When discussing the world of "Baroque", the uniquely atmospheric music is a fundamental aspect. The composer, Masaharu Iwata, is best known for his work on the "Ogre Tactics" series.
Let's start with what got you the position.
What got me the position was being introduced by Square during the production of "Treasure Hunter G". You could say that Mr. Yonemitsu and I were inseparable after that (laughs).
What kind of communication was there about Baroque's music?
After the initial customary approach of explaining the setting of the game, Mr. Yonemitsu would show me videos to demonstrate the feeling the music should have, but I still struggled when it came to the impressions that individual songs should convey. So Mr. Yonemitsu emailed me what you could call poetry, just 2 or 3 lines per song. Things like "Countless taxis speed toward my baby without showing signs of braking. But I couldn't make it in time and they ran it over." Amazing stuff (laughs). They helped me to vaguely understand the direction of the song, but they made me feel like I was going insane (laughs).
After I received these poems, I realized that the overall impression of the music should be like poetry (laughs). Generally speaking however, we had to discuss everything several times while I pieced things together bit by bit. First I would make a song for the dungeon. I was told not to make ordinary melodious songs, but for awhile I felt that what I was making was fairly unappealing. That's when he told me that I shouldn't worry about making anything that sounded proper. As a result, most of the songs are more like sound effects than actual songs.
Overall, how long did it take to create the soundtrack?
There were quite a lot of preliminary meetings about what form the project would take. I'm always extremely late to work so I was annoying various people, and I don't feel like I finally started to release useable songs until December. So with all of that behind me and finally being on the right track, I was creating songs until mid-April. As far as jobs go, it was very easygoing. I was just being selfish and wanted to do things my way. They didn't have a lot of requests for me and there was plenty of time to spare. It's not like I was completely slacking in the beginning, but I feel like I could have been more punctual. It was a very nice feeling to immerse myself in the work.
Were all the songs you created included on the CD?
Yes. Later on I added some sound effects to the cutscenes, but only to provide the songs with extra impact. Since my work on "Treasure Hunter G" was mostly melodic and I personally like that type of music, I wanted to test my abilities by branching out and the timing was perfect. I didn't feel this way at the time, but now I'm embarrassed about having added all those sound effects to the movies. When I was working on "Treasure Hunter G", I similarly messed around by giving all the songs strange names because I assumed Square would definitely change them later. As it turned out, Square was tolerant and respected the composer's creative intent. On the other hand, let's just say I was angry during my time at Quest. (laughs).
Do you have a favorite song on the CD? Are there any you find particularly memorable?
Sure. Track 3, "Sanctuary", because it's the first full-fledged song I created. I buy all sorts of new equipment every time I start a new job, but the project always ends before I get to use it. As always, I bought a bunch of new equipment and this was the first song on which I got to use it properly. If you wanted to know about songs I find particularily memorable, it would also be this track because it's the strangest song I've made so far. Maybe the strangest song is track 7, though? It's like a Buddhist chant and we all called it Namu Ami for that reason, because it's just deep voices and chanting that repeats endlessly (laughs).
By the way, the opening song had been completed for quite some time. It was a little different from the current one, and was created by Sting's in-house composers*. I was confused as to why they wanted me to redo it, since I was really into the old song (laughs). I kept asking them "Isn't this one good enough?". In the end, that song wasn't used in the game but it is included as a bonus track on the CD.
*John Pee and Toshiaki Sakoda were the composers, and worked alongside Mr. Iwata and Mr. Hitoshi Sakimoto on "Treasure Hunter G". This song, which had already been completed, was included with the promotional "Baroque Report" distributed before the game's release. You can find it amongst the 4 bonus tracks (15-18) on the CD.
When did you start writing music?
The very beginning of my career was in my late teenage years. There was a company called Bothtec that was recruiting someone to make music for PC games. I was hardly able to do any composing there, it was just a part-time job where I typed in songs. It felt like low-level data entry. When asked why I joined the company, my answers lacked integrity (laughs). Well, I've always been really into YMO and I like synths... so I finally bought one. But it's on a loan (laughs). It would be a waste to just pay interest on it, so why don't I try and make some money with it? So I made something that could barely be called a song and sent it out to a few companies, but it didn't work out at all. The only one that asked me to come in was Bothtec. At the interview, I asked "When can I start?" and easily landed the position.
