Monday, December 08, 2014

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris soundtrack releasing for free - exclusive interview with lead composer Wilbert Roget, II

Redwood City studio Crystal Dynamics is set to officially release the Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris original soundtrack, composed by Wilbert Roget, II, in waves of eight tracks or so at a time throughout the months of December 2014 and January 2015. Eventually the entire album will be available for free via SoundCloud. The first few cues have been released today, to coincide with tomorrow's worldwide launch of the game on Xbox One, Playstation 4 & PC. Direct from the makers themselves, this is a gift of the first of its kind to the Tomb Raider community. The full track list for the album (also to be revealed in instalments) can be found in MoTR's Community Discography.

Wilbert Roget, II is the award-winning composer behind numerous projects such as indie titles Super Roman Conquest, Antiseptic and the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. He has assisted in-house production on many other titles for the now liquidated LucasArts. This year the composer freelanced simultaneously on both Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and Dead Island 2. Crystal Dynamics has kindly offered MoTR an exclusive pre-release interview with the talent where Roget, II elaborates on his work for the digital Lara Croft title. Individual track notes are to feature on the Official Tomb Raider Blog, also following the interview below, the first of which is for the "Lara Croft Overture":

"The “Lara Croft Overture” presents Lara’s theme, performed on the English horn by Kristin Naigus. This was the first piece I wrote for the score, with the intention of creating a sonic guide for the rest of the soundtrack. I focused on showing the juxtaposition between Lara’s posh, educated British upbringing and her perilous archeological adventures. While most of this track intentionally steers clear of overtly Egyptian sounds, its ending introduces an Arabic flavor that characterizes the rest of the score." - Wilbert Roget, II

The complete dialogue and some exclusive production photos are available below, after the jump!

The Music of Tomb Raider interviews Wilbert Roget, II

Music of Tomb Raider: Hello Wilbert! Thank you for agreeing to the interview. To start us off - the music of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was for the most part recycled from previous games Tomb Raider: Legend, Anniversary & Underworld. When the Tomb Raider community heard that you were on board for its sequel, hopes were high for a more dedicated and original Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris soundtrack. Were you familiar with Tomb Raider prior to your attachment to the project? Do you feel you have delivered something new to the franchise and how has your experience been working on the title?

Wilbert Roget, II: Like everyone back in the day, I was blown away by the original Tomb Raider games on PS1. We’d never seen that level of authenticity and fully-realized 3D in an action platformer! Music has always been a part of this authentic experience, and so while I took a different direction for Temple of Osiris, it still has emotional roots in the globetrotting adventure genre. We had a huge wealth of Tomb Raider musical influences to draw from, and so my job was to solidify that into a coherent kind of sound that would give this franchise its own unique identity.

MoTR: Please let our readers know what your favourite genres of music are? Your biggest musical influences? What was the last album (any genre) or score that you listened to?

Roget, II: My biggest loves in music are harmony and texture, and so I tend not to gravitate towards any one musical style; interesting harmonies can be found across several genres! So I have plenty of 20th century classical favorites, but also rock, metal, electronica, j-pop and k-pop, world music from various cultures, and of course film/game/anime soundtracks.

Like many, I decided to become a video game composer after playing some of the classic 90s Squaresoft RPGs (Final Fantasy 7, Xenogears, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story…) and so as a result I always draw at least some influence from composers like Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda and Hitoshi Sakimoto. My more recent musical heroes are Yoko Kanno, Bj√∂rk, and of course, John Williams.

MoTR: The fate of developer LucasArts following Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise was unexpected. How long were you with them and was it an amazing experience? How have your skills and knowledge from working on Star Wars transitioned to the Tomb Raider series?

Roget, II: I joined LucasArts in 2008 as an entry-level music assistant, gradually rising in ranks to become a composer and then lead composer / music supervisor for Star Wars: First Assault. I loved working with our incredible audio team, we were a very close-knit group and all of us are still in contact with each other – I’ve worked closely with sound designer Tyler Piersall on a number of projects since the layoffs.

I think that although Tomb Raider is a very different sound from what I wrote for Star Wars games, there are some orchestral tracks that have a bit of a John Williams influence for sure! Similarly, my score for Star Wars: First Assault included lots of world instruments as well, which was my introduction to incorporating these unusual sounds into an orchestral soundtrack. I expanded on this greatly for Temple of Osiris, and many of the same soloist performers play on both scores.

Wilbert Roget, II on "Excalibur" the accordion

MoTR: How were you approached by Crystal Dynamics? At what point in production were you hired and how long did it take to complete the music to Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris?

