February 16, 2018

Devblog #2: The Music Origins and Motifs of Legends of the Brawl

Greetings Legends!
This week we are going to hear from Richard Hunter, who is composing the music for Legends of the Brawl! We even have a few short snippets to share with you.

He talks about influences, motifs, and how he structures his workflow.

Join us and check it all out!


Essentially all the themes and orchestration in Legends of the Brawl (LOB) are heavily inspired by late romantic music from the early 20th century. Much of the music would usually start with a simple small orchestral ensemble, and then be developed to the symphony orchestra using adaptive audio techniques. This small ensemble work was typical for the early 20th century era, as small ensemble work or chamber music can be found with composers such as Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Although, I usually take the most influence from their string arrangements and traditional orchestration approach from these earlier composers. 

The main melodies and themes of LOB are largely inspired by film composers. John Williams fanfare music and strong use of brass in his scores is something I try to keep prominent in heroic themes. Danny Elfman’s mischievous and outlandish orchestration is very much prominent with the possessed aspects of the game. Elfman’s approach to instrumentation is something I found very appealing to create a kooky vibe and I often try to find new and obscure instruments to replace standard orchestral parts. Bernard Herman’s use of diminished harmony, particularly towards his string work, is now iconic and much of the string orchestration and harmony in LOB is inspired by him. Admittedly, I have used the “Hitchcock chord” (minor major 7th chord) several times for a building tension in LOB level Tesla’s lab.

Game composers, particularly the ones that use a form of interactive music to their score, are always an inspiration. There’s plenty of modern games to choose from but I always remember the first time I really noticed it with games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Koji Kondo) and Banjo-Kazooie (Grant Kirkhope). However, the one thing that always remains true and strong to the composition in these games is basic fundamental melody and motif, this is something I keep in mind to approaching any game music and is the first element to get right for a LOB score.

Importance of motifs and how they are used for adaptive score

One of the first things the director stated about the music before I begun composing, is that he wanted a focus on the fundamental melody other than general orchestration or atmospheric sound. I have always kept this in mind and because of the high importance to getting the melody right, it is the first thing I start off with. This always begins with the piano, manuscript, a pen and some sort of portable recording device. Its hard to say what the melodies are directly influenced by, but the artwork and playthrough of the game usually generates the general tone and feel.

I start off by composing the main motifs. These motifs are usually played later in the music arrangement, but they govern the entire piece. The following are examples from the tutorial level/Dark Manor, the main harmonic and rhythmic motifs are played by the Piano and Double Bass.

As you can see my entire project is colour coded depending on the state of events of the level, we have the general walking around music (red), combat (yellow), graveyard (blue) and the first main melodic motif (green) which is prominent with all states.

There is a quite a fair bit of orchestration but throughout the arrangement I would always refer to the main melodic motif. (Audio sample 1) As you can hear the Honky Tonk piano is playing the melody using octaves. 

This is a typical approach to make the melody stand out more. This melody is supported and imitated by other parts which keeps the same melody for both states. (Audio sample 2) This motif is referred to and developed later in the piece with the exception of changing odd rhythms to bring a sense of development. (Audio sample 3) 

No matter what goes on with other instruments, it was important to keep this melody strong and ensure other parts compliment it with harmony and orchestral flourishes only. These melodies are the exact same during the combat but the Honky Tonk is replaced with a female vocal to bring an operatic feel. 

However, there is a reason why the piano is only playing melody and not playing a left hand rhythmic accompaniment as well. There is another slightly subtle introductive motif played by the double bass early on the piece and sets the rhythmic feel for the entire piece. There is a certain lick played by the bass that is always used when the main melodic motif is sustained, usually applied as a transition to a new section.

 Have a listen to the very beginning with the rhythmic motif featured. (Audio sample 4) With the entire piece playing, the bassoon also performs this part during the beginning to highlight this rhythmic feel early(Audio sample 5) This type of pattern can be heard at different sections of the music but keeps the same rhythmic idea. (Audio sample 6) 

You can see that parts can get quite expensive, even with putting instruments into sub groups, it can be easy to lose the original motifs and melody with temptation to giving new parts to shine.

I don’t profess to be the most organised with my work flow, but I always make sure that every part from each event state gives space to the original motif idea from the very beginning of the compositional process. Sometimes other parts can cloud motifs depending on their frequency range, so it’s important to use good production techniques or rearrange parts accordingly.

I hope you enjoyed a rundown of my approach to motifs and melodies, each project will differ with orchestration and instrumentation used, so the way each part compliments the main motif should always be different to bring something fresh and interesting I believe.

Hope you enjoy the music! 😊

That's it for this week, but we will be back next week with Jerrod Sweeney to talk a bit about some enemy AI design!

Thanks for tuning in! 

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