If I had to describe the music of Graven in a single word, I’d probably go for “tragic”. The main theme that plays in the menu is the first thing the players will hear when they start the game, and our idea was to start bold in order to capture their attention.
After talking about the game with Fred and the development team, I realized that this game is not going to be your standard fantasy RPG with the “good guy” hero. Our priest is the fallen hero. A bad good guy if you can call it that way, so the music had to portray that. He committed a sin and for that sin he was excommunicated from his order.
It is his life tragedy that we wanted to portray in music of the entire game, and the main theme was the starting point of building this ominous musical tragedy for Graven. The entire score is mostly orchestral, with additions of medieval instruments and some sound designed music atmospheres. On top of that, we opted for male choir, church bells and church organ to add a sense of “holiness”, since our “hero” is a priest after all. But we didn’t stop there. In order to present both religious fanaticism and heresy in a single character, we had to make a clash of “holy” instruments and “pagan heretic” instruments. At certain points you can hear a blend of church bells and organs accompanying solo instruments like zither and gypsy style violin. The character of those two solo instruments perfectly represents the other side of our priest as a heretic and a wandering outcast.
How to represent tragedy in music? The most common path is by composing in minor scale. Natural minor scale doesn’t fit here. It sounds sad and that’s all fine, but we needed tragedy, sadness and seriousness in this story, because we are not creating a sad love story. We’re creating a story about a man who used to be a representation of everything that’s holy and good, a protector of faith who went in the wrong direction after his daughter was killed, and he was out for blood. Harmonic D minor is the scale that tells that story, and that was our path.
The first demos I sent to Fred and the team were just some short audio clips of the overall musical atmosphere for the game, and from those first demos we knew we had a thematic material on our hands.
Soon afterwards we had our first version of the main theme which started pretty calm and then it was building up into a more dramatic sounding performance, but then we talked about how this is the first piece the players will hear as soon as they enter the main menu, and we wanted to make them get pumped about the game.
We re-arranged the main theme so it starts boldly and builds up into a big tragic orchestral piece which has its ups and downs, so the middle section of the final main theme was actually the start of the first version we initially had. With this approach, we had a perfect blend of both calm and dramatic parts of the piece, and we were able to create a never-ending loop for the main menu.
This melody that plays in the main theme is foundation of the game’s soundtrack, and we are using the melody as a motif in some of the other tracks as well.
When you create a usable main theme, you have a strong foundation for the rest of the soundtrack, because you have already created the template you will use for other tracks as well, and it very important if you want to have consistency further on.
This soundtrack is a labor of love, dedication and creative ideas of the entire development team, and every member has as much credit for this soundtrack as I do, even though I am credited as the composer. We really hope the players will enjoy listening to the soundtrack as much as they will enjoy playing the game.