Roget, II: I was initially contacted about Temple of Osiris in late March by Alex Wilmer, the audio lead on the project. We’d been friends for years, and he knew that I was a big fan of Guardian of Light, so he contacted me directly for a demo as soon as an original score was approved for Temple of Osiris. It was fun hearing him over the phone try to describe what the game was without explicitly being able to say “Tomb Raider” for NDA purposes.

I wrote the bulk of the 90+ minute in-game score in April and June, with many smaller pieces and variations coming later. I also helped implement the score into the game engine, and so I had an immediate window into its development; It was fascinating seeing the game evolve over time.

MoTR: You mentioned on Twitter that you had revisited the music to previous Tomb Raiders and had “a wonderful time” studying Nathan McCree’s work on the original Tomb Raider trilogy. Do you have a favourite soundtrack or piece composed by McCree or other Tomb Raider composers?

Roget, II: I think that if you consider the time, McCree’s original Tomb Raider score was brilliant in that it wasn’t about specific pieces. Instead of doing typical music loops like other games at the time, TR1 focused on ambient sound design and brought music in mostly as brief stingers – this gave a level of realism that had scarcely been done before in games. That way when music does enter, it’s even more impactful than it would’ve been otherwise.

After that, TR has enjoyed a very rich history of gorgeous soundtracks. I think I drew particular influence from the vibe Troels Folmann and Colin O’Malley brought to the Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Underworld scores. It was quite humbling (and intimidating) to join the Tomb Raider musical lineage!

MoTR: Although you were required to present a “fresh” musical direction for the Lara Croft series, have you intentionally re-incorporated any previous thematic motifs from across the franchise? (One unmistakable example of the original Tomb Raider theme composed by Nathan McCree appears in “Throne of the Mad God”).

Roget, II: “Throne of the Mad God” was actually one of the very last pieces I wrote for Temple of Osiris. The dev team had finally completed the endboss sequence, and I believe Alex temped the pre-endboss area with one of Troels’ cues that used Nathan’s original theme in a mellow, subdued context. I loved the feeling that gave and immediately wrote a new cue that plays a variation of the theme on flute, periodically interrupted by quiet low brass playing my own Lara Croft theme in counterpoint. It was a fun way to show the connection between the original Tomb Raider franchise and the Lara Croft series.

There are also some much more subtle nods to the original Tomb Raider score here and there… I’m curious to see if anyone can find them!

Carter Bell, Lara Croft and Isis in Temple of Osiris

MoTR: Aside from previous Tomb Raider soundtracks, what were your biggest inspirations behind the music for Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris? (film, video game score or beyond)

Roget, II: Because the Lara Croft games are a bit more gameplay-oriented than the cinematic Tomb Raider titles, I had a bit more freedom to use bombastic orchestration and complicated arrangements. There’s far less competition with the voiceover and sound design, and the distant camera allows more psychological “space” in the mix. So my biggest influences were the typical 80s / 90s action film scores, composers like Alan Silvestri, David Arnold and of course John Williams. That said, again, my musical heritage as a composer is largely from those classic Squaresoft RPGs of the 90s, so I think you’ll hear quite a bit of Sakimoto influence as well.

Basically just imagine Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but with lots more ethnic instruments, driving percussion, and periodic hints of Vagrant Story.

MoTR: The opening notes of your excellent “Lara Croft Overture” sound like a recognisable spin on the Guardian of Light (Troels Folmann’s Underworld) thematic motif, first heard in Temple of Osiris trailers. How did you contextualise the Egyptian flavour of the score and how was it implemented with instrumentation, timbre and style etc.?

Roget, II: It was Alex Wilmer’s idea to start the project by nailing down the main theme, using that as kind of a sonic guide for the rest of the score. Interestingly, his direction was to avoid overt “Egyptianisms” in the theme and instead use orchestration and a new melody that could work no matter where Lara Croft’s adventures take her. So in this “pure” version of the theme, you will hear a much more Classical, tonal interpretation than you do in most of the score.

To get the Egyptian feel in the rest of the soundtrack though, I did a combination of researching “legit” Egyptian and Arabic instrumental music, as well as taking into account the Hollywood stereotypes of that region. This influenced my use of melody as well as harmony and especially instrumentation – I sought to use as many live musicians playing Egyptian and Arabic instruments as I could find. We hired Kristin Naigus on woodwinds (mijwiz, sipsi), Doug Perry on percussion (doumbek) and Selios Varveris playing Arabic strings (oud, kemenche).

