Post feature RSS In depth with the Portal: Awakening OST - part 3

Third and final part of a track by track dissection of the influences and techniques which went into the making of the Portal:Awakening OST

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This post follows on from the two previous posts discussing the music from the upcoming portal mod 'Portal: Awakening' in development here;

7. C.P.T.I. (Co-operative Portal Training Initiative)

For the most part this track was about having as little as possible in terms of layered melodies. I had previously experimented with just letting one long note run and attempt to make 2 minutes of interesting sounds from it in a project known as '3xp0sur3'. They were interesting enough noises but not really of use. with this project I thought that thematically, with the correct sound, one long texture would be perfect to create a mood as opposed to a song.
So I let the (previously mentioned) crystal .vst (virtual studio technology) run through one note and used the dials of a midi keyboard linked to tremolo and high pass effects to alter them in real time.
For all my want of a pure texture, its seemed kind of soft without an overt melody no matter how muted and mature I believed this one to be. The slow and long notes added a depth to the track that allowed the stuttering texture to change subtly in the background while creating an overall kinetic electronic-clockwork feel.

8. For science
''For science" is very much an experiment (and a minor begrudged failure) in automation. It is essentially the same two notes repeated over and over using two different synths.
The long airy synth that begins the track is another from the CM muzys studio, and I attempted to make it as interesting a sound as possible on its own by using long sweeps in frequency and adding further movement with a long timed phaser. On top of that I added the same notes ran through an pitch arpeggiated rhythm form in the previously mention crystal synth.
As with most creation, sometimes things don't turn out exactly as you want them to and, as I will openly admit, I am still learning to use all the functions in the muzys system (after so many years, shameful I know) I just couldn't get the rhythm to match up no matter how many knobs were tweaked and attributions adjusted.
I had shelved the track because of this, thinking it really wouldn't make the final cut. But I kept return
ing to it, somehow believing that it could be salvaged, that there was something strong there to be given a chance.
I worked on it over and over until, in the end I settled for fading out and in again on the transition notes to try and filter out the jarring effect it had when the notes switched.
Not perfect but by no means a reason to discard what was an otherwise successful track.

9. Leap of faith
For all the ambient tracks which a Portal based game may need to see the player through, infusing suspense subversively, providing paranoia through the walls of the test chambers. There comes a time when what is needed is flat out, fast paced electronica to get the mood sprinting in the correct direction.
I had mentioned in part 2 the need for variety both to feel that my own work is evolving and not stagnation on the same gimmicks and to give the developers scope and substance to work their game around.
I wanted to create a track which would be recognisable and be exciting enough to fit over any promotional materials such as a trailer.
This track is the counterpoint to the mis-firing automation of 'for science', here the automated synth fit perfectly in time and to add a little more that the usual techno drum beat I experimented with minimising the drum hits and giving them extended delays, this gave an (audible) appearance of fast drumming and added accents to the hits which are usually lost through programmed drums.
This is the track most recognisable as a full song on the soundtrack by way of it being more listenable than the ambient nature of the remainder of the songs. With that in mind I really wanted to work my own mark on it and make it closer to what is generally accepted as a 'song' as opposed to a mood setter within a game. It has highs and lows and more written parts than any other track previously discussed, thusly it took much more arranging and tweaking that the others.

I usually arrange tracks in a separate program from muzys, which is much more visual and intuitive to easy reorganisation of the various parts. This way I can also stop myself from over-thinking the sound.
As with anything, the strive for perfection, to give something one last polish here and there can end in the destruction of everything good that had come before. I am always concious and cautious of this and so, make as many attempts as possible to step back or cut myself from the ability to hone things.
I decided to take this track back to the ideas that I had made every attempt to step away from with this project, the loss of standard rhythm techniques, the need for the song to be the forefront of peoples attention. This track had to take a front seat and really drive the action it was attached to.

So look out for 'Leap of faith' in promotional material
for Portal: Awakening. And if you haven't yet try and get hold of a copy of Portal (it comes as part of 'The orange box') for whatever system I am almost resolute in it being one of the easiest and most fun games of recent years.


Very good, really like the style especially in the first two tracks

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I like how you write and think about your music newnowmusic! Great read and very interesting!

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