I’m walking through the remains of the city. The rain and the dark are my only protection. The digital display on my weapon reminds me of the poor levels of ammo I’m carrying. I keep to the shadows even though 'they' have optical enhancements that allow them to pick me out in the dark. The city is empty, evidence of the battle litters the walks. I stop as I hear the hum of the dropship cruse overhead. I look up and watch it continue into the distance without stopping to drop its cargo. New Mombasa is a bad place to get lost in. I need to find the rest of my team.
The above is what went through my head as I played Halo: ODST again. It has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever listened too. The game was a great addition to the franchise, invoking feelings of isolation, loss and unease. With its stark visuals and eerie future beats punctuated with raw jazz flavored undercurrents reminding you of human vulnerability before the orchestral arrangement rips you into a conflict as you get into another fight.
The soundtrack can make or break the moment.
Mass Effect had some good tunes but I think this video showcases the strengths of the musicians instead. Listen to how they use sweeping mournful orchestral melodies to place the setting. The shift of the drums and low tones as the enemy and the scope of the challenge is introduced. Feel the soft tones of the strings kick in as the characters rallying and rising against the conflict. Then it kicks into high gear as the pieces come together and create a whole ensemble as a Sheperd's decree is made.
Say what you will about the game and the series as a whole but that trailer had it all. Not because of the stilted wooden animation, the hero speech or the brief splashes of action. No the work that gave some people goosebumps was the work of Two Steps from Hell. Who've been making soundtrack compositions for quite some time. You've heard their work in trailers and film. You just didn't know who 'they' were. Here is a list of their music use from just a single album.
Go back into your library and find those games and movies and remember the moments that really took you places. If you surf through my catalog of CD's you'll find tons of music from soundtracks. From Daft Punk's TRON, Trent Renzor (NIN) and Atticus Ross who did Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (USA ver), and Metal Gear Solid numbers one through three. There is tons of music to be had and we've already listened to it.
So next time you get absorbed by a moment of media, try to remember the music when you think back on that moment. Seek that music out and try to enjoy it by itself.