MoTR: Could you outline the several reappearing thematic motifs, such as the conscious heroic theme (e.g. from 0:40 in the overture/climaxed from 1:20 in “The Grinding Gears”)? Are there specific themes for each character, enemies/bosses or per level aesthetic?

Roget, II: Since this is such a character-driven game, all of my melodic themes are character based rather than location/level. Lara of course has her theme, which served as the most frequently-appearing glue to the soundtrack. Isis has a theme as well, which reflects her Egyptian goddess heritage as well as an intense longing to return to her husband Osiris after so many millennia. Set has his own motif, which sounds like a corruption of Isis’ and is used in several action pieces. And lastly, each of the bosses has their own special battle theme that reflects the gameplay of those fights.

MoTR: While it is clear many of the tracks are combat-centric, is there any deliberate contrast between the puzzle-solving tomb music and overworld sections of the game? We are yet to have a hands-on experience and hear the music play in-game, but were you constrained to compose for looping audio mechanics (or did the production team tackle that later on)?

Roget, II: Absolutely! We wanted to up the ante for Temple of Osiris in terms of implemen- tation, and so we created a method for music to switch seamlessly between action and ambient pieces based on gameplay. Normally this is done by having a single piece that gets split into layers (for example, removing brass and drums to turn a combat cue into an ambient cue), but for this score I wrote completely separate pieces that simply share the same tempo, rhythm and harmonic progressions. That way we have much more musicality to the ambient layers, while retaining seamless transitions in and out of action music.

For the tombs, we opted for a much more subdued sound that would be appropriate for underground exploration. Those pieces are more ambient, more improvisational, and a bit less overtly “musical” than the overworld cues, so that the player can concentrate on solving the puzzles. Because my writing process involved playing the game myself without any hints or cheats, I knew exactly where players would get stuck and might need some special musical encouragement as well - this influenced some of our implementation choices.

Cellist Sebastian Freij in studio for Temple of Osiris

MoTR: Amongst numerous other performers, you hired Sebastian Freij to record “Arabic style cello playing” in studio – how was this experience? Did Crystal Dynamics facilitate your own approach to the score and was your collaboration with their in-house team helpful?

Roget, II: I hired Seb on Star Wars: First Assault as well as several past collaborations, at this point it’s almost easier to count scores where we haven’t worked together. He’s one of my favourite performers and always brings an incredible emotion to the pieces.

Crystal was extremely helpful in the music tech/implementation front especially. We worked closely with Alex Wilmer, Phil Lamperski and Jack Grillo to create custom implementations for Temple of Osiris using their proprietary sound engine. They also offered invaluable suggestions for music placement, mixing and instrumentation throughout the entire process.

MoTR: You are credited as a flautist yourself – how much of the score do you personally appear on? How much of the music is recorded with real instruments, versus software instrumentation?

Roget, II: I think I’m playing on maybe 10 tracks in the soundtrack, though in the in-game score I’m in a lot more of the short little stinger cues. I try to have as many live instrumentals as possible in each cue; It’s important to me that there’s a human feel in every piece. There are only a handful of cues in the entire score that don’t have some live element or another.

MoTR: Chris Greening from Video Game Music Online confirmed your attachment to the project in August, along with hired assistant trailer composer Paul Houseman. Can you elaborate on Houseman’s role on the soundtrack? How was the workload tailored or split between you?

Roget, II: I had a great time working with Paul! He wrote the overworld Rain suite, as well as the Apep boss theme. We were on a very compressed schedule at the beginning of the project, and so I handed off these cues to Paul so that we could both put forth our full attention without compromise. He’s an experienced composer especially in the film trailer world, and I felt that his musical style was similar to some of my Tomb Raider: Underworld favorites, so it was a natural choice.

Kristin Naigus' woodwinds used on Temple of Osiris

MoTR: As well as lead composer, you are also credited as music supervisor. Please tell us about your role in bringing together multiple talents - Kristin & James Naigus, Laura Saylor, Doug Perry, Aaron Craft, Daniel Swearengin, Stelios Varveris, Matheus Souza, Sebastian Freij, Samuel Suggs & Pontus Rufelt [full production credits below*] - to create the music of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Roget, II: We were incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful soloists on board for this score! Crystal trusted me with all aspects of the score production, so the performing forces were entirely in my hands. I hand-picked each of our soloists based on what I thought would be the most effective sounds for an ethnic/orchestral hybrid score.

