A Behemoth from  Final Fantasy IX

A Behemoth from Final Fantasy IX

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The work below is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and ©2013 Gregory Weaver.

About a month or so ago I was thinking about what kinds of tunes I hadn’t yet written that I should write for my demo. The most obvious of the missing genres was a film-like tune—an epic tune fit for cinema in the ilk of Lord of the Rings or even the soundtrack to Skyrim.

Granted, my tune sounds absolutely nothing like the Skyrim tune above, haha, but I was certainly thinking in terms of having that BIG sound… a big, epic sound with a lot of brass and space and all that good stuff.

I’m sure that you’ll get that impression from the beginning of my tune, "Behemoth," but it kind of devolves from sounding like a film piece into sounding more like a piece of game music. I committed to this transformation right after I wrote in a part that sounded game-y, especially because it opened up new possibilities and allowed me to put in ideas that wouldn’t have made sense if I wanted to continue to think in terms of film. Very early on you’ll hear the entrance of some pointy-sounding flutes, for instance—those came from the removal of the film restriction that I had put on myself.

So because the music started to sound more like a game I decided to think of it in the context of a game. The original sound was intended to be “epic battle;” thinking about games, some of the most epic battles take place when you’re fighting bosses. Thus, I started to imagine a giant beast – specifically that which looks like a behemoth from the Final Fantasy series – bursting into a room ready to chomp you in half.

And with that…

[audio http://scorevgm.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/behemoth-display-mix-fade-out.wav|artists=Gregory Weaver|titles=Behemoth]

"Behemoth" on SoundCloud

While the brass is more representative of the “epic beast boss battle,” I wrote the woodwinds as if they were harbingers of insanity or twistedness. They’re meant to put the player on edge or even scare him or her a little. This idea was almost assuredly influenced by a couple of different Final Fantasy tunes.

“Kefka’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI will always come to mind when thinking of a tune that is supposed to represent someone truly evil and insane. On its own, one may not hear those villainous attributes, yet when the player hears the theme played as Kefka, for example, poisons Doma, it really gets under his or her skin. In affecting the player in such a way, the true genius of Uematsu ‘s writing comes out. Start the below video at 6:01 to see what I mean.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/53uXNM7NUws?t=6m1s] The other influence was the Final Fantasy Tactics soundtrack (one of my favorites of all time). I’ve started the below video at the point where composer Masaharu Iwata terrorizes the gamer using – among other things – shrilly strings and bellowing brass. While I didn’t use strings in my own piece, I tried to create that feeling by writing dissonant and rhythmically unbalancing woodwind parts.

When you hear this music in the game, it’s when you’re fighting boss battles against humans that have willingly transformed themselves into horribly disfigured, power-lusting demons.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/gbI8CE-ABSg?t=1m12s] Since I felt that the influence of the FFT OST was so strong, I decided to put the music to a part in that game when you fight one of those demons. The video is of someone playing through the game and arriving at the demon battle that is most memorable to me, especially in terms of story. I believe it’s also just notorious to all gamers for its difficulty.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lkt0rCuKWSk] As I usually mention some points of difficulty in the compositional process in these kinds of posts, I’d like to give a shout-out to the critic of my “Fanfare and Jubilee” production work, Zack Parrish of the TIGSource forums. In response to my rebuttal of his criticism of my work, he mentioned a way that he overcame some problems of the sound library that I use, EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold (yeah, it's totally a mouthful), that really helped me when writing this tune.

I have big issues with some of the articulation patches in the library. One glaring example is that when you want your trombones to play a note with a strong attack and then sustain that note for a measure or two afterwards, you can’t just use the marcato patch because the trombone will die in the middle of the suspension of the note at certain attack velocities. Why is this and why do very similar things happen in other patches? I don’t know the answer, and it’s really frustrating when it happens, but I now know how to work around the problem.

Yoshitaka Amano's depiction of a Behemoth

Yoshitaka Amano's depiction of a Behemoth

Zach had mentioned that he overlays patches in order to get through these problems. Having remembered that, in Logic I created two trombone tracks despite there not being two different trombone parts in my music (same goes for the horn part) and had one play the patch with a strong, articulate attack and the other play the patch that sustained the note with the sound I wanted at a reasonable volume so as not to make things sound all wacky. Remember this strategy, fellow composers!

Another frustrating part was that at 2:55, when the woodwinds play those softer lines, the clarinet patch was acting up, noticeably attacking each note harshly even though I had set it to the legato patch and also had overlapped the end of one note and the beginning of the next a little. Usually that stuff works, but not this time. After having gone a bit crazy, I solved the problem by putting the line in the upper octave of the bass clarinet instead using clarinet patch for it so that the bass clarinet plays both its own middle-range line and that clarinet line in its upper range as well.

Yay for tricks!

By the way, speaking of the forums, I added reverb to the master track after being told by both Parrish and fellow former elizabitcrusher that I should utilize it with my other tunes. I still am not very confident in my ability to use it well, but I’m going to try from this point forward. My intention is to go back and add reverb to and mess around with other tracks that need it. Hopefully you’ll get to hear that stuff soon, but for now…

… it’s time to go on to compiling my first official demo. Woohoo!

You’ll hear again from me soon as I work to get it ready and push it out the door. Thanks for listening (and reading)!