coloUrs and mayhem: Universe A - Commentary
3.3k words across 12 entries.
If Violet Mariner was the elder child and Teal Hunter the middle child, then Rust Servant is the youngest child onto which I poured all my love and affection. This was one of my favorite pieces to work on and even today I’m still pretty pleased with how it turned out, from the striking staccato and col legno strings opening the song to the frantic violins, melancholic chromatic percussion, deep brass, and fast-paced drum grooves. I wanted the song to be big, epic, a little scary. If I may be so immodest, I think I succeeded.
Rust Servant was the only one of my three contest submissions to remain allocated to the character I had in mind while writing it, Aradia’s tragic ancestor and Lord English’s dreadful Handmaid (although the name was changed from the terribly uncreative Handmaid of Death to something more apt for the naming scheme of the album).
When I wrote this song, I had just taken an Intro to Hinduism class the previous fall and had written a short research paper on Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and death (more remembered for being related to death—those of you who have seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom must be familiar with the Thuggees, a cult of Kali-worshipers infamous for conducting human sacrifices—and, apparently, ripping people’s hearts out and setting them on fire as well). And, of course, because I am A SHAMELESS HOMESTUCK NERD, I immediately thought, “Time? Death? THAT REMINDS ME OF ONE OF THE TROLLS” (no I didn’t write my paper on that, i’m not that terrible). It doesn’t come through much in the song itself, but that’s where I got the inspiration from. And the moral of this story is, take a theology class (or two, or three) on a religion you know nothing about. It’ll give you all sorts of new ideas for Homestuck fanart.
Also when the album came out and this song was the first song on the album after Radiation’s intro I was all “HOLY SHIT RADIATION LIKED THIS SONG SO MUCH HE MADE IT THE FIRST SONG” and started pelvic-thrusting across my dorm room. Then I realized that it was only first due to all the tracks being organized from lowest to highest by the blood color of the troll they represented. I continued pelvic-thrusting across my dorm room anyway.
And to wrap things up, milkmanner’s art for the track is just perfect.
This track is one I sure as hell put a ton of effort into, as it was my big chance to finally do something with my music. I was at a pretty good time of my life and I was able to work on this thing day in and day out, and so I did, but first I put a lot of though into what I wanted to actually do. I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to making music, always trying to figure out what everyone else does so that I could do something different, and so I wanted to make a theme for Tavros that looked at his character from a more serious perspective about what he was and what he wanted to do. It’s original title, “If I were like Rufio,” reflected the melancholy desire to be something or be in a world where he was great, where he was a hero but in reality he couldn’t really amount to much, and it was his own fault.
For the style of the song I ended up falling back on one of my main styles, which I called “orchestral cinematic/game with a hint of latin rhythms and harmonies.” I don’t really know what it might actually be called. Unfortunately, while this made the song accomplish what I wanted it to, it can be a bit hard to listen to at times, for being too dependent on situation and scenery.
However I’m very proud of it! I got to practice a lot of new and old things and combine them into what’s currently my longest song! Well, longest I’m not ashamed of. It ended up being allocated to the Summoner, and I had a feeling it would. I’d say close enough, but it feels a bit weird to say that! I wouldn’t change much about it, but I think it’s a bit bland, and I’ve learned a lot from that.
First Turn Fold:
Originally the piece was called "The Green Odyssey". A fairly self explanatory title in light of it being about Bec, methinks.
So this is Gold Pilot, the song I wrote for the Homestuck album Colours and Mayhem. This song has become the theme of the Psiioniic (and it works freakishly well as such) but I wrote it originally in honor of Bec (to the dismay of some).
The song recently made it into the actual comic as the music for the Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 1 animation. (totally took me by surprise!)
Enjoy, Homestuck fans, and others alike!
Inspiration for this piece came after listening to a segment of Hans Zimmer's "Attack" from the Pearl Harbor Soundtrack. I intended for the song to have a 'majestic' tone, but initially couldn't think of a character to set this theme to, so I chose the four beta kids. However, after being reassigned characters I think the piece fits equally well if not better with the Dolorosa.
Teal Hunter was sort of the middle child of my three Homestuck music contest submissions. Even now it’s still my least favorite of the three songs I submitted. Why Radiation picked it along with my other two, I’ll never know. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be chosen. With over a thousand submissions I’m sure there was no shortage of Redglare songs for him to choose from. Maybe the $20 I slipped him when I submitted my songs had something to do with it But his ways are not our ways.
When Volume 9 came out, a lot of people looked at Radiation’s arrangement of Stress by Buzinaki and started noting similarities between it and Teal Hunter. Radiation wrote about why the two songs sound similar in his commentary for Stress. If we’re going to talk about “what sounds like what”, then I’ll lay my cards on the table and state that Teal Hunter was begun as pretty much a direct reference to 00 Gundam from the Gundam 00 soundtrack (if you can’t tell by now, I really like Gundams). When I started the piece, the first draft was more or less a low-rent version of that song, in the same way a cartoon that wants to parody Indiana Jones would get a song that sounds close to John Williams’ Raiders March without being close enough to qualify as plagiarism. So I just kept fiddling with it until the two melodies sounded different. By the time I got to the final product and had added the buildup in the beginning, the two had nothing but their rhythm and syncopation in common.