For the tombs’ music specifically, I also tried a novel approach – instead of writing typical Hollywood pseudo-ethnic material myself, I produced a series of “pedal tones” based on the timing of the tombs’ action music. Then I handed these pedals off to Stelios, Kristin, Doug and Sam to improvise over, giving them descriptions of the tombs and letting them freely interpret it on their instruments in a very idiomatic way. This gave a much more authentic feel, as it wasn’t a composer “faking it” but instead it was a true performance in those traditional styles. I then took their recordings and wrote orchestrations around them, rearranging their performances to fit. It was a very fun experience and I think it works particularly well for puzzle-solving moments in the game!

MoTR: How did the bonus Sebastian Freij, A_Rival & zircon remixes come to fruition?

Roget, II: Once Crystal requested soundtrack versions of the score, I immediately thought it would be fun to include some remixes as well. Several soundtracks have done this lately, especially indie titles, and so I figured having these arrangements would be a nice way to end the soundtrack. Each one of them has a very distinct musical style that I thought complements my orchestral score in interesting ways, and I’m very happy with what they came up with.

Doug Perry on the cowbells during the Temple of Osiris recordings

MoTR: Audio Director Al Wilmer recently teased a soundtrack release for Temple of Osiris - we are delighted to hear the news that there is an album dropping via SoundCloud for free. Many thanks on behalf of the Tomb Raider community – this is particularly special as only a minority of the franchise’s soundtracks are officially available. Noting the 79 minutes of music provided, are there any plans for a belated release on audio CD as a collectible goodie?

Roget, II: Thanks for your interest!! I don’t currently know of any audio CD plans, but really our goal was just to give back to the fans as a token of our appreciation. A full soundtrack release seemed like a fun way to do that.

MoTR: Thank you for your time Wilbert! We look forward to experiencing your work in-game when Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris launches worldwide, December 9th, for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. All the best! Having crafted a fabulous musical framework for the Lara Croft franchise, we hope you’re interested in returning for the inevitable sequel someday?

Roget, II: No problem! And of course I would love to return to the world of Lara Croft, this score was very near and dear to me and I think Tomb Raider fans will really enjoy the game we’ve worked so hard on. It’s easily one of my favourite game scoring experiences of my entire career, I hope you guys enjoy what we’ve come up with!

Special thanks to composer Wilbert Roget, II and Crystal Dynamics Senior Community Manager, Meagan Marie, for making this exclusive pre-release interview with Music of Tomb Raider possible.

*Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Original Soundtrack full production credits:

Lead Composer, Music Supervisor - Wilbert Roget, II
Additional Music - Paul Houseman

Mijwiz, Sipsi, Duduk, Oboe, English Horn - Kristin Naigus
Flute - Wilbert Roget, II
French Horn - James Naigus
Trumpet - Laura Saylor
Percussion - Doug Perry, Aaron Craft, Daniel Swearengin
Oud, Kemenche - Stelios Varveris
Violin, Viola - Matheus Souza
Cello, Electric Cello - Sebastian Freij
Doublebass - Samuel Suggs
Additional Choir Sequencing - Pontus Rufelt

Special Thanks:
Alex Esquivel, Alex Wilmer, Andreas Kotsaminidis, Andrew Aversa, Cameron Suey, Dimitris Plagiannis, Phil Lamperski & Justin Wallace

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Original Soundtrack full track notes by Wilbert Roget, II: (updated weekly)

Week 1: December 8 (tracks 1-8)

I’m so happy to present my soundtrack to “Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris”, the latest game in the Tomb Raider franchise. The previous game in the Lara Croft series, “Guardian of Light”, didn’t have an original soundtrack, and so it was a tremendous honor to be tasked with creating a unique musical treatment for this series.

These first eight tracks in the score outline our musical direction for the game – it’s an orchestral score at heart, but with extensive use of world instruments performed live by soloists. The “Lara Croft Overture” presents Lara’s theme, performed on the English horn by Kristin Naigus. This was the first piece I wrote for the score, with the intention of creating a sonic guide for the rest of the soundtrack. I focused on showing the juxtaposition between Lara’s posh, educated British upbringing and her perilous archeological adventures. While most of this track intentionally steers clear of overtly Egyptian sounds, its ending introduces an Arabic flavor that characterizes the rest of the score.

“Introduction – The Curse” is the underscore to the opening movie of the game, and introduces some of the principal themes in the score. After a mysterious introduction with an oud solo (a plucked banjo-like instrument played by Stelios Varveris), Isis’ theme is heard on flute at 0:22. It is immediately followed by a blast of the theme of Set, the main antagonist in Temple of Osiris. The cue ends with a subdued recap of Lara’s theme.

