October 15, 2011 10:15 PM | jeriaska
The fundamental challenge of writing for Machinarium, the composer has described during interviews, has been multilayered: requiring melodies that are appropriate to the atmosphere of the game's settings, that can loop while the player contemplates the in-game puzzles, and without quickly growing tiresome.
In the years between his award-winning soundtrack for Samorost 2 and the upcoming Samorost 3, the musician has been piecing together a studio album called Zorya, recently released under his artist name, Floex. We conducted an interview with the musician to hear how the aims of Zorya depart from the requirements of in-game music score and in what ways the album may intimate an emerging style for areas of Amanita's Samorost 3.
About how long would you say Zorya has been in progress? Amanita's Jakub Dvorsky has spoken a little about the project online, and from what he's mentioned it sounds as if it has been some time since you first began.
Tomas Dvorak (Floex): It ended up being a very long distance between albums. My previous one, [Pocustone], the debut for Floex, was released ten years ago. All this time I've been meaning to make a new album, but I couldn't find enough songs that worked together.
Several times I was working on the album, and I used some of the tracks created during this period. "Petr Parler" is a song from 2004, and paradoxically, even though it's the oldest song on the album, it's one of the most experimental and progressive. "Forget-me-not" was written in 2006, around the time of making Samorost 2. "Mecholup" is from this same period, a time when I was working on the album but could not finish it.
The album covers a long period of time. I'm happy that it is finally done and people can listen to it. It's a great feeling.
"Forget-me-not" you associate with the making of Samorost 2, but is the style intended to be a departure from what you brought to the game?
This song has a story to it. At the beginning of what's become the journey for this song, I wrote the piano motif that is heard at the beginning of a friend's short film. The film was called "Forget-Me-Not," and it was about a character whose grandmother had Alzheimer's disease. For the purposes of the student film this motif started out rather abstract, but I found it hypnotic and inspirational.
Sometimes I find such a small thing can move mountains, creatively. In the end the song wound up being rather epic, at least for me. I don't think there was any conscious influence by Samorost 2, although for both it was a visual image that was the motor for finding the emotions of the songs.
None of these songs were written during Machinarium, because the game took up all of my time, though that experience was very helpful for me to finally complete the album. First of all it gave me more confidence. (laughs) The work flow was good at that time and I discovered many things through the making of the game. All these things turned out to be very helpful for Zorya.
There are vocal tracks on the album, which is something you don't hear in Amanita games. That is, unless you count the robotic speech synthesis portions of the Machinarium soundtrack.
There is some singing on my first album, but this time I was trying for a different approach. For me it was a very adventurous journey. It was at times very difficult, but I learned a lot from it. Now I'm keen to do even more of it. It's something that I'm very curious to try in the future.
How do you divide up the requirements of a vocal track between composer, lyricist and vocalist?
It was not my intention to come up with the vocal line myself. I wanted to write the music and give it to a vocalist. That worked out well with the Italian song, "Nel Blu."
This couple from Milan, a girl and a boy called "Musetta," found me through Machinarium. At first we tried working over the internet, but eventually I went to Milan and recorded at their studio. It was a great time, though I spent the entire time in the studio and didn't have the chance to see the city.
Still, it was an "Italian experience," because of these two people. Sometimes they would get impassioned and start fighting about something, which I couldn't understand because it was in Italian, but I could see fire in their eyes. Then they would turn to me and say, "Don't worry, this is how we work." I quickly became friends with them and I think it's not the last song that we will record together.
Another of the vocal tracks is performed by James Rone. How did this collaboration come about?
It was very hard for me to find a singer for this song. It's really quite complex. I tried it with three different vocalists before finding James. It was awfully hard to find someone to sing such high notes. I put a note on my Facebook page and people started contacting me. James ended up writing me to offer his participation. He was the one who sung it how I had imagined it in my head.
My experience writing lyrics for the song was concerned with the number of syllables and every sound bringing a certain mood. Anya Stewart took my original melody and found just the right words to fit to it. For me that was quite incredible. Originally she is from the U.S.A., but lived awhile in Prague and is very multidisciplinary. She sings, performs music and now is in Paris directing films. I think I'll be writing music for her next movie, which I'm looking forward to.
Do you feel there might be a place for a vocal track in a future game?
I don't suppose I'd work on a song for a game, but I'm open to polyphonic vocals without words. More abstract could work and be interesting.
Are there any collaborations that emerged out of the Zorya album that you feel might be worthwhile to continue in the setting of a game score?
I do have an idea to make a small chamber orchestra of four instruments for the score of Samorost 3. On "Veronika's Dream," Tomáš Jamník plays violoncello. He is a young star of classical music interpretation and a member of the Berlin Philharmonic, but above all he is a really nice guy. For the Samorost 3 soundtrack, his wife might join us, as she plays the violin. I could play clarinet and another colleague of mine, playing in the Floex band, could join us on bass clarinet.
Writing score for this chamber orchestra would be a completely new and different experience for me, so I'm curious. But I don't think this would be the general principle of the whole soundtrack. It might work for some parts of it.
[Images courtesy of Minority Records. For more information on the artist, visit the Floex website.]