Music And Games: Tonal Disonance in Custom Soundtracks

Hello Mates! So let's talk about Tonal Music in games.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I'll be writing and using examples of games I know of but maybe haven't really spend that much time with, so I might get some stuff wrong Y'know? Most of this post was brainstormed by playing Dark Souls 2, so that will be the one most accurately represented)

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So you go and Download, say, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus, a frenetic and extremely fun fighting game full of combos and lots of sparks and punches flying around.

You start to play the game and you enter the main menu and you are received by this gem:

A Hard Rock tune. And most song after this go in that direction, some heavily leaning into a more Heavy Metal direction. This perfectly gives you a vibe and sticks with it through the game.

Now let's go with another example:

You now go and Download, say, Marvel vx. Capcom 2, a frenetic and extremely fun fighting game full of combos and lots of sparks and punches flying around. Also, teams of three, for maximun, er, carnage.

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You start to play the game and you enter the main menu and you are received by this gem:

Most of the game has this weird jazzy vibe which is somewhat tonally dissonant from what one might be expecting from a destructive brawler.

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So, then this tonally dissonant music makes sense and starts being part of the DNA of the game. It fits because that's the way the music in the game is, not because it should really fit. However This does't mean that the music and game don't match (I can't imagine Playing MvC2 w/o that OST), it just makes things feel really weird, and maybe, more memorable.

So now, let's start Subject that I really wanted to get to:

Tonally Dissonant Custom Soundtracks.

Say, a lot of people like to play games with their own music, as they feel they get in the "zone" more easily. Some don't because, well same reason only in reverse. I don't normally do so, but I do play games with my own music from time to time, mostly because I start playing games while I was listening to music, the most recent example being last Sunday with Dark Souls 2.

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Now as many know the Souls has this grim and ominous feeling as an all around design choice, both in music, story world design, and sometime even game-play. but here I was listening to one of my favorite recent albums:

La Vida Boheme's Será.

La Vida Boheme is a Dance Rock group from Venezuela (my country) that have appropriated many styles of music and try and fuse it. more than Dance Rock they might be referred as Fusion Pop played by a Posh Punk Band. They have started to gain some notoriety outside Venezuela (Mexico loves them it seems) but most of their lyrics and musical trappings and inspiration comes from them being, well a Venezuelan band.

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Even so, the first song from the album is a synth heavy ode to how things are not that great (in civic security) in Venezuela, and how the death toll is just so big right now, that we should just unite against it (Using the two biggest cemeteries in Caracas as metaphors of civic unity. The lyricist from this band might be insane okay?). However vacillating between weird melancholy and uplifting lyrics is a specialty in this band, and this album has that in spades. Every song is both a criticism and a positive thought about the country, and so It helps me ground myself and get more invested in Dark souls thanks to this, as it follows the game's cycle pretty closely (Misery and great rewards).

And throughout the album most of the song, though mainly staying in the rock genre, steal from a lot of Venezuela's most heard and/or popular music and culture. There's a song that ends in a merengue like party, another one that seems to sound like a weird regueton allegory, one that seems like a lost lullaby, one that borrows a lot from Joropo (A national genre of folkloric music and dance). So all in all it sounds so out of place in a Dark souls game, but due to their messages, they might, in my head at least, ne intertwined forever.

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They are forever lost in a hug; They are my north and center, and they show me again what I love about music and games.

This is the last track of the album, a sad little lullaby that follows the rhythm of the song that had come just before, the aforementioned Merengue sounding song.

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This are the (Really badly translated) lyrics:

Tanto, tanto que iba a ser y me quedé en un canto.

(So much, so much I had to do and stayed here singing.)

Canto y no sé si moriré esperando tu volver o viviré para recibirte con un café.

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(Singing withouth knowing if I'll die waiting here for you or live just long enough to greet you with coffee)

Llanto, vete a roer a otro porque yo no me pienso mover

(Cries, go gnaw at somebody else, as I won't even think to move)

que me entierren en asfalto aquí estaré el día que este canto sea más que fe.

(Let them bury me in the streets, here i'll be the day this song is more than faith)

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¿Cómo no voy a esperar?

(How could I not wait?)

¿Cómo no voy a esperarte?

¿Cómo no voy a esperarte?

(How could I not wait for you?)

Esperarte, Esperanza.

(Wait for you, Hope)

¿Cómo no voy a esperar?

¿Cómo no voy a esperar?

(How could I not wait?)

¿Cómo no voy a esperar si tú te vas?

(How could I not wait, if you'll be gone?)

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