“Army of the Dead” is the tutorial level’s action theme. I wanted something fun and encouraging to start the game off, so I used a catchy bass rhythm and a high strings melody that immediately gives an Arabic feel. This track also shows a bit of the Indiana Jones influence in my use of brass climaxes and syncopated orchestral stabs.

“Ammit, Devourer of Souls” is the theme for the keeper of the underworld – a giant female demon with the head of a crocodile, body of a lion and hippopotamus. Because of the curse placed on Lara and Carter in the introduction, Ammit seeks to devour their souls throughout the entirety of the game. I played a very effects-heavy flute solo in this track to give a frenzied feel to this chase scene.

“Beneath the Desert Stars” and “Knives in the Dark” comprise the first overworld music suite. Our overworld works a bit like a world map in a role-playing game, connecting the tomb levels with an exterior level that also has puzzles, hidden loot and combat of its own. Temple of Osiris has four overworlds, based on weather and daylight. The first is Night, as the villain Set has used his powers to cast all of Egypt into eternal darkness. For “Beneath the Desert Stars” I used sparse, sparkly timbres set against moments of silence to represent starlight amidst the darkened landscape. A somber variation of Set’s theme can be heard on flute, as well as Isis’ theme on English horn halfway through the cue.

“Knives in the Dark” is the combat variation of the Night overworld suite, and so I wrote a cue that uses lots of pizzicato, rushing staccatos, and sneaking sounds to represent enemies scurrying in the cover of darkness. Set’s theme motif is also used here, on horns towards the beginning and in a louder blast in the middle of the cue.

“Tomb of the Timekeeper” is the first tomb level in the game. We had an unusual method of producing the tombs’ music – instead of writing faux-ethnic melodies for the soloists, I created low drones (sustained single notes) based on the basic harmonic progressions of the tombs’ respective action music. I decided on one solo instrument per tomb, and sent that tomb’s drone to the performer along with a description of the tomb and some general musical ideas. They would then freely improvise over the drone, using their own idiomatic performance techniques; For Timekeeper we used the kemenche (viol-like fiddle played on the knee), performed by Stelios Varveris. I then took those improvisations and wrote orchestral music “around” them, editing the recordings in various ways to fit rhythmically and harmonically. Ultimately this gave us a much more authentic sound than if I as a composer were to attempt to write Arabic-esque melodies, and it also gave the tombs a mellow, ambient tone appropriate for exploration and puzzle-solving.

“Ambushed!” was an interesting track in that it originated from one of my failed attempts at a main theme for the game. Later on I wanted an action cue for a setpiece where Lara and friends are trapped and ambushed by enemies, and I realized that the rhythm and feel of this track actually worked perfectly for that scene. So I reworked the melody and changed the harmonies around to fit the new placement. Speaking of the melody, the horns theme in this track is a reference to Khepri’s theme, the scarab boss whose minions players have been fighting these first several levels.

Week 2: December 15 (tracks 9-16)

"Tomb of the Silversmith" begins with a brief cutscene where Lara, Isis and Carter enter the tomb and discuss some hieroglyphics that explain the myth of Khepri – an ancient beetle god that has been corrupted by the evil Set. The ambient section begins later, and features an Arabic guitar called the oud (performed by Stelios Varveris). As with the other tombs, Stelios played an improvisation over my bass notes, which I then edited and wrote orchestral music around.

"Apep, The Serpent" by Paul Houseman plays during the sub-boss fight against Apep, a giant jeweled serpent guarding the exit of the Tomb of the Silversmith. It was originally written for the Khepri boss battle, but as development progressed, that fight became increasingly chaotic and required a different approach. We decided Khepri’s music should be rewritten, and the sub-boss Apep should have his own unique music, so we modified this track and used it for Apep. The core of the piece is a fast, relentless percussive rhythm that gives a heart-pounding sense of panic for this action-puzzle fight.

"Fragments of Osiris" plays in the recurring cutscenes where Lara has found a new Osiris piece, drawing one step closer to resurrecting him and defeating Set. One of the distinctive sounds of this score is a 10-member ethnic choir that I use for moments involving the ancient gods. In this case, I use the choir to give a sense of reverence, followed by an orchestral fanfare congratulating the player on defeating the tomb.

"Isis’ Lament" is played in the various “reward rooms” that occur at the end of each level. There are no enemies and the entire purpose is to give players extra loot, so I took that opportunity to do a quiet, reflective piece featuring a harp and flute duet rendition of Isis’ theme. Various sparkly timbres play throughout the cue to represent the copious treasures in these reward rooms, and the piece ends with tense high string chords that convey Isis’ desire to reunite with her husband after so many millennia.

