Saturday, February 16, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Cloud Atlas - Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, and Tom Tykwer

Cloud Atlas
by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, and Tom Tykwer

Unlike many people out there, I was one of those who actually felt the movie Cloud Atlas was very well done, with a captivating story, a wonderful approach to cinematography, a rich cast, and an exceptionally brave and stylized visual treatment for its set designs, costumes and make-up.   I did not find the movie boring and I did not feel it was too slow and dragging.  I did not think the make-up was horrendous.  And I do believe the music was nicely holding the immensely ambitious narrative together.

So Cloud Atlas.  What can I say about this soundtrack without sounding like I was paid to write this?  I love this soundtrack.  I just absolutely do.  The music is approached with numerous recurring leitmotifs, with lovely harsh strings dangling in contrast to gentle soft piano touches.  The soundtrack has a rich aural landscape that demands attention, and the subtle touches of voices makes for a delightful experience.

I find it difficult to decide what tracks I love the most in this soundtrack.  Prelude - The Atlas March (Track 01) for example begins as a haunting piano solo that can resonate a tale of lost love, or slow rediscovery.  Or it can punctuate a scene of graphic horror and suggest the immense strength of the human spirit.  But then there's Travel To Edinburgh (Track 03) which carries the leitmotif of Cloud Atlas into a progressive piano piece that is supported by soft tones and a purposeful string ensemble.  Horns add a dizzying melody to what seems to be a piece that suggests travel and change.

Won't Let Go (Track 09) is a heart-pounding tense-filled ride which opens with an almost Matrix feel, but then turns darkly delirious as the human voices give the piece a frightful touch.  And yet, as dangerous as the mood feels, there's always the ever present hint of hope in the piece suggested by the chimes and the ascending harmonies.  This track works very well with The Escape (Track 11) given but pushes the drama higher, with violent strings strum with such ferocity that one can almost feel the urge to leave one's seat.  But like the earlier track, there is never a loss of hope in the music.  Never a feeling of utter despair.   To close, I should probably cite The Cloud Atlas Sextet For Orchestra (Track 22) given it pulls together the whole soundtrack and serves as the very foundation upon all the lietmotifs in the score. Tragic, and yet hopeful, resonant and strong, this piece is a marvel to listen to.

Clocking at over 70 minutes, this soundtrack is well worth your money.

Cloud Atlas OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Papa Song (Track 06), Sloosha's Hollow (Track 07),
Introspective/calm moment:   Prelude - The Atlas March (Track 01), Cloud Atlas Opening Title (Track 02), Travel to Edinburgh (Track 03)
Tense/mystery moment: Luisa's Birthmark (Track 04), Cavendish In Distress (Track 05), Sonmi-451 Meets Change (Track 08), Catacombs (Track 13), Adieu (Track 14), New Direction (Track 15),
Combat music: Won't Let Go (Track 09), Kesselring (Track 10), The Escape (Track 11), Chasing Luisa Ray (Track 18), Sonmi's Discovery (Track 19)
Hopeful moment: All Boundaries Are Conventions (Track 16), Cloud Atlas Finale (Track 21), Cloud Atlas End Title (Track 23)
Drama/sad moment: Temple of Sacrifice (Track 12), The Message (Track 17), Death Is Only A Door (Track 20), The Cloud Atlas Sextet For Orchestra (Track 22)

Best Used In: So far, I've used this soundtrack for Aeon Trinity, Our Best Last Hope, and I can imagine it being used in games that have a science fiction element in them.  The soundtrack can still work for modern setting games, but might be a stretch to be used in a medieval or fantasy setting (unless your fantasy setting has steampunkish elements like Castle Falkenstein or Shadows of Esteren.)  So long as the game has touches of a love that transcends time, or a powerful source of hope that cannot be silenced, the Cloud Atlas leitmotif can be used to represent that well in the game.  Just be careful to not overuse it and irritate your players.

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