I’ve been asked now several times about my motivations, intentions and inspirations for Dreams soundtrack.
Dream has been my first O.S.T for a videogame (or as well, a videogame that actually released ;)) Another OST was Lethis - Path of Progress, which is quite different to Dream though :)!
I put all songs with their respective names in order of appearance. I hope you like my work, and hope as well that perhaps you may find your way deeper into Howard’s story with my explinations.
Thanks for reading (and/or commenting)!
He we go! :
Menu and Hub
Menu Song: Counting Sheep
Counting Sheep is probably the first song you’ll hear in the game. It serves as Dreams Main Theme, and I originally made it a monoinstrumental piece (you may find the notes on the piano ;) ). But I decided that it should be properly arranged, with a record of me humming the melody (very subtly) in the background. I wanted it to be very etherical and floating - a bit of a lullaby. It was the 2nd song I made for Dream. What was the first one ;)? Read along! :)!
“New Game” Song: Monologues
Monologues was actually my first try for a more darker song for the game, and originally planned to make an appearance in a nightmare. Yet it is too melodical and full for this purpose. You can’t actually hear to complete piece in the game so far, yet with the help of a special item you may find somewhere in the game… that will be possible ;)! Monologues uses different inspirations, I wanted to make it sad, dark and etherical as well, and if you listen closely, there is a telephone ringing used later in the song - foreshadowing the first nightmare’s call from Howards conscience.
Jukebox Song: Bipolar (Alternative Version)
This one shocked so many people, and I enjoy it everytime I watch a Let’s Play of the game. This song is so out of place, people get confused, and that is entirely its purpose. Dream is not a happy game. This song is actually an alternative version of the song played in the Hollow - also a foreshadowing song. I’ll explain in the ACT I part, why i called this song “Bipolar”.
HUB Song: Ebb & Flow
Ebb & Flow is perhaps the most popular song so far in the game. It takes Dreams Main Theme as a basis, but I actually reversed the main theme as well in this song. So if you play it backwards, you still get to hear the main themes melody. I wanted to express a sense of adventure and the unknown. Ebb and Flow is metaphorical for sleeping and waking up. As Howard’s reality is very sad (Ebb), and his escape into dreams is his remedy (Flow), I considered it to be a fitting name. Also: There are ocean sounds and seagulls mixed into the song foreshadowing ACT III - the conclusion of Howard’s journey.
“Heliopolis”, or formerly “The Door to Heliopolis” was the first song I’ve written for the game. The original Dream super-early alpha had but one song by one by one of the developers - I took it, rearranged it and added the main theme on top of it. I wanted it to sound very deserty, adventurous and at the same time empty, wonderous and beautiful. This is the player’s first interaction with Howard’s Dreams, and I felt it needed this melancholic nature to engage and motivate the player. Fun fact: The chants later in the song are sung by me, singing “Sun” and “Wind”. Very lyrical, eh ;D? Heliopolis means: The city of the sun - Original an egyptian expression for the antique cities.
-> Maze Reversed Enlightenment
The title of this one reflects what howard has to do basically: Turn OFF lights to understand what’s going on. I wanted this song to be very sombre and creepy - and also tried to make it sound like a song that seems it is played backwards naturally. Fun Fact: The song you hear when entering the catacombs for the first time, is this song but 100x slower than the version when you activate Smokey, the friendly dungeon shadow ;). I also made the smokey sounds, by heavily distorting my voice.
-> PC Light.exe
This one is a bit of an alternation of the reversed enlightenment theme, with the original smokey-cry at the end. It serves as an indicator that you have entered a darker side of the dream, foreshadowing the mazes.
-> Snow Arbitrary Weather Conditions
This one was fun to make - The original version of the song was much more livelier than the one now implemented: I chose to “calm” it down a bit, because it wasn’t going along with the sense of wonder and the open desert. The desert is no place for a dance party, but still - well - a desert ;).
You can find both versions on my soundcloud place, or the OST Plus, once it’s released :)
Garden: Beyond the Graveyard
This one, i wanted it to be cringeworthily cheesy, and somehow beautiful enough to make it worthwhile. The almost sharp violin passages almost urge you to succumb to the silent and melancholic mood of the arrangement, while also remining you of your own childhood. While the first half is far more vivid, the second part is set more in the background, and contemplative.