"Under the Desert Sun" and "Blood on the Sand" comprise the Daylight overworld music suite. These two pieces were actually the first tracks I wrote for Temple of Osiris after completing the main theme, and so they were also crucial in establishing a tone and instrumentation for the rest of the score. Under the Desert Sun starts with a brief statement of the main theme on duduk, followed by a tuneful English horn melody (both gorgeously performed by Kristin Naigus). I used bright Arabic-esque string arrangements and a solo frame drum (performed by Aaron Craft) to give a feel of travelling through the Egyptian desert in burning sunlight. Lara’s theme is stated more fully with a cello solo towards the end of the cue (performed by Sebastian Freij), recapitulated in high strings that again give a sense of the desert heat.

"Blood on the Sand" is the combat variation of the Daylight overworld suite. I used fiery North African percussion (performed by Doug Perry) as well as handclaps and a pulsing 5/8 cello riff (performed by Sebastian Freij) to give a driving action sound. Like the ambient variation of this overworld suite, this piece explodes in bright Arabic-esque statements of the main theme a few times as well.

"The Hidden Tomb" plays when players find and enter one of the hidden challenge tombs in Temple of Osiris. It begins with a brief harp and flute flurry that references the Tomb Raider 1 “hidden item” stinger, then continues with calm and moody ambient orchestral music that features woodwind solos throughout. Since there are no enemies in these challenge tombs, I was free to use these quiet and emotional moments freely without worrying about melodies being interrupted.

"Khepri, the Sun Beetle" is the first true boss theme in the game, a giant flying scarab that has been corrupted by Set. Clustery strings and quirky muted trumpets play as Khepri is seen fluttering past the players in the opening cutscene, followed by a brassy blast once he lands and reveals his tremendous size. The entire fight takes place on a giant spherical rock that periodically rolls about through the level, and so I used wild string flourishes and runs to represent this chaos. The strings melody after the introduction is a sort of mini-motif for Khepri, previously heard in the "Ambushed!" cue a few levels before, and Set’s theme is played on brass towards the middle of the cue to show his evil influence on Khepri.

Week 3: December 22 (tracks 17-24)

"The Shrine of Osiris" plays in the hidden underground machinery of Osiris’ shrine – a giant wheel used to control the passage of day and night, and the patterns of weather. When Alex Wilmer (our audio director) first explained the concept of this room to me, the idea seemed so evocative that I immediately heard this music in my head; It was clear that a grandiose, reverent piece paying respect to these ancient Egyptian gods was needed. To convey this magnitude, I juxtaposed fast-moving background textures with a very slow, soaring melody on strings and horns. Isis’ theme can be heard on solo trumpet halfway through the cue, played majestically by Laura Saylor.

"Riddles of the Ancient" is used during a few of the more complicated puzzles in the game. When I write game scores, I like to play through them on my own exactly how the gamer will ultimately play them – no cheats, no walkthroughs. There were a few puzzles that took me a while to solve, and so I decided to do some extra cues here and there that would encourage players during these moments. This track draws particular influence from Indiana Jones in its harmony and orchestration, and uses dramatic swells and passages to represent little “ah ha!” moments the gamer would hopefully experience during some of these trickier puzzles.

"The Desert Rains" and "The Floodwaters Rise" (both composed by Paul Houseman) comprise the Rain overworld suite. It was clear from the beginning that the element of water had to be very present in the track. Therefore the soundscape of the piece consists of lots of mallet instruments, rain sticks and other sounds that mimic the sound of dripping rains.

"The Floodwaters Rise" (composed by Paul Houseman) is the combat variation of the Rain overworld suite. Paul had a lot of fun with this cue, combining elements of the Egyptian Arabic flavor with a new, flooded water element. The rhythmic ideas were written first as an underscore to Lara Croft's characteristic acrobatics, and melodic and textural ideas came later on, accentuating the watery setting.

"Tomb of the Ferryman" plays in the first of Sobek’s crocodile-infested tombs, an intricate network of underground rivers full of increasingly complicated puzzles. Like the other tombs, I approached this track by starting with a sustaining drone note and giving it to a soloist, but for this piece I used a soupy, evolving mid-range pitch instead of a bass note like the others. I sent this drone to our doublebass soloist Sam Suggs, with a brief explanation of this damp watery tomb and a simple instruction to “go wild and surprise us” – he came back with a wealth of unique sounds that I didn’t even know were possible on the instrument! I used these recordings for both this track and "The Putrid Depths", arranged them and wrote ambient orchestral music over it to this sparkly flooded tomb. This track also uses lots of subtle electronic textures, perhaps more than any of the other ambient music in the score.

