Musical Influences on the Second Overworld Theme

I’ve been working on the overworld theme for the second level. It’s a snowy level—not holiday themed or festive, just a place that’s cold for a lot of the year, like where I grew up in Michigan. Here’s the piece in it’s current form, which I think is pretty much finished:

When I was writing the beginning of that melody that I had the feeling I was borrowing heavily from something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. After I posted an early draft to SoundCloud I got this comment:

Ah crap! It was Wind Waker! Here’s the part he’s talking about before I made some adjustments to it to make it a little less similar:

The 3/4 time, the chord changes through the vamp and the first half of the theme, the first couple of lines of the melody were all very similar to Dragon Roost Island.

I’m okay with borrowing heavily from other sources but I want to be careful that people’s reaction isn’t indignation that I stole material from something else and am trying to pass it off as my own. After realizing what piece I was borrowing from, I was particularly concerned about one phrase—in my opinion the most iconic from Dragon Roost Island—that I was borrowing the most literally (the second half of the excerpt above). I decided to change that phrase from F-Bb-G to F-Eb-D-G, which differentiated it from Dragon Roost while preserving the melodic strength of the line. That section of the piece is still pretty similar to Dragon Roost Island but at least I’m not ripping it off quite as verbatim. Here’s the same excerpt after that change:

Thinking about it a little more, I realized how many influences went into making the piece—a lot more than just Wind Waker. Some were on purpose, and some weren’t. Some were more toward literal borrowing of melodic ideas, rhythms, or chord changes, and some were more thematic or conceptual inspiration.

The snare drum rhythmic texture throughout the piece was heavily inspired by the clanging percussive elements in Trilobyte from the Rogue Legacy soundtrack:

The second theme, at 1:20, is a variation on the overworld theme from the first level in the game:

That overworld theme for the first level was heavily influenced by the Overworld Theme from Link to the Past. In my second level overworld theme I borrowed parts of Zelda’s chord progression, including the distinctive Neapolitan second:

The use of the Neapolitan, a little bit of modal mixture, and some of the general shape of the melody is influenced by the otherworldly Harry Potter theme by John Williams, also a minor tune in 3/4:

To warm up for composing, I had been playing around with Greensleeves, another minor song in 3/4, to try to capture some of its cold, snowy atmosphere. Listening back to it, a lot of the shapes of the individual phrases and some of the note choices might have come from that:

I think the descending toy piano line during the opening vamp was subconsciously inspired by Zhivago by Kurt Rosenwinkel, another tune in 3/4 in a minor key that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. Specifically, check out the descending line at 1:37:

I lifted the horn line at 0:40 pretty much note for note from the second half of of the main melodic line from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, which is a song that my elementary school teacher sung to the class when we went on a field trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and visited the museum where the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald is on display. I’m kind of okay with borrowing that melody because I changed a couple of notes and rhythms, added some counterpoint, and I’m using it in a background part instead of the main melody. Plus it’s just a few notes!

The harp line at 2:25 is inspired by Shnabubula’s use of the underground theme from Super Mario Bros. on his cover of All Blues by Miles Davis on the album Kind of Bloop, which is an homage to Miles’s record Kind of Blue. That recording plays with chromaticism and superimposing rhythms like 4:3 on top of the underlying 3/4 meter. Check it out at 9:34:

I think my use of chromaticism and fourths in that phrase was also influenced subconsciously by Freedom Jazz Dance by Eddie Harris:

I think that’s enough for one post! I’ve gathered all these videos in a YouTube playlist if you want to listen to them all in a row.

Author: Miller

Independent video game developer. Formerly Halo, Age of Empires.