It’s an oft-overlooked aspect of The Elder Scrolls, but the music in the games is incredibly important. The latest update to elderscrolls.com has allowed us all to look back to the dark days when, to be frank, music wasn’t an important part of gameplay. Take a look at the Battlespire Intro. My Battlespire manual credits the music to “Absolute Pitch”, a company based in Bethesda whose website claims that they did work on Oblivion; a claim not supported by Oblivion’s credits. But… well anyway. Listen to the music on that video (it kicks in about half way through).
Now listen to the Morrowind theme. Now the Oblivion theme. Now the Skyrim theme.
Aren’t those three better? Aren’t you glad that Absolute Pitch didn’t do more music? Look at the way the same theme has been woven into three different games: we have the slightly bucolic Morrowind; the imperial Oblivion and the martial Skyrim all borrowing from the same inspiration. It links the games together but gives each its own interpretation of the music. Comparing even just the first of the three to the Battlespire music is almost unfair: it’s like comparing a Mozart opera to something written by a six year old. (Yes, this is a joke – for those who need this kind of thing pointed out, and those of you who still don’t get it…. yeah okay, it was a pretty obscure joke).
It’s true that when Battlespire was made, the venerable SoundBlaster card was still something to which people aspired. By the time Morrowind appeared, a decent sound system was de rigeur. This probably goes some way towards explaining the difference, but even so it makes a huge difference.
The genius behind the music is Jeremy Soule, and he’s two years younger than me, which is simply unfair. He’s been described as the “John Williams of video games”; John Williams being the guy who did music for Star Wars and Jaws, inter alia, and if I have to explain what those two films are and give you links, then please wait ten years and come back when you’re fully grown.
For me, TES wouldn’t be the same without Soule’s music. Sure, the games would still be superb but it’d be like trying to eat beef without just a dab of horseradish sauce: brilliant, but you know it could be even better. Sure, I’ve installed other music for Oblivion, but even though it’s good, I still appreciate the Soule music when it returns. Sure, some people don’t think music is that important… but they can bugger off. Sure, I’m getting too wound up over this and need to finish off.
Watching and listening to the new Skyrim trailers has been brilliant for all sorts of reasons. I’m not going to pretend that it was the audio on the first trailer that made me stare, slack-jawed and drooling, at the screen. On the other hand, subsequent watches (I’m up to about 15 now, but don’t believe this makes me sad) had me listening to the music in typical Soule-worshipping mode. Certainly the highlight of the over-hyped podcast with Todd Howard (nothing against Todd – but the questions were pretty soporific) was right at the end where what seems to be a whole new piece of Soule Music was previewed.
And frankly, if any of you can read any piece of Skyrim-related news without thinking “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Dovahkiin! For the King!” (etc) running through your head… I shall cleave your skull in twain for such heresy!
For the king!