This song is, well, bipolar. It’s 2 songs in fact. The first half is more of a mystic nature, and sounding a bit oriental - some say pentatonic and chinese. The second one is somehow calmer, yet more intense. I heavily worked with echoes, to give the rather narrow passages and pathways a depth, while also showcasing how huge and endless the area is (foreshadowing the end of the dream)
Nightmare 1: Unplayable Melody
Also, very fun to me seeing the reactions in Let’s Plays :). The weird sound you hear, is actually the sound of a piano pedal being put down aggressively. The melody you hear in the background is muted from time to time - As you cannot access the piano area in this Dream, you’re in constant wonder, who and where the piano is played - The distortion effects added present and reflect the puzzle and mystery of the 1st Nightmare. Also, you can hear Dreams Main Theme again sometime, as a reflective element that you are actually asleep.
Again, watching Let’s Plays, people tend to be very shocked at the beginning of the Dream - it’s a sudden shift from the warm desert, down to a very cold and “logical”, almost reasonable environment. I tried to mix electro tunes, harsh unharmonic instruments and jazz elements down in this one, with a deep cello melody in it’s main part, also mirroring the Dream Main theme at a point. I wanted it to be a big contrast to the first Act in general - cold and harsh.
-> Puzzle Lógos & Texture
This is my favorite work for the game. And as it is with music, I cannot tell you why, it might be, because i’ve put a lot of time into this song and it’s electro/organic nature. Many people have trouble finding the core melody of this one, as it is in a 7/8 beat environment. This music represents the urge to solve Howard’s puzzles, and chores he has to undertake to solve the mysteries of the faculty, and eventually his life.
-> Elevator Interrupting Elevator
By far the hardest song i had to make. Elevator music. Yeay! I can tell you - composing music that is so … unintrusive… is a hard task - and hence - I ignored that: It’s a fun song - and i wanted it to be. In this cold, faculty environment, the elevator, a closed box of some sort, is the only happy place - a place to hide - yet you never stand still or can stay in this elevator for a long time.
Stairs : Stairs and Particles
This one was influenced by several tracks from Square-Enix’s “Lightning Returns”, to which’s OST i listened to at that time. I wanted to reflect the fact, that this is sort of an Escher-puzzle without compromising the cold nature of ACT 2 in general. And somehow I found my ideas to this song in another game ;). And it has the most prominent melody passage in the entire OST in my opinion, just because it breaks so much with the initial arrangement.
Rollercoaster: Memory Lane
Again, I was influenced by “Rollercoaster Tycoon” for this one. The Rollercoaster level will showcase many events in Howard’s past, and the fair-flavour of a themepark fit perfectly with this level.
Nightmare 2: Cupcakes
I dislike dolls. And especially if they make me eat funny cupcakes. Again, I wanted this song to be very cold, but more traditionally creepy than the 1st Nightmare’s music. Harpsichord, Church organ, a very dissonant melody, female choir (dolls, eh) and as well a reflection on the rollercoaster dream (3/4 measure).
This one is on one hand an hommage to Christophe Héral’s work in Beyond Good and Evil, and influenced by Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 musicians” - and on the other hand my personal take on a tropical, calm and warm island resort. I think it’s the song I’ve spend most time on. I wanted it to sound magical, almost out-of-this-worldish and simply relaxing, but still motivating.
-> Puzzle music (not yet implemented) Nepotism
Nepotism is almost a rearrangement of “Baldachin”, but a bit more vivid, mysterious, playful and dramatical - with added tango/samba elements in it’s second part, and a more prominant use of saxophone. It’s more of a “troube in paradise” song, reflecting the original tropical athmosphere, yet emphasising the current nature of the environment.
This one is a bit of an hommage to Joe Hisashi’s work on “Spirited Away”- especially his song “The house at swamp bottom”. I wanted this song to be very soothing, calm, beautiful and a bit sad. I added light drums, a prominent base line, and make a last beautiful song for the game, before it’s conclusion. And especially before the Hospital…
This is the only monoinstrumental song in the entire game. And it’s sad, melancholic and feels a bit empty at times - just like - but that is still a spoiler. so: psssht ;)
Nightmare 3: Nocnitsa
The most spherical song in the game by far. Oh, and scaring people is so much fun, you should try it ;). The game added another beat sequence, that sounds like heavy, rattling breathing to it, which works perfectly for this level. A Nocnitsa is a creature from Slavic mythology - a sort of a vampire lady draining your life force, manipulating your actions. You’ll know, when you’ve completed this 3rd Nightmare … ;)
Credits song: -ESC- RL
This akronym is simply “Escape from real life” - I wanted to make a song, that effectivly congratulates the player for playing, while again playing the main theme - which is later on becoming more festive and vivid.
I hope I could answer some questions, or inform you a bit about my work.
Thanks for listening to the OST!