Movie and Game Music

I love music. I played the piano for many years, starting when I was 6. Stopping it when I went to university (because I didn’t have access to a piano, and didn’t want to save the money to buy an electrical one) is one of the few things I would change if I could live my life again. Needless to say, music is important to me. My friends and colleagues tell me it’s easy to recognize me when I walk by, even if they don’t see me: it’s not so much the gait, but the fact that I’m almost constantly humming or whistling when I walk.

There are some melodies that I don’t know where I got them from, or whether I made them up. They form a repertoire I use all the time; I combine them with each other, with songs I just heard, and so son. Several bits and pieces of WoW music made it into that repertoire. I never looked up their names, because to me, it forms part of the magic to not know their name and where they came from.

As you gathered from that, I generally play with sound and music on. I know many players (especially of MMO games) turn off their music, and sometimes even their sound, to play their own favorite music. I rarely do that. Music is an integral part of a game experience for me. Sometimes more than the latest and greatest graphics.

The fact that some WoW pieces made it into my repertoire means that in my book, WoW did it right, music-wise. Since I don’t know the names, I can’t point out which I like most, but I’ll at least try to listen to them and give you pointers  at the end of this post.

I wonder whether one of the reasons that Rift hasn’t “clicked” with me yet is the music. To me, it sounds too generic. “Cue generic theme no. 23, please!”, and such. I still have barely touched Scarlet Gorge, so it might be too early to judge. But at level 29, I would’ve expected some memorable music already, and most of it simply sounds like muzak to me so far.

Now, of course, you might argue that these WoW songs are ingrained my head because I played the game for 6 years. I thought so myself. But last night, I was amazed when I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” for the first time in about 8 years. (A decent movie, I might add, as an opinion from someone who read most of what there is to be read by Tolkien. And “decent” is probably close to the best you can get when it comes to a LotR movie.) I suddenly realized that the hobbit theme song was one of those that made it into my repertoire. I’ve watched the movie in the theater once, and then maybe once or twice on DVD shortly after they were released. And still, that one song stuck with me over  8 years. To me, that’s a sign that music that “clicks” with you doesn’t need a lot of repetition. You hear it, and it stays with you.

Please, game designers, don’t disregard good music. I don’t want choirs singing faux-latin ad nauseam (Faux latin is one of my pet peeves!), I don’t want bombast all the time. If you care to get a top-notch graphics designer, pay the money to get a great movie or game musician. I agree that the basic fighting sounds you’ll hear millions of times over the course of a game are important; get good sound designer for them. But if you want to create worlds, give them a flavor. And in my option, nothing invokes feelings and images better than music.


Alright, so I went and tried to find out what some of my favorite WoW themes are. I never bought a collector’s edition (for various reasons, a different one each time), so i don’t have any soundtrack CD and need to go by what youtube tells me. These are in no particular order, because this post has been in my draft section for too long as it is, and I don’t want to spend another week ranking the music:

  • the Barrens theme (or, I guess, more generally, the “horde wilderness” theme), especially the clarinet theme
  • the human wood theme, as in Elwood Forest
  • the Tanaris, Silithus, and Ahn’Qiraj theme, especially the klezmer, and how the music slowly is deconstructed the farther you move into the temple
  • TBC: I liked a lot of the music there, but it didn’t stick with me. It was just ambient music. Decent ambient music, but still ambient music.
  • the Grizzly Hills theme
  • the Storm Peaks theme
  • Cataclysm: Why can’t I think of any new theme in there that caught me? Might this be a contributor to why I finally got tired of WoW?

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