Teal Hunter’s original title was Bête Blanche, a play on bête noire, a French phrase literally meaning “black beast” that the fan name “Bec Noir” is most likely a reference to. As evident, the song was originally allocated to PM, the one Exile powerful enough to battle Jack Noir to a stalemate.
For those of you who didn’t know, Cobalt Corsair was originally a theme for Hussie. The song being given to Mindfang, while some find it hilariously ironic, I find to be a lot more fitting. I do have a tendency to write piratey sounding orchestral songs; this time it just happened to be accidental! For this commentary, I’m going to be dividing the song up both by sections and instrument groups.
SECTION I - REGAL
I always wanted the piece to sound dominating and over-important, at least for this part. It begins with a solo flugelhorn playing its melody, providing an entrance for the rest of the orchestral. After not too long, the trumpets blasting out their fanfare in perfect 4th intervals, the lower brass backing them up with a strong chordal harmony - the brass works to create a very regal sound. Though Hussie as a character isn’t anywhere near this serious, I felt that it wouldn’t hurt to portray him in such a way - the way his character sees himself. The whole thing reeks of overlording and power, which, as it turns out, seems to fit the pirate idea nicely.
SECTION II - BROODING
This is where the piece changes from 12/8 to 4/4, and the solo flugelhorn returns to introduce the new section. I imagined this to be the other side of Hussie, calculating, always working, creating his world. The whole section is just a build up of instruments, as the lower string ostinato loops itself over. There isn’t really much to say about this section, but it certainly works as a contrast for the rest of the piece.
SECTION III - EXECUTION
This is the final minute of the piece, just after the moment of silence. It explodes into a wall of sound, seeking to bring back the power of the first section in a more open way. I actually wrote part of this section before working on the rest of the piece, so naturally, it’s what set the general tone. My favourite melody is introduced in this section (played most obviously by the flutes), and I regret not being able to flesh the idea out more. The piccolo part rising above the rest is interesting - it fits perfectly in with the whole pirate theme, despite me never considering this to be a pirate song. I suppose I consider this section the execution of various plans, to a successful conclusion.
Now, as you can probably tell from listening, Cobalt Corsair is very dense texturally. To give you a visual idea, here’s a post from a little while ago showing the layout of the sequencer. It's big.
So, I’ve decided to chop the piece up in terms of the instrument groups, for anyone who wanted to understand what the hell is going on underneath all that sound.
BRASS | STRINGS | WOODWIND | PERCUSSION AND MISCELLANEOUS (dead dropbox links)
Let’s talk about Violet Mariner.
I tend to listen to the kind of music I like to compose and compose the kind of music I like to listen to. Before I started composing this song I listened to a shit-ton of battle music from Koh Otani’s Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack, and it shows. Oh, boy, does it show, especially from 0:49 onward with the rhythm and percussion of the piece.
Violet Mariner was the first song I started working on for the Homestuck music contest that eventually became the coloUrs and mayhem dual album. It’s a song about Dualscar—but it wasn’t always a song about Dualscar. No, it started out as a song about John. This explains the harp/piano section, which plays with the opening melody to Showtime, vaguely darting near it without ever actually producing the exact notes from Malcolm Brown’s original song. I intended it to be more of a hint of John’s original strife theme than a direct reference. In hindsight, keeping the references to existing Homestuck leitmotifs subtle was a smart idea. If I’d been more overt in my references and just made it a straight-up Doctor remix or an explicit arrangement of Showtime, it would have been really hard to reallocate it to a different character. And I’m happy that Violet Mariner is a Dualscar song. Dualscar needs more songs. And also it gave Radiation an excuse to almost name it “Violet Seaman”. And besides, it means I still technically haven’t used the original title, Heirstrike, yet.
Obviously with a name like Witc)(ing )(our, this song is for the condesce/batterwitch/etc. I always figured a sexy psychotic space empress bent on universal domination needed an over-the-top evil, but also dance-able track. I’d actually been planning to do a song like this for her for quite a while since she’s one of—if not my favorite—characters. Every 30 seconds or so represents a time in the Condesce’s life as we know it up to now and, while the song is almost wholly original, I did pull a few minor, but very recognizable things from songs like liquid negrocity and Twoard2 the Heaven2 to help really nail the connection.
This is my song entry for the Homestuck Music Contest--essentially a dark electro house song for the Condesce. On a technical level this song more or less represents the culmination of all the practice and knowledge I've gained from working with music up until now.
Around mid-2011 I was at a Nippon Ichi binge. Disgaea 4 was my most anticipated title of yesteryear and I ended up clocking roughly 300 hours in it. Playing it was essentially what finally made me look at the bigger picture when it came to how Disgaea structured it’s entire universe, and if you know me, I love fictional universes with established rules and boundaries that are cleverly told.
