Simul-tober: The Sounds of Silence

The horror continues as we are now in week two of Simul-tober! Be sure to check out the other posts at Cheese Toastie and Video Games and Games I Made My Girlfriend Play. And now the this week’s entry courtesy of Chip from GIMMGP:

In the past, I have talked about the power that music can hold over a listener.  A particular song at the right moment can heighten tension, bringing a cold sweat to a player’s palms.  Most horror games have ambient soundtracks, the kind of music that has a song for each scene, specifically tailored to certain areas and enemy encounters.  But among these recordings, there is normally a single song that transcends all other tracks and becomes a sort of theme for the game.  In the Silent Hill series, it seems like composer Akira Yamaoka had this philosophy in mind, and crafted some of the most endearing melodies that still haunt me to this day.

 

 

“Silent Hill”

Right from the start of this game, the sound is off-putting.  A mandolin is not your typical stringed instrument and hearing it filtered in such a way makes the entire experience feel ancient and uncomfortable.  A breezy guitar theme soon comes in, hopefully to soften the blow, but the entire song seems strange; like the sort of thing that would play from an old record that has been warped over time.  Without the mandolin creeping in and out of the track, this would be a pleasant soft-rock ballad, but maybe that is exactly what Akira Yamaoka was trying to portray.  A town that had the potential to be wholesome and normal, but horrors on the fringes kept creeping in and twisting the entire world.

“Theme of Laura”

The main theme of Silent Hill 2 hits the player with a track that would be right at home with a primetime mystery program.  A feeling of melancholy permeates through the entire song, in spite of the upbeat instruments.  The “Theme of Laura” fits the story of the game quite nicely, as it contains a sense of hope that this dark and terrifying situation will work out just fine in the end.  But just like the plot of the game, there is something not quite right lurking behind the scenes: a version of the original theme is hidden in the song, right around the two-minute mark.

“You’re Not Here”

It was on Silent Hill 3’s soundtrack that Akira Yamaoka began to include vocal contributions with his work.  The main theme to this game features Mary Elizabeth McGlynn singing along with Yamaoka’s guitar.  The wistful lyrics seem to convey an erratic romance, but when you consider the game’s protagonist, the song takes on a different meaning.  As an adopted daughter to the main character of the first game, Heather Mason has been protected and supported by her father.  At the same time, his involvement in her life has complicated things, and once he is eliminated, all of the stress he had been keeping from her is unleashed and her ties to Silent Hill are laid bare.

The music of Silent Hill does not always fit the traditional mold of horror soundtracks.  Unlike the gothic tones and haunting classical music of most scary games, Akira Yamaoka works his magic through contemporary instruments.  His seemingly innocent tunes hide a menacing story just beneath the surface, and that is exactly the sort of sound that fits Silent Hill perfectly.  Of course, even that music can be altered to suit other purposes, lest we forget this gem from Silent Hill 4 that made its way into Dance Dance Revolution:

The horror….the horror….

5 Comments Add yours

  1. gimmgp says:

    Reblogged this on Games I Made My Girlfriend Play and commented:
    Here is the post I wrote for United We Game.

    Like

  2. I’ve written a piece about horror soundtracks on my blog Science of Horror, feel free to take a look: http://scienceofhorror.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/spooky-sounds-why-horror-sountrack-is-scary/

    Like

  3. These games were a huge part of my high school and college years – I cannot believe that I had forgotten that original intro song!! Thank you so much for this article – it’s a sentimental, albeit creepy link to my past!

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Music certainly has a way of bringing back memories, doesn’t it?

      Like

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