Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Life of Pi - Mychael Danna

Life of Pi
by Mychael Danna

I am by no means a person who can claim to have read a lot of great books.  While I did hear about this book existing before the movie came out, I must confess to having never actually read it.  My partner once shared with me how he got the book, expecting to read a surreal story about a young man who survives a shipwreck with a zebra, a tiger and an orangutan on a raft, and how he was surprised that the tiger was a real tiger and not a talking intelligently social tiger.   There was much concern on whether or not such a story could be translated successfully into a movie.  Thankfully, Ang Lee proved to us that such a story can be.  And boy was Life of Pi a movie worth seeing.

The whole album is a beautiful blend of romantic lullabies and introspective swells.  Some of you might have loved Mychael's approach to music when he did the soundtrack to (500) Days of Summer.  But I felt this soundtrack had more musical resonance to his other soundtrack projects such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Tideland.  The music has a very interesting mix of instruments here, with wind instruments nicely melding with percussions and strings which resonate different cultural themes.  The human voice is a pervasive instrument as well that has its moments in the collection.  I will state that the soundtrack is one that very notably embodies hope.  So if your game is meant to feel hopeless and invoke despair, this is NOT the soundtrack for you.  But if your game will hint on the human (or at least the PC's) spirit being something that will not give up, then you got a winner in your hands.

I will quickly admit to holding Pi's Lullaby (Track 01) as a favorite simply because it really helps me remember the beautiful sequence of the movie's opening credits.  Pondicherry (Track 03) is a nice romantic ditty which reminds me of movies like Chocolat and Amelie.  The heavier tracks, such as Death of the Zebra (Track 13) and The Deepest Spot on Earth (Track 11) are surprisingly some of the shortest tracks in the album.   And the two climactic moments, God Storm (Track 23) and I'm Ready Now (Track 24) are amazingly pieces that grab your heart and nudge it without twisting it out of place.  The blend of choral voices with the musical swells gives a mixed feeling of peace and sadness that can be wisely used by a game master to punctuate a moment with pathos.  And finally, Which Story Do You Prefer (Track 28), the last track of the soundtrack is thoughtfully introspective without sounding heavy handed.  The soft piping sounds lead the harmony, building into a piece where a full-bodied piano takes center stage, but only for a few chords before the music itself strikes longingly like a question waiting to be answered.   Admittedly, I am surprised that the soundtrack did not use Pi's Lullaby more as a recurring theme in the music.   But definitely I'm placing this soundtrack under the category of useful tunes to have for enhancing one's games.

Life of Pi OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Richard Parker (Track 07), The Whale (Track 18)
Introspective/calm moment:   Pi's Lullaby (Track 01), Piscine Molitor Patel (Track 02), Set Your House In Order (Track 15), Skinny Vegetarian Boy (Track 16), Tiger Vision (Track 22), The Second Story (Track 27), Which Story Do You Prefer (Track 28)
Tense/mystery moment: Anandi (Track 09), The Deepest Spot on Earth (Track 11), Death of the Zebra (Track 13), Flying Fish (Track 19)
Combat music: First Night, First Day (Track 14), Tiger Training (Track 20), God Storm (Track 23), I'm Ready Now (Track 24)
Hopeful moment: Pondicherry (Track 03), Thank you Vishnu for Introducing me to Christ (Track 06), Pi and Richard Parker (Track 17), Orphans (Track 21), The Island (Track 25)
Drama/sad moment: Meeting Krishna (Track 04), Christ in the Mountains (Track 05), Appa's Lesson (Track 08), Leaving India (Track 10), Tsimtsum (Track 12), Back to the World (Track 26)

Best Used In: Any games that have nicely introspective and dramatic scenes.  Everything from World of Darkness games to even games that explore medieval settings like Falkenstein and Seventh Sea can use this soundtrack.  The music does not latch on too much to a specific cultural background, so it can even be used to reflect games in varying time periods.  The soundtrack doesn't have much for combat and horror, however,  so it might not be enough for a whole session.    But if you have players who like exploring the dramatic consequences of their character's actions, this would be a sweet soundtrack to use.

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