I've released the full score on Bandcamp, and the film is available on YouTube for free.
- Trailer Music
- Titles ~ Hero's Theme
- First Brother / Second Brother
- Night Music / Morning
- Assassin / Art Thief to Town
- Town of Serenity
- A Fight in the Town Square
- Fight with Kunoichi / Thief Aboard Ship
- Kunoichi Again
- Three Brothers / Ravine Bridge
- Final Confrontation with Thief
- Talk with Thief / Swordsman's History
- Thief Arrested by Brothers
- The Swordsman and His Daughter
- Ending Credits
The first track I wrote was "Trailer Music," a short thirty-five second piece in which the soundtrack's two major themes appear: the Hero's theme and the Villain's theme (aka thief's theme). The villain's theme makes a short appearance at the 0:10 mark, while the hero's theme is played on horn and bassoon.
The second major theme in the soundtrack is the villain's theme.
Finally, the hero, being the character of greatest important, has beyond his theme two ostinatos.
Beyond the hero and villain themes, there is another theme and another recurring motif, which will be talked about when we get there.
The first track of the film proper is the 55-second "Titles ~ Hero's Theme," which starts out tranquil, a flute playing a peaceful little melody, accompanied by harp. A bassoon intones the hero's theme as his footsteps appear, and as he enters on screen and the name Swordsman After Art appears, his theme is intoned on bassoon and oboe, doubled by harp, with both ostinatos playing. The rest of the piece is quietly ambient.
The next scene of the film is the appearance of the first of three brothers who form an important part of the story. The three brothers are represented by this theme:
The third brother is not initially a comedy character, so the Three Brothers theme is played on horn for him in a surprisingly serious statement of the theme. However, as his story is told, it moves into a more SAA-style piece with percussion, tin flute, and even electric piano. Finally it returns to the hero and second brother in the present, so the marimba intones his ostinato, and the horn plays the hero's theme.
The scenes following are short and quick. "Night Music" is played by harp, cellos, and ocarina (backed by synth, though it's subtle), and it's a pretty quiet peace. The thief's theme appears again very subtly, as does the three brothers theme, this time played slowly on the harp. "Morning" is the simplest piece, just a harp playing scales of varying nature to the images on screen.
Afterwards follows "Assassin / Art Thief to Town." It's a short piece of battle music with a quick statement of the thief's theme. The track also introduced a synth bass sound which is used a couple more times alongside the kunoichi before disappearing. "Art Thief to Town" is the first full, prominent statement of the thief's theme playing alongside the frustration of the hero's search for the art thief.
"Town of Serenity" is a piece in two parts. The first part is a very pastoral, peaceful, upbeat tune on the recorder accompanied by harpsichord (bass note doubled by bassoon) and glockenspiel. It's very cheerful and quite simple - the recorder plays melody, while the harpsichord plays harmony and the glockenspiel is also harmonic. The second part is quieter, played on cello and glockenspiel, the thief's theme playing repeatedly to represent the hero's search for him. Finally, as a child indicates to the hero that he knows about the thief, the cello becomes louder and the hero's theme and rhythmic ostinato appear again.
"A Fight in the Town Square" was a very fun piece to compose. For the initial animation of the fighter, Dataman put in a lot of effort to create a very impressive, smooth animation, so in honor of this I represented the fighter's appearance with a percussive soundscape comprising african log drum, japanese taiko, gong, a synth drum, and a shaker. After the fighter is hired, the soundscape switches back to the hero's soundscape. The fighter's percussive ensemble breaks in during their fight, a clash of two different sound worlds.
The second half is not nearly as upbeat. The hero's identity has been uncovered, his secret revealed. He is not young, but in fact old. As the scene switches from moment to moment, so too does the music. The hero is not happy about this. And the fighter is quite regretful too. The swordsman flees the scene without another word, while the fighter - revealed now the father of that child from earlier - goes off to enjoy the cash.
As he flees, the swordsman runs across the kunoichi from before. "Fight with Kunouchi" features the appearance of trumpets, which will only appear once more. It's a quick but intense battle. The thief, meanwhile, is leaving aboard a ship, so his theme appears quite prominently once again. The hero decides to take a carriage.
From here we move from the swordsman to the kunoichi, who is at a spa. Representing the peace of this area, a warm cello accompanies guitar and harp arpeggios as they talk. Very much background stuff, warm and happy. A piano appears for the first time as the nurse tells the kunoichi she's worried about her.
The peace of the spa doesn't last long, and soon the kunoichi is in thought about where the swordsman is going. Sure enough, she spots the carriage! A fast, low piano ostinato represents the motion of the carriage, and for the brief appearance of the swordsman a quick statement of a little bit of his theme. The carriage heads onwards, the kunoichi aboard in secret, and who's that in the distance? The three brothers!
So leads into "Three Brothers / Ravine Bridge." This is one of the warmest pieces on the soundtrack. Lush strings and flute, but it changes as the scene progresses. Why aren't the brothers helping the hero (whose mention is heralded by the first three notes)? They consider this. A moment of uncertainty. The wife gives the a-okay, and horns and strings play a heroic anthem to it. "Ravine Bridge" sees the hero and kunoichi meeting again - and the kunoichi meeting the three brothers! Reflecting this, the ocarina and pizzicato bass return. The kunoichi almost falls from the shock of their sudden appearance, but then the brothers mention they're looking for the hero too! Perhaps they can help her.
