sidescroller-albumtn.jpgIn a Gamasutra interview with game designer Alexander Bruce and sound designer Robin Arnott, the soundtrack to Antichamber was described as "ambient and gentle."

As with the sound effects, which include recordings of bird song and running water, the atmospheric music score for the mind-bending puzzler is intended to calm the listener.

Siddhartha Barnhoorn has previewed the score in a twelve-minute "Antichamber Suite" posted to Bandcamp. We caught up with the musician to hear about his approach to the 2012 IGF Awards finalist in the category of technical excellence.

Navigating the interiors of Antichamber requires problem solving and rethinking how you normally interact with three-dimensional spaces. Would it have been too overt a choice to write music that was spooky or bizarre?

Siddhartha Barnhoorn : It was important that the score not be in your face, grabbing your attention, but that it be intertwined with your getting into the game. I had composed ambient music before for my solo album "Pillars of Light, and listening to it Alex thought something like this would be interesting for Antichamber. I started composing ambient tracks specially for the game and it sounded very relaxing while playing.


How did you first come into contact with the other staff members on Antichamber?

I've known Robin since 2006, and we have worked on various projects together. When he was working on movies, I composed music for his films, while these days he mainly does sound design. Last year he told me he was working on this game, which at the time was called Hazard: The Journey of Life. He felt that it would really suit ambient music and wanted to get me on board, which led to my getting in touch with Alex. From there we started to experiment.

Robin Arnott placed emphasis on the use of relaxing sound design in order to place players in the optimal state of mind for tackling the puzzles. Is that intended to be in contrast with the starkness of the corridors you make your way through?

It's very contrasting, indeed. On the surface, this world in Antichamber doesn't seem to make any sense. It's only when you stop and think about it that you can find the logic in it. Having the natural sounds in that artificial environment is there to help bring that contrast to life.

What are some of the instruments that you decided would be most useful in capturing the ambient quality you were looking for on the Antichamber Suite?

The shakuhachi is an instrument that I really like. It does have a specific role, but that is only revealed on the later levels. There, things start to get more content-based, as opposed to abstract.

I've used guitars to make my main ambiance. There are also a few synthesizers with soft-sounding pads. The sound of the koto is being weaved into the soundtrack as well. When you accomplish something, there is the sound of a string orchestra that you hear, which is a really different kind of sound than the ambience. There are other instruments I could have used, but they would have been too recognizable.

Is there something to the surreal quality of using instruments in a way where they cannot be immediately identified?

The main thing is that it must not be too distracting. I record the instruments very clean, without any effects. Then I go to work on these sounds, adding reverb and coloring. I do some equalizing and some stretching here and there in order to make the sounds a bit longer than they would appear naturally.

What has been your experience playing the game and responding to the puzzles?

I'm very impressed with how Alex has designed the whole thing. It looks great and I feel that the puzzles get very complex when you get further along. I myself am stuck at level 3. It can be a tough game at times, and very philosophical at points, but when you get into the zone it's very interesting.

Does that philosophical component of the game speak to you?

Very much so. I find that philosophical side to be very cool. I still have my 8-bit Nintendo here, and later got into PC gaming, but I've never played anything like this before.

How do you see the music score developing over the course of the game?

We came up with a concept for how the game should sound as you progress further. At level one, there would be one basic layer, which is just ambient, only an atmosphere. But when you advance to level two, you get an extra layer on top of that which is more melodic. It adds some subtle guitar sounds.

All of this is currently implemented in the game. By level 4, the music is totally different in comparison to the first levels. The sounds are richer and there are more percussive elements. You can hear it in the suite. It goes from something abstract and ambient to something with more structure and content. It slowly evolves, which is an approach that has been very interesting to work on.

For more information on the music of Siddhartha Barnhoorn, visit his Bandcamp page. See also the Antichamber website and Gamasutra interview