"Dark Waters" is the action theme for the flooded waters tomb. This piece uses a biting 5/4 cello riff throughout (performed by Sebastian Freij), as well as an expanded group of hand percussion instruments played by Doug Perry – clappers, bottlecaps, and shakers in addition to African instruments such as the djembe, udu, and doumbek. The percussion instruments (along with a few orchestral colors) were used to give a watery texture while preserving the Afro-Arabic feel of the rest of the score.

"The Putrid Depths" plays in another one of the watery Sobek tombs – this time, a grotesque, foul-smelling sewer level with flammable gas pipes. Lara immediately comments on its foul stench as soon as she enters this level, and so I used murky orchestration at the start of this track to convey that swampy feel. This is the other piece that uses Sam Suggs’ brilliant doublebass improvisations, now focusing on jazzy plucked upright bass techniques. When I heard those recordings, my first instinct was to write a piece that paid homage to Chrono Trigger in its combination of orchestral and jazz sensibilities, most easily heard when the hand drums beat comes in at 1:13 (played by Aaron Craft). The combination of piano, harp, and cowbells for the ostinato later on is another reference to the Chrono Trigger sound.

"Sobek, He Who Eats…" is the boss theme for Sobek, an enormous crocodile god who has been corrupted by Set. When I visited Crystal Dynamics’ office for the first time, I saw Sobek’s concept art and immediately fell in love with the character. I could tell that the team had a lot of fun working with such a bizarre source material (look up Sobek on Wikipedia sometime…), and so I wanted to write an exciting boss theme that was intimidating but simultaneously a bit goofy. I wrote a melody featuring the “fluttertongue” brass technique (rolling the “r” while playing a note) to depict this massive creature periodically rising from the waters to attack Lara and friends. The second half of the piece portrays Sobek swimming underwater. I think this piece shows my Squaresoft influences more than any other in the Lara Croft soundtrack, carrying clear influence from the Vagrant Story score in its use of rhythm, harmony, and form to paint a very literal picture of the boss.

Week 4: December 29 (tracks 25-34)

“Snowfall" and "Iron and Ice" make up the Snow overworld suite. For this ambient track I wanted to convey both the frozen emptiness of the setting via orchestration, as well as an apprehensive feel to the harmonies now that Set is so close to realizing his evil plans. The last several pieces of music in the game are particularly dark and mysterious, and in “Snowfall” and a few others I used an ethnic vocal ensemble to achieve this otherworldly affect. The sounds for this ethnic chamber choir are from a sample library I myself produced, finishing only days before writing the Temple of Osiris score – it was incredibly rewarding to finally use these sounds in my own music!

"Iron and Ice" is the action cue in the Snow overworld suite. I needed this to be the most desperate and dramatic of the overworlds, and so I immediately knew that I wanted to bring back one of the motives from the main theme in this piece. The second half of the track recapitulates the quiet B-section of the Lara Croft Overture, but now on brassy horns and in a minor key, counterpointed by the riff from the first half of this piece!

"Tomb of the Architect" plays in a tomb full of giant gears and increasingly complicated traps. For this tomb theme, I once again took an experimental approach: I gave percussionist Doug Perry a mid-range pedal tone, and simply told him to give me a flurry of spooky metals, bowed percussion, and whatever percussive “toys” he could think of. Originally I planned to write orchestral music around his improvisations, but then Doug came back with at least 20 different instruments’ worth of recordings (!), all beautifully evocative and wonderfully creepy. I decided instead that the piece should feature only percussion and electronics, with his performances arranged and modified with various effects. There are periodic hints of the beat from the following action track in this cue as well, which I added so that the interactive music would transition more smoothly.

"The Grinding Gears" is the final tomb action theme in the game, once again evoking giant mechanical devices via percussion, orchestral stabs, and low pitched piano hits. Like with the Snow overworld, I knew I had to up the ante in terms of drama, and so once again I decided to reuse parts of the "Lara Croft Overture" that weren’t used yet elsewhere in the game. So in addition to referencing to Set’s theme early in the track, the brass (performed by James Naigus and Laura Saylor) also plays a hurried recap of the 5/8 motif from the Overture.

"Tomb of the Torturer" is the played in the deadliest, most difficult tomb in the entire game. The torturer’s tomb is noteworthy in that it uses darkness as a game mechanic, with areas nearly invisible until a player finds and lights torches spread throughout. I used a low pedal tone here to convey this dark emptiness, and once again used the ethnic choir for an even creepier feeling. As with the Tomb of the Architect, I avoided orchestral sounds and instead used various bowed percussion with electronic effects.

