As seems to happen once every couple of months, I’ve found myself lost amidst a huge fantasy novel. In this particular case, the novel is House of Chains by Steven Erikson, the fourth book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The novel is unusual in that, unlike the other three Malazan books I’ve read, almost the entire novel is written from the perspective of a single character. This character is a tribesman, from a magical race of what we might call giants. I found the opening few chapters of this story to be very captivating, and decided to write a piece of music based on them.
I wanted something simple and atmospheric, but with hints of aggression (the main character is a bit of a brute at this point in the novel), as well as some more ethereal undertones to represent the mysterious spirits which watch over the tribal village and the main character throughout.
I also wanted something that felt ‘green’. That’s perhaps an odd way of describing it. I suppose what I really mean is that I wanted something which felt organic, grounded in the culture of the tribe. The interesting thing about writing for fictional cultures is that you’re not limited to using instruments from a specific region or time period. I’ve used instruments from all over the place, including a medieval frame drum, a Roman war drum, and an angkling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angklung). I think there’s a Chinese gong in there as well.
The track opens with a simple 4 note theme, repeated 4 times, played by a lute. I added some subtle reverb onto the lute to allow the resulting minor chord to ring out. The reverb the rises in volume once the lute stops playing, morphing into a background resonance to represent the mysterious spirits. A recorder (or possibly wooden flute, I can’t remember!) then plays a simple melody – I wasn’t really thinking about what this represented, it just seemed to fit nicely. The lute returns after this, in a section heavily reminiscent of the opening, but much angrier, louder, and only playing a single note. Finally, the track closes with a reinstatement of the original theme, much slower and reflective, played on a yaylı tambur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yayl%C4%B1_tambur)
I’m quite happy with how this track turned out. I used a lot of the same techniques that I used in ‘Atmospheres’, in particular the transformation of an instrument with a relatively quick decay time (in this case, a lute) into an ambient texture through use of reverbs. I’ll be talking more about this technique in a future blog. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the track. If you’re interested in purchasing the unwatermarked, royalty-free version, follow this link: http://audiojungle.net/item/tribe-of-the-forest/10395620?ref=IanFisherComposer
I’m considering the idea of uploading these audiojungle tracks to soundcloud without a watermark. It’s a risk, as it means people can rip the track without buying it, but I hate sharing watermarked music. For now, I can only apologise for the annoying voice.