“The best music game ever made”

Well, this op-ed is certainly flattering. I personally enjoyed reading the article quite a bit as working on the music side of the game was probably my favorite part of the project. Along with helping our great composers (Christopher Tin, Jeff Briggs, Mark Cromer, and Michael Curran) put together the new music, I got the privilege to select the historical pieces that comprised the background music from the Renaissance to the Modern era, giving me a great excuse to examine and expand my music library. I learned that many of the pieces that first spring to mind – say Beethoven’s Ninth – don’t work very well as soundtrack because they draw too much attention to themselves. Orchestral dances and middle movements, with more constant tempos and fewer climaxes, tended to work much better. (I couldn’t resist, however, adding Bach’s Violin Concerto because the climax is just that good…)

As for the John Adams, I always felt that he made a good choice for matching the inherent compromises and inconsistencies of the 20th Century as – though he is fully versed in the developments of Modernism, especially with regards to Minimalism – he remains a Romantic at heart. For Adams, Minimalist techniques are simply another tool as opposed to an end in and of themselves, giving his music a broad, expansive feel unique to the period. I did have to edit many of his pieces significantly as his dynamic range is enormous. Another piece I wanted to include for its impossibly beautiful and haunting tone – “Christian Zeal and Activity” – has a moving spoken word section which I had no choice but to leave out. Filling the entire Modern era with just one composer was, I admit, a fairly idiosyncratic decision, but I like games which evoke the feeling of having a unique designer on the other end.

Having said all that, I definitely want to thank Jeff Briggs and 2K Games for going out on a limb for me with this somewhat pricy decision. It was one of many things I asked for with Civ4 (such as releasing the AI SDK) without actually expecting to get them!

7 thoughts on ““The best music game ever made”

  1. Christopher Tin’s Baba Yetu was my favourite computer game song for a long time. I remember vividly playing over and over on the hardest level and each time I died I’d wait a couple of minutes to hear Baba Yetu again. It inspired me to explore world again. The only thing bad about the song was that singing it aloud away from the game made you look like a rambling idiot.

    It was finally eclipsed by Portal’s Still Alive, but I loved Coulton before that anyway.

  2. I went to Video Games Live and was completely blown away by Christopher Tin’s Baba Yetu and Coronation pieces. I never really noticed the rest of the Civilization 4 soundtrack, and especially don’t know much about John Adams, but I’ll endeavor to try to pay more attention next time I play.

  3. VRBones,

    You can sing Swahili? 😉 I’m also a big fan of Jonathan Coulton and his compatriots in humor, Paul and Storm.

  4. I think his point is that if you *try* to sing Swahili, you sound like a rambling idiot. Anyhow, thanks to Civilization, “El Grillo” is now a part of my choir’s repertoire (with me singing countertenor :S).

  5. Civ4 is a great game. And I was pleasantly surprised when I first entered the modern era and heard John Adams being played. He is my all-time favorite composer, but I thought he would have been out of reach for most game developers, who tend to go for more “popular” music. And I also thought something like Adams would have been disqualified on the grounds that he would not appeal to the average gamer. You proved me wrong there.

  6. you guys really did do a great service to video game music with civilization 4. baba yet was awesome. so was that modern age song, the People are Heroes. also over the last couple years playing Civ4, a few times people would walk into the room while the game is running and comment by saying, “oh, good music.”

    In this case, the music definitely enhances the game.

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