I've liked video games from the very beginning. So since I was working part-time, I was able to slowly work on making music for them. While learning from other programmers, I decided to focus on the NES and managed to create a sound driver for the system. These days however, I can't do any programming at all (laughs). But I think those were the days when I started my career in earnest. Making my own songs. The only thing I can't say for certain is what the name of the software I was writing music for was (laughs). "Relics"* or something (laughs). Anyway, I was able to go freelance after about a year.
* "Relics: Fortress of Darkness"
An action game released for the Famicom Disk System in April of 1987. It was published by Bothtec who mainly worked in porting games. The title was infamous amongst those who played Disk System games back in the day because of its abnormally frequent load screens.
Have you worked on any titles since becoming freelance?
That's right. Since working part-time at Bothtec was mainly just data entry, it really felt like a grueling part-time job. Especially since it felt like my music wasn't good enough to get me anywhere better than this. I couldn't even compose. You feel like a total fraud, you know? It felt like I didn't even know what I was living for, really (laughs). Even though I was freelance, I had an ongoing relationship with Quest where I did music for a game called "Magical Chase". After that was "Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen" and I think maybe something for Gameboy or NES.
I believe you often work alongside Mr. Hitoshi Sakimoto, isn't that right?
I'm no match for Sakimoto-kun. It feels like I'm not worthy to work with such an extremely talented individual. An acquaintance of mine at Bothtec introduced us while I was doing low-level part time work there. In those days he insisted he couldn't compose. But with talent like his, once he got started on something there wasn't anything he couldn't do and it felt like he surpassed me in no time. He's the one that made all the sound drivers. That's the reason we started working together. If it wasn't for that, I don't think I'd be here right now.
At that time, we were experimenting with various methods of making sounds on computers. I learned about FM sound generation and we accumulated a lot of know-how about creating songs. Above all, it was great that I got to meet him. So in any event, he began doing freelance work and tempted me to go in that direction as well so we started doing jobs together occasionally - well when I say it like that, it sounds like he enticed me down a bad path (laughs). But we'd usually work on our own. Well, Sakimoto-kun is naturally someone who can work on his own. In my case however, there is no such thing as being able to do anything on my own (laughs). But at least there's the preconception that two people are needed for only the most difficult of projects. The titles I undertook on my own always seem to be Nintendo games, which are always popular.
I have no work ethic (laughs). I'm never motivated when I work on my own, so I undertook the rare and valuable game "Magical Chase" since I got to collaborate. When "Ogre Battle" rolled around, I was appointed to do it myself but things got a bit out of hand (laughs). So Sakimoto-kun had to come in. Anyway, the recent "Baroque" was a big title for me to undertake on my own. Well, I do quite a few titles that not much is known about (laughs).
Has there been anything happening in the game music scene recently?
It went nearly unheard of in Japan, but something called "Fade to Black" came out for Playstation which also had a good PC port. I believe the composer was someone named Raphael Gesqua. The game had some connection to "Another World" initially... but that's old news now. Afterward, they made "Flashback" which was a sequel to that. I think both had the same composer. It seems the games were made by the game department of a movie studio. The composer was employed there because he originally worked on film scores. That makes him feel really legitimate. I think he's currently my favorite person in the industry.
There really are some wonderful games out there nowadays, aren't there?
I wouldn't know since I don't get to play many games (laughs). I'm always working. I don't think there are many composers who still play games very often. For some reason, they don't seem to play them much. I used to get angry about that back in the day. Like, if you don't like games, why are you making a living off of them? (Laughs) People who produce games are also like that, aren't they? Maybe the difference is that I'm not interested in making games. I loved games when I was young, so I couldn't stand that attitude. These days I don't have a problem with it. But in my case, I think I like games first and work second (laughs).