During the time I was playing the game I had roughly three or four pipe-projects when it came to comics or visual stories in general, some of which I will delve into soon enough, but generally I come up with ideas for storytelling around one basic principle and I keep them in an idea bucket for whenever I plan on working on them. The projects are things I hope to blend audio and visual presentations to, and as such I often tend to compose music with these projects in mind. Playing Disgaea as such gave me a new idea for a story I since abandoned, and was basically a story of a witch traveling worlds. I decided eventually to experiment a bit with creating some music for a scenario I had in mind, and the only thing I would eventually get out of it was a clarinet melody. The original inspiration was to be Tenpei Sato’s compositions but I never really got to finish it since my laptop had a meltdown.
In 2012 I got my laptop back and had backups of all my music files at bay, and noticed that MSPA was having a music competition. The limit was three tracks, and as such I wanted to compose three original pieces just to have a shot at getting in. While I got to composing two however, I was stuck at figuring out where I was going to go with the third one, and I realized that I still had a completely unattributed, unfinished track at hand with this work in progress. After recovering the file, rearranging a bit and ultimately rendering it, I decided I’d send it to the contest since I wasn’t going to really get anywhere with the track. I figured the character it fit the most was Aradia, so I put it under her name and finished it.
The idea was to have it be a bit of a grim little insidious melody for a title character, but somehow it ended up being slightly more Grant Kirkhope-ish during the N64 era in retrospect, which is something I have to say I’m kind of proud of since he’s a massive inspiration. I eventually got the call back from Radiation during late February and was told that it won a spot. I was in shock and awe at that point, as it meant that I finally got somewhere substantial with my work. Immediately I re-rendered Rust Maid; then titled Apocalypse Maid, and Orange Hat, and sent it along What Pumpkin’s way.
Here’s a fun fact though. When Radiation contacted me, he told me that the song was to be retitled “Rust Servant”, and was to be the Handmaid’s theme. This was something I was okay with, but he immediately contacted me a while afterwards and reassigned the character to it’s original intended character. Between a few e-mails exchanged by me and him, we still referred to the actual track as “Rust Servant”, until I got my contract which had it titled “Rust Maid”. I thought this was a contract mistake of some sort, but imagine my surprise when I saw the first track on the album thinking it was mine and not realizing it was adhering to a color scheme. Rust Servant was fucking awesome though.
Another fun fact - there’s a cowbell right at the start that wasn’t supposed to be there. I don’t even know how it got there. The original sound file was a reverse cymbal. It happened sometime after I recovered the file and I didn’t notice it until after I listened to the remastered version again.
Yes, I'm still amused by the fact that the comments on the most popular YouTube upload of this song essentially consist of nothing but "THIS REMINDS ME OF X GAME".
And not one of them has ever guessed Baten Kaitos, which provided the primary sources of inspiration for this track (the two Chaotic Dance songs: link - link). Absolute madness.
So. Gold Mage. Originally known as "Playtime is Over" and written for Dirk Strider before being repurposed to Sollux. Probably my most successful song, before I wrote that remix of Amalgum from Undertale. The very first piece of music I ever made money on.
I shan't lie; I'm not as fond of this song as I used to be. Not because of the Homestuck connection or anything; simply because it's just too repettitive. Enough so that it lead to why the eventual remix of it turned out the way it did (too busy and cluttered in places - Gold Mage [Playtime is Over Mix]) It was so with purpose; I did intend for lyrics to go over this- I even wrote a few- but never recorded anything. But honestly, I can't quite bring myself to hate it. The chords are quite nice, what melodies there are + the basslines are pretty slick, and it was my first major musical success. Though the royalties have since slowed way, way down- it's like £10 every four months, if that- it was a major deal when it first dropped as a part of coloUrs & mayhem: Universe A. Even Toby Fox and (assuming I'm not misremembering entirely) Andrew Hussie had nice things to say about it- directly comarping it to EarthBound-type stuff and being astounded it was written, from the ground up, in a PS1 game.
I may not be much into Homestuck these days, and I definitely think the song is showing it's age... but, hell, it's special to me all the same. One of the most integral pieces of my early music career by a wide margin.
Boy do I love this song. The situation I made was pretty much the opposite of the one for Bronze Rebel. I felt pretty good about Bronze Rebel, and I had a feeling I was only going to get one track on anyway I didn’t have high hopes for this one. In fact this one was the “let’s make something I don’t think others will like as much” song. And it might be true, I can’t really tell!
I had to fight myself to get this song done, since I wasn’t feeling good and I still wanted to put out something quality. I had really wanted to make something for Vriska, but I didn’t have great sounds to do it, but Solatrus convinced me to try a hand at it anyway, to see if I could do something different with Vriska. Unfortunately, what I had in mind still ended up being like what a lot of people already ended up having as “Vriska” ingrained in their mind from previous official homestuck music. I was a little disappointed about that, but after having spent days staring at the ceiling trying to figure out what I should do, I realized I just needed to make something.
The drums were the first thing I had in my mind that I knew I needed to make a certain way, and the way I made the guitar do 9th intervals was initially an accident that worked out for the best. I’m also pretty happy with this one, I only wish I had better samples or actual guitar instead of the weird twangy and low impact stuff I currently do.