factions that he chose to represent with their own type (or genre) of music: traditional eastern music, western orchestral music, and electronic music. I found this to be inspiring, especially since I have been considering using a similar approach to writing the music for a future project of mine.

I was most enthralled by the section on traditional eastern music, since it exposed me to instruments I had never learned about (e.g. the ehru), and really clarified the unique timbre and scale(s) of each one. Every instrument has its own strengths for certain applications, and at least one was even used as central to themes for a particular character in this game.

Speaking of themes, McCreary also details the notation of melodic phrases that he uses for the themes of the factions. It’s intriguing that such care is taken for these short themes while much else is left to improvisation by the instrumental soloists. For added flexibility, each theme has an abbreviated “ostinato” version that can be used as a substitute. By re-using a theme and/or ostinato, he can make several new compositions that feel coherent to a particular faction or character.

Being in Digital Audio Technology, next semester I will be taking courses in World Music, Studio Recording, and more (check out the catalog). I look forward to learning about a variety of instruments and learning how to incorporate these instruments into my own music.

-Kaleb G.

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