What kind of music do you usually listen to?
You know, I don't listen to music very much even though I'm in the music business. But in this kind of situation, I have to look cool and pretend I know what I'm talking about (laughs). I often just listen to film soundtracks (laughs). Yes, really.
So then, what's your favorite movie? (laughs)
I like Star Trek quite a bit. I bought "The Next Generation" on LaserDisc. I love it but it seems a little opportunistic (laughs). It's nice getting to see it again though. When I bought the LaserDisc box set, it took up so much space that I could hardly see my floor (laughs).
Do you like space operas?
It would seem so. I personally don't think "Ogre Battle" falls into that classification - I think it's more commonly referred to as orchestral music, but if I couldn't work with that sort of genre then my career would be in trouble.* I think my music would annoy people who are legitimately into music if they heard it. I didn't listen to classical music originally because I didn't like it at all. Even though I didn't care for it, I started frequently listening to movie soundtracks and eventually fell in love with it. I started listening to it through my hobbies. I went to see the first "Star Trek" movie when I was in middle school. Back then I thought the music was really good, so I bought the orchestral soundtrack.
*Translator's note - Iwata rambles so much that it's hard to tell if he seriously just mistook the "space opera" fiction genre for a nonexistent type of operatic music or if I'm just getting really confused.
That was Jerry Goldsmith, wasn't it?
That's right. It was really amazing. I like Goldsmith. I wonder if John Williams does too. James Horner also said that he was inspired by "Star Trek". I listen to all kinds of music, but the music from "Star Trek" is especially good. In "Red Heat", Schwarzenegger becomes a Russian police officer... I think it was something like that. When the singer screams in that song, it's awesome! When I thought about it, I was really surprised that the music in other big films was great too. "Titanic" was also good.
How has your music changed over time?
The music I've made has generally been very clear and easy to understand. My work on "Magical Chase" has proper melodies and feels like pop songs. "Ogre Battle", "Tactics", and "FFT" are all songs that excite the listener. My songs are fun and amusing, but there's a crazy part of me that takes over sometimes (laughs). "Baroque" was really out there, being set in a broken world where everyone has no energy to do anything and lives through their delusions... At first I didn't really understand what was going on, but after talking to Mr. Yonemitsu several times and organizing it all in my head, I realized that it was a very cold and languid world. I was finally able to grasp the mystery of the story. So there were some songs that had a melody, but I had to make it so that things never got too fast-paced. Originally I was very poor at making exciting music (laughs), probably because I'm always looking at things from a slightly colder perspective, so everything worked out just right.
What kind of sound sources did you use for sampling?
I basically just used things from one of those sound effect CDs and recordings that I made myself. Like I'd take a paperclip and shake it around in a case and then use that sound (laughs). The CD didn't contain a convincing sound effect for dripping water, so I tried to record one myself in my bathroom in the middle of the night (laughs). I then process the sounds in various ways. In the game's ending and dungeons there are songs that have rhythms, but I didn't use any rhythm samples in them. Instead I processed the sound of a shotgun, and it took on that kind of feeling. It seemed strange to me, but you can hear a rhythm in it. That doesn't mean that it makes any sense though (laughs). I just did it because it was interesting, you know?
BAROQUE MUSIC EXPLAIN - Song Commentary
BAROQUE Original Soundtrack
Digicube / SSCX-10021 / ¥2039
1. Great Heat 20320514
Opening. Great Heat Wave, May 14th 2032. This was originally supposed to be Mr. Sakoda's song (Baroque 205 Blue) until halfway through development. Since I had been thrust into this project so late, I was reluctant to create a replacement song but I decided to finally do it because it meant we could make the opening movie longer. I wanted to stay as true to Mr. Sakoda's original as possible, but things got a little radical. I started by creating a melody that I played on a K5000S. Nearly all of the synth sounds are the K5000S with bass from a CL-50 overloaded BassStation with an added distortion mix. The second half of the melody was made on the SG01v. I decided to create an atmosphere of distortion by including metallic sounds such as bass drums and snares, along with the sounds of cannon explosions interjected by the noise of factory machines. All of the above was overloaded in the PQ-50 to distort it, with the PQ-50 also providing EQ adjustment. The sound resembling a hi-hat in the latter half was made by processing the sound of a shotgun with SoundForge using an S3000XL. While there are a lot of tracks on the CD, this is the original. I made this while watching the opening movie exported to a videocassette, but due to some mistake, it overran by nearly 30 seconds and so the song in the original game had to be cut short in order to fit.