“Throne of the Mad God" is the final piece of ambient music in Temple of Osiris, played in the walkway leading to the final confrontation with Set. Originally, Alex Wilmer (our audio director) had temped this scene with an ambient cue from Tomb Raider Legend that used Nathan McCree’s original Tomb Raider theme, and I thought it was a brilliant way to pay homage to that score while conveying the calm-before-the-storm feel this area needed. So I created my own piece that juxtaposed the bravery of McCree’s theme with the tense apprehension of high tremolo strings and percussion effects. Actually, this track has a double meaning – In between my performances of McCree’s Tomb Raider theme on flute, low brasses play a subdued rendition of my own Lara Croft theme as a call-and-response, bridging the two franchises into one track.

"A Clash of Gods" plays in the first encounter with Set, now fully resurrected and prepared to conquer the world yet again… until the resurrected form of Osiris appears as well to stop him. I needed this first stage of the endboss fight to convey the terrifying grandeur of the two ancient deities, and so I used a large choir in addition to the most bombastic orchestrations in the entire soundtrack. Careful listeners might notice recaps of various motifs from other action pieces in this score, as well as a very subtle nod towards Nathan McCree’s music from one of the more gruesome encounters from the original Tomb Raider. This piece ends with a heavily syncopated flurry of ethnic choir shouts and Chinese tom solos (performed by Doug Perry).

“One Last Chance" is the final endboss theme, played once Lara and company have found the resurrected Set’s weakness. Game music fans know that Square has an incredibly rich tradition for masterful endboss themes, and so I felt particularly intimidated by the challenge of scoring this fight. The first thing I realized was that we would need two separate themes – one representing the colossal gods’ fight, and one representing Lara and company. This piece therefore focuses on the archaeologists’ heroism with a new, dramatic brass melody; Choir is once again used, representing Osiris’ heroic struggle as well as quoting Set’s theme.

"The Fall of Set" plays as a defeated Set is pulled back into the underworld Duat. The orchestra screams his theme one last time, followed by a flurry of orchestral and choral “chattering” textures representing the countless souls in the underworld rising up against him. This vocal chatter was one of many choral effects we recorded for my ethnic choir library, and I wrote this cue by mimicking their speech patterns with orchestral sounds and then using both simultaneously.

"Finale" is the ending movie, the resurrected Osiris bidding farewell to his family and the archaeologists finally escaping his temple. Isis’ theme is played over this tender goodbye, leading into a grandiose brass and ethnic choir passage as the curse is finally lifted from Lara and Carter’s hands. The Lara Croft Overture is recapitulated as they leave the temple and our story concludes.

Community challenge unlock bonus track: December 30th (track 35)

“Isis’ Lament" [Sebastian Freij Remix] is the first of three remixes I commissioned for this soundtrack. Sebastian plays cello on several pieces in this score (most notably on “Beneath the Desert Stars”), but one of his most unique talents is playing “live looped” electric cello. Seb played this entire piece in one single take, layering parts one at a time and using a system of foot pedals to arrange them live. When I first had the idea to include remixes in the score, I immediately thought of Seb reinterpreting one of my more melodic pieces in his own style, and so I’m very happy with how this performance turned out.

Community challenge unlock bonus track: February 6th (track 36)

“Army of the Dead" [SuperSquare Remix] is a dance remix of the Temple of Osiris tutorial theme. I composed the tutorial with a sort of faux-Arabic dance in mind, to make that first level especially fun and engaging for players – so when we were approved to have remixes on the soundtrack, I jumped on the opportunity to work with one of my favorite EDM artists. For this collaboration I intentionally gave very little direction, and instead just sent SuperSquare a series of 'stems', or isolated instrumental segments, that they could use in the remix however they saw fit. I’m very pleased with how well the piece works as an EDM track while retaining so much of the original feel.

Community challenge unlock bonus track: March 20th (track 37)

"Lara Croft Overture" [zircon Remix] is the final remix in the Temple of Osiris soundtrack, an electronica take on the main theme. Zircon is one of the world’s most well-known video game arrangers, having produced dozens of tracks for OverClocked ReMix as well as arranging for Video Games Live. He also co-founded the sample developer Impact Soundworks with me years ago, and was the producer behind several of the sampled instruments I used throughout the Temple of Osiris score, so it was an honor to collaborate once again and have him arrange one of my pieces. I’m particularly impressed by how this remix uses world instruments along with synthesizers to underscore Lara Croft’s globetrotting adventures – it’s an interesting complement to my approach to the score-proper and, I think, works brilliantly as an arrangement.

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