"Final Confrontation with Thief" starts out with them talking. The thief's theme plays very prominently, since he's the focus of the scene. It quiets as they talk - why did the thief steal the portrait? He was broken out of jail, told to grab it, and in return for it, they cure his sister's illness. A piano appears again, playing an emotional little melody. Surely, such a noble aim is worthy of sympathy?
But the thief remains the villain, and there will be a physical conflict one way or another. Horns and strings and piano all build up as a duel is declared, before releasing suddenly in the initial moments before the duel. Sitar appears here. The duel begins, and percussion in a quick beat heralds this. The thief seems to have the upper hand, and sure enough he seems to injure the hero. Is he hurt? Wounded? Fatally, even? A slower rendition of the hero's theme plays.
But no! It was just a pot of ink. The thief is amazed, and the clarinets laugh at him for it. The hero has the upper hand, and sure enough his theme appears triumphant as he defeats the thief, disarming him - but, alas, the balloon with the art in it flies off. I had written a piece for this, but it was cut.
For "Talk with Thief" my first attempt was rejected as it was very emotionally charged. It was far too emotional, far too sad for such a quiet philosophical discussion. It was a fantastic piece, and I've written down the chord progression for future use. The melody unfortunately can't be kept since the thief's theme is quite prominent. Instead, I composed a monophonic piece as a replacement, and it plays in various octaves by strings and woodwinds.
"Swordsman's History" plays as the tale of Hisato Saigou unfolds before the kunoichi. The horns triumphant, as he is the best samurai there is. But, alas, he is disgraced for having a child with a peasant woman. The synth bass from previous tracks returns, representing the kunoichi for a final time. It turns out the swordsman had been disguising himself as a younger man for sometime. His theme plays triumphantly during this segment, as despite the difficulties he's faced, he continued onwards anyway.
"Thief Arrested by Brothers" is a last hurrah for the early, idiophone-driven tracks. After "Town of Serenity" a very orchestral, symphonic style had dominated the tracks, as befit the scenarios. However, for this scene here, something orchestral didn't seem like it would work. So pizzicato strings and marimba and celeste and tin flute all appear once more, without any orchestral backing. The track took slightly longer then is typical when writing due to the presence of a great deal of odd time: 17/8 and 14/8, which a single bar of 20/8, before it goes back to 4/4.
Finally, the second-to-last track is the one I am proudest of. It took a long time to write, over three hours of work. It is also the longest single track on the album, clocking in at 3:01. The album's full length is 21:18. The track is "The Swordsman and His Daughter," scored for 1st violins, 2nd violins, solo violin, cellos, basses, percussion, flutes, piccolos, and guitar.
The scene opens with the swordsman standing on the road. Here, I was told, was the chance to create music that really shines, music that brings the scene to life. Naturally, I spent more time on this track then any other one in the score. The hero's theme unfolds on flute and solo violin and piccolo, but it's very much the violin that is the star here. Arco strings support it with harmony while the pizzicato 2nd violins and basses support it harmonically with arpeggios.
The camera turns to the hero, ruminating to himself. The kunoichi appears, and they talk. For this scene the music sat more in the background with a variation on La Folia. What is La Folia, you ask? La Folia is a D minor with the seventh degree raised - D harmonic minor - piece of music that has been in existence for hundreds of years. It appears in music from composers as diverse as J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach to Beethoven to Corelli. It's a melody I'm very fond of and did a lot of research on, finding various different versions of it. It's a melody I knew I wanted to sneak into SAA somehow, but it never seemed to fit a scene until that one.
...the reveal that the kunoichi is the swordsman's daughter! Yes, the title of the track was a major spoiler, I know. For the joyous reveal, percussion, flute, and the solo violin intones a happier statement of the hero's theme. As time progresses, the kunoichi tells the swordsman about what had happened. It remains warm, but the flute becomes slightly dark as she informs him that she couldn't find her. But, that isn't the end - following the swordsman's lead, she decided to take the path of the sword after all. Once again, the piece is all warmth. The solo violin plays small variation on the tune from "Kunoichi Again", since it seemed fitting.
The swordsman gives her his headband, and the hero's theme plays once again. It falls out, and the supporting, harmonic instruments play warm chords. The kunoichi has been reunited with her father, and after the sadness of his identity revealed and the art lost, the swordsman once again has a purpose.
That left the last track, "Ending Credits". It's a pretty simple piece in four parts. It opens warmly to the scenes of nature, a synth playing alongside it. A neat piece of trivia, but the particular synth used here first appeared in the "End Credits" for my previous Troceleng project, Lin! -forest of hatred-. This synth is a true synth, as well, not a sampled synth sound like the kunoichi's bass.
The second part is very fast and dance like, the synth and woodwinds playing the hero's theme over a very fast string part, one that is almost dance-like. The third part reprises the villain's theme lower down, with a piano briefly appearing for the three brothers. The strings reprise the hero's theme for the last time, and pizzicato strings slowly enter, and the fourth part, during the staff credit is a little waltz, the hero's theme suitably transformed to it. The waltz concludes, and the synth plays the Troceleng jingle:
I hope you enjoyed my commentary and I hope also that you enjoy the film and soundtrack. We've all put a lot of work into it.