2. Into our trespasses
The song that plays when entering the dungeon. The order called for "a song that is the peak of solemn gravity. Short. Introductory song." At first I thought it sounded too grandiose so I added a certain timidity to it, and I think it came out OK. Most of it was done on a JV, and underneath that is a male chorus taken from a sound effect CD and played through the S3000XL. The metal impact that can be heard near the middle is the processed sound of a textile cutting machine. The drum-like sound is something exploding, maybe a cannon I think.
The first song I made. I made it for the cultivation chamber, but it turned into a dungeon song. The song is meant to convey the extraction of pain and the droplets of that pain coming together before finally becoming a Little and taking off at the end - I guess you could call it a distorted womb? All of the sound was created with the S3000XL. The sound that resembles laughter was produced by increasing the pitch of a dog barking. I recorded the water sounds myself. Finally the person saying "Yai, yai" is me (laughs). This is the first song I made using the new sampler I bought so it's memorable for me.
I was told to make a "twisted and sad song", and I made it assuming it was for when the player meets their clones - but it turned out to be for Eliza (laughs). I was aiming for the theme of "oneself" and used as simple of a melody as possible. Because it's full of clones, I selfishly assumed that they would obviously be in cold storage and so I finished it off with a slightly cold sounding texture. The first arpeggio and the intermittent bass were from the JV, the melody was done on the SG01v and the K5000S, and the pad was also the SG01v. The percussive sound is an explosion filtered through the S3000XL.
A song made from nothing but sound effects. I only used the S3000XL because it was entirely sampling work. I wanted to try making a collage of industrial sounds. It's mostly processed sounds of factory and construction machinery. However it was supposed to evoke a memory from before the Great Heat Wave and I wanted to incorporate some kind of human element, so I added the sounds of demonstrators hitting an iron pipe in the streets - changing the pitch and pan using an LFO to evoke the feeling of a mental realization. The voice that occasionally comes in is an announcement at a concert venue played in reverse with a distortion applied and converted into a waveform using the S3000XL.
6. A STYLE of BAROQUE
I was deeply moved by the incredibly beautiful cutscene. I knew I had to make this song while I was in that emotionally moved state (laughs). I wanted to make a song that looked like a chaotic flow without many distinct colors. All the rhythmic elements were processed explosion sounds played with the S3000XL. The K5000S was used for the pad, and the bass was done using the SG01v and K5000S.
7. Namu Ami
According to Mr. Yonemitsu, who titled all of the songs, this one is called "Namu Ami (Buddhist Prayer Song) because it is the name of a band consisting of two female singers (that's a lie), one named Namu and the other Ami" (laughs). I was worried about making such a mysterious and ominous song because I didn't think I'd be able to do it on my own without screwing up. Only the S3000XL had to be used because it consisted entirely of sampling. Starting at the beginning, the "guoon guoon" (droning) sound is the beating of a large drum, pitched up and looped. The "gari gari" (scratching), "jyari jyari" (grainy), and "chiri chiri" (crackling) sounds were stereo samples produced by pitch shifting the sound of shaking a small box containing paper clips.
The assignment specified a "twisted sad song". Since the description I was given matched the "twisted and sad" song for Eliza, I went with the same theme. The melody was made mostly from sound effects. I was pleased with that mental image of extracting something and having pain come gushing out, so I included flowing sounds. I thought it was a cheap move, but I layered in a lot of sounds of babies crying anyway. In fact, it makes me cringe at myself to this day (laughs). The melody was played on the SG01v and K5000S, and everything else came from the S3000XL.
