Earlier this year 80 Days composer Laurence Chapman stumbled across a Kickstarter project seeking funding in exchange for short recording sessions with a 30-piece orchestra.
Crowdfunding a scoring session might not be ‘conventional’, per se, but that didn’t deter Chapman, and after a few exchanges inkle studios co-founders, Jon Ingold and Joseph Humfrey, the composer was on his way to Portugal to record a reworked version of his Sorcery! 3 theme.
“Sorcery! 3, being a shorter and snappier piece, quickly became the prime candidate, though not without a few problems. I was frequently moving back and forth between London and Suffolk at the time of writing, and, as I don’t own a laptop, the Sorcery score only existed as a huge A3 handwritten manuscript that needed copying onto a computer before it could orchestrated.
“On top of that, the orchestra had no percussion, or, unsurprisingly, an Erhu or a Dizi: two of the Chinese instruments used in the theme. To counter this, I had to improvise and use the Erhu, Dizi, and percussion sounds from my sample library.
“Apart from those minor hitches, it was a pleasure to re-orchestrate Sorcery. When you’re writing for sample orchestras there are a ton of limitations, such as a lack of colour, limited expression, flat dynamics, and time consuming editing, so it was a relief to be able to score the piece with a real orchestra in front of me. Particular credit should go to the horn section for their spot-on performance of the theme, as well as the fantastic woodwind section who had some intricate scales as part of the accompaniment.”
Even though it might be one of the few iOS titles to feature an orchestral score, finding the right sound for Sorcery! 3 wasn’t exactly a straightforward task, with the series’ unique blend of classic western RPG elements and eastern influences turning the scoring process into a cat and mouse game of musical discovery.
“Getting the tone for the Sorcery! games has always been a bit of a puzzle. In some ways, they’re classic D&D, with all the trolls, goblins and elves one would expect from fantasy born out of the Tolkien tradition. But they’re also shot through with an eastern feel, based on Steve Jackson’s travels in the Nepalese mountains, and that flavour was definitely something we tried to bring out in the art style and the extended storylines, so it’s something we wanted in the music as well,” said inkle’s creative director, Jon Ingold.
“The last Sorcery! game used Fantastia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams for its theme, which is a glorious piece of music, but very western – it’s a pretty direct precursor to John William’s film-score work. We knew we wanted something with a more exotic feel to it this time around, and eventually, after working with Laurence, we settled on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a musical reference. Needless to say, we’ve been really excited with the results!”