"Time's Scar," Part II

*In case you missed it, here's Part I For your convenience, I’ve reinserted the video:

I would suggest listening and watching one more time straight through so that you re-familiarize yourself with everything. Also, before I get into the analysis, I’d like the reader to see how I personally broke down the form of the piece for the sake of this analysis. If anyone has a better suggestion on how to organize it, please let me know—this is certainly not the end-all-be-all!

- Section A: “Introduction” (0:00-0:57)
- Section B: “Transition” (00:57-1:14)
- Section C: “String Melody” (1:14-1:49)
- Section D: “Breakdown and Ending” (1:49-2:22)

Cool. Now, let’s pick up where we left off. In less than a minute’s worth of music we listened to an enchanting, nostalgic, and, at points, childlike musical intro that set up not only the coming of an exciting display of PSX CGI power and adrenaline-pumping music, but also for the gamer for what he should expect out of the entire game’s soundtrack. We took note of Yasunori Mitsuda’s very present bass, dancing flute, and moving acoustic guitar, which all combine to enhance and reveal a folk flavor in his music.

Cue :56. A suspended cymbal roll comes from behind the flute, which turns and lands on a note that stings the downbeat of what I will call the “transition.” Suddenly, when the listener only had a few instruments to take in before, a flurry of sounds comes to him or her all at once and s/he is whisked off at full-speed. The important part about the transition is its ability to rush the listener forward and get him or her caught up in the moment using rhythm. Yes, the tempo speeds up, but it is not tempo alone that perks the ears and does the engaging. It may take the listener many-a-repeat to catch all of the elements that help drive the music forward, but they are worth fishing for and catching. Let’s start with the instruments that we’ve heard before: the bass and the acoustic guitar. Reference the example below, which shows the first few measures from :57. I've elected to notate these parts in 2/4 time because of how the phrases divide and create a 2 feel. The paragraphs below will refer to the phrases in such time.

"Time's Scar" Rhythmic Examples

In the intro, the bass was open in both the sense that it had long lines with notes that stretched over multiple beats and in the sense that it had “freedom” to add movement in the melodic space that otherwise moved little due to sustained notes by the flute. Here, however, the bass locks in to a stagnant groove with the exception of the fourth measure in each four-bar phrase. Mitsuda allows the bass to continue to have that freedom here, and it’s a freedom that is welcomed by both the groove and by musical interest. Furthermore, by playing lines that incorporate sixteenth notes, the bass gives the illusion of double-time, which is what really adds to the pace of the tune.

The guitar is also transformed in the transition. It has a much more aggressive approach in regards to attack and to rhythm. As shown in the example, it couples with the bass for the first beats of the first three measures, but, unlike the bass, it pushes into those beat ones with sixteenth notes. These sixteenths even negate the space left by the bass groove to cause movement. The same can be said for the measure comprised solely of sixteenths—while the bass pulls back with eighths, the guitar's sixteenths negate space and push forward. Clearly, the guitar part sets up for the strings’ introduction in 1:06, and those strings are what fully rounds out the countermelody's energy.

In addition to those instruments previously introduced, new percussion parts provide a lot of motion in the transition. Whereas chime rings were the prominent percussion part in the intro, this section adds a triangle, hand drums, brushes, a bass drum, timbales, and an item of an unknown name that makes a Spaghetti Western-like “boing” on every eighth note. The triangle is the easiest to hear and pairs best with the bass and guitar, thus it is notated with them in the example. The brushes are the hardest to hear, but play strictly sixteenth notes throughout the section. If the listener cannot hear all of the parts, s/he is encouraged to keep trying—it admittedly took me a while to pick them all out, too!

Mitsuda does a grand job controlling all of the percussion parts. Most of them are audible and have their own space, combining to cleanly provide rhythmic motion. Some parts are indeed more lost in the mix because so much is going on; however, so much covers for those parts that their loss is practically insignificant. One might even go as to say that Mitsuda need not bother to stack on more parts in those places, but another may say that having their presence only when cleanly audible would seem half-hearted, leaving the overall composition with an incomplete feel.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, strings pour in at 1:06 after a powerful timbale lead with lines that resemble the guitar part. The key difference between the parts is obviously the fact that the strings strictly play sixteenth notes. In turn, the strings develop what the guitar did in comparison to the bass; they create motion through division and choke out the space between notes to create a sense of urgency. One may also feel heightened by the counterline played by the lower strings. Instead of only getting a part that develops the guitar line on a single plane, a new layer doubles the engulfing rhythm and adds, above something else to which one feels compelled to listen, new harmonic context.

It’s interesting to watch the video, too, because it really captures visually what the music is doing and vice versa. The musical action starts and the pace quickens when the viewer sees Serge on the beach opening his eyes while that-which-looks-like-magic swirls about him and a quick pulse is seen pumping in the darkness at his feet. The viewer can relate to Serge since s/he is metaphorically opening his or her eyes at the end of the enchanting and game-less introduction, only to see brilliantly colored in-game CGI. When I first watched this video recently after a long hiatus, I got misty reopening my eyes and ears to the beauty of the video and reopening my mind to my childhood remembrance of the game. Seriously.

Mitsuda really goes all out in the transition to provide a deep contrast to the introduction. His new rhythmic use of instruments previously heard and in new layers bring out the change in tempo and aggressively lead the listener further along in the piece. The development of energy, however, is not finished here, as the main string melody powerfully enters in the C Section at 1:14, blissfully captivating the listener all over again.

Onward!  To the finale, Part III!