9. One foot in the grave
It's the training dungeon song, but before I knew it, they made a gameplay demo so it was also used for that. It had a moderately neutral atmosphere, but because it's a dungeon theme I still wanted it to leave you with the feeling of darkness. So I aimed for something restrained and in good taste, but with an ominous edge. The BassStation and SG01v were used for the bass, the SG01v and K5000S for the pads, the Pro600 for the descending sounds in the first half, the melody in the latter half is the JV, the bow string and low-pitched strings were the JV, and the rhythm - as usual - uses the S3000XL processed sounds of explosions, a coupler, and factory sounds.
10. ALICE IN
I made this song for floors in which NPCs appear, but where was it actually used? (laughs) Rather unexpectedly, it somehow became a horror song but I enjoyed making it so it's all good. The melody was created on the K5000S, onto which two layers of sound were added. The sounds that bubble up from below are from the K5000S, while the discordant bell-like sounds were created using the SG01v and Pro600. All the other sounds are voice sounds generated by the S3000XL. Searching through the data now, I think I discovered a rough draft for this song. The song feels like "discovering the body of a strange murderer" and I gave up on it halfway through the intro (laughs).
It's a song of "Creation and Preservation", but was the original "oneself" song that paired with the theme of Eliza. It's a gentle feeling song that evokes a feminine sadness. The chorus and bass were done on JV, the flowing energy sound effect, the low-pitched male sounds, and the hand-bell were all done with the S3000XL. I also used the SG01v and K5000S a little.
12. Neverending Cycle
I can't remember too well how I made this song. The chorus was JV, and later I used the K5000S. The S3000XL was also used for awhile.
The ending where the protagonist finally fuses with the Creator and Preserver without going mad. I wanted to bring it to a climax without going overboard. I used all the instruments except for the K5000S. I didn't do anything special, so I won't go into detail.
14. HOLD BAROQUE INSIDE
The staff roll. The last song I made. I had various thoughts about how to do this, but I decided to go with a restrained arrangement themed around oneself and Creation and Preservation. The song uses all the instruments except for the Pro600. All of the rhythms, which included things like the heavy claps and explosion sounds, were passed through the ROD881, resampled, and then run through the S3000XL.
15. Deep Interludium
16. BAROQUE 204 Forest
17. BAROQUE 205 Blue
18. BAROQUE 206 Black
The 15th track, Deep Interludium, is the work of John Pee, who was also one of the main composers on "Treasure Hunter G". Tracks 16-18 were written by Mr. Sakoda who is also an employee of Sting that contributed to the soundtrack of "Treasure Hunter G". Since these tracks were well received upon their release in "Baroque Report", they were included even though they weren't used in the game.
Translator's Note: Iwata's Sound Production Diary is very long and filled with dry talk about synthesizers, computer equipment, and technical specifications. He will occasionally list some sounds he recorded that day, but mostly documents irrelevant information such as what videogames he's playing or his constant car troubles. These are the few highlights (either documenting entertaining or important events during production) that are worth reading:
I obtained all sorts of documents. This time around they'll be using a system called ADX? It's probably like the Playstation's XA, since the Saturn has very harsh sound.
I wasn't expecting much, so I was a little amazed when I saw the game. Hey, the Saturn can have beautiful graphics too! Wow, it's kind of like Quake and Shibu. But it's not an action game. I don't really understand.
Mr. Yonemitsu showed me a video to try and convey the feeling the music should have. It was about clothes designers cutting and sewing clothes. There wasn't anything like music, just a kind of collage of noise - the sound of scissors cutting clothes, the sounds of the sewing machines, and ambient noise. I didn't really understand. Hm. I think I might have a vague idea...?
However, Mr. Yonemitsu played it without hesitation. Even worse, it was quite loud. Ughhh, let me turn it down myself. Unexpectedly, Mr. Yonemitsu listened until the end of the song. He only said one thing, "It would be better if it wasn't music". Eh? I didn't think I had made music thoouughh. But I somehow managed to get through that, so that's great (hey!).