Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Soundtrack Suggestion: The Bone Collector - Craig Armstrong

The Bone Collector - Official Soundtrack
Composed by Craig Armstrong

I loved this movie.  Many of my friends were not big fans of this movie, but I loved it.  For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is about a quadriplegic homicide detective named Lincoln Rhyme who teams up with Amelia Donaghy, a police woman who isn't too keen on the partnership, to find a serial killer.  While Lincoln deals with the fact that he was looking forward to his assisted suicide, Amelia deals with haunting memories of her father's suicide, and there the two find a strength that helps them both succeed.  Set in New York City, many of the tracks I felt carried a nice thematic identity that one can connect easily to the location and even better used heart-stopping beats to build tension and fear: the perfect things a game master needs to enhance games set in the modern day.

The Soundtrack has 16 tracks in total, with tracks 1 and 16 being practically identical in most cases that you can use them as the signature theme for your game if you want.  Craig Armstrong does fantastic work in this soundtrack (and I will warn you, his website is so wonderful, you CAN use it to give music to your games on those nights you fail to bring you mp3 collection heheheh)

My personal favorites would have to be the following tracks:
Amelia's Song (Track 04) is a sad somber piece that speaks of hidden strength and sadness.  The strings work well with the piano to create a pained yet powerful piece.  The song can be used to enhance an introspective moment, or to signal the change when a character witnesses something so horrific and life-changing, the character makes a step in the right direction.

Walking the Grid (Track 06) is a haunting track that maintains a progressive pace which in the movie showed  Amelia carefully investigating a crime scene.  The music is tense, without being fast-paced, suggesting a great weight present in the scene that has yet to be fully perceived.  It can also be used to suggest a religious moment, given the use of voices to enhance the harmony.  In the last 46 seconds of the track, the tone shifts somewhat, suggesting something realized or seen.  You'd be surprised how effective this track can be used to add to a moment.  It definitely works best with Working the Evidence (Track 07) as the tone flows straight into something  more concrete and progressive (especially with the use of percussions).  Track 07 however ends with a powerful rise which carries the thematic sound of the title track, so some games might not work well with that.

Rhyme and Amelia's Theme (Track 09) sounds spiritual, with the use of faint voices that swirl between moments of strings and moments of piano keys.  One minute in, however, the song changes into an almost solo piano piece that is haunting and effective in building suspense.  I use this track a lot for character moments, like when a player confronts a betrayer, or when an npc admits to having failed.    This sad song works wonders.

The last four tracks, Pier Pressure (Track 12), Underground (Track 13), Final Confrontation (Track 14), and The City Awakens (Track 15) is a perfect sequence of tracks to use to end a game session with a climactic bang!  The build-up of the music from one song to the next is just pulse-pounding without becoming too loud that players won't hear each other.  The best part about these four tracks is how you can even loop 12 or 13 a number of times if you haven't hit that perfect moment to throw the dramatic big finish that 14 brings.   And Track 15 ushers it all into a complete ending, which can have a high or sad note all the same.

The Bone Collector OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Mackenzie (Track 10)
Introspective/calm moment: New York City (Track 01), Amelia's Song (Track 04)
Tense/mystery moment:  Prelude (Track 02), Walking the Grid (Track 06), Working the Evidence (Track 07)
Combat music: Rage Against Time (Track 05), Seizure (Track 08), Pier Pressure (Track 12), Underground (Track 13), Final Confrontation (Track 14), The City Awakens (Track 15)
Hopeful moment: Amelia's Song (Track 04), Rhyme and Amelia's Theme (Track 09), Amelia's Crisis (Track 11)
Drama/sad moment: Taxi Ride (Track 03), Amelia's Song (Track 04)

Best Used In: Games set in a modern, or post-apocalyptic setting. The music has too many touches that would be jarring in a medieval or fantasy game.  Absolutely works for games that have a mystery or investigative element.  Supernatural touches can also work with the soundtrack.  New York.  I cannot stress it further.  Dark games set in New York.

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