Seattle-based Lena Raine is the BAFTA nominated composer behind the soundtracks to the hit indie platformer Celeste, innovative RPG Chicory: A Colorful Tale, and slice-of-life fishing sim Moonglow Bay that released on October 26th this year.
For this week’s Soundtrack Spotlight Lena was kind enough to answer some questions over email about the music behind Moonglow Bay, her recent push into using more live instrumentation in her composition, and how she went about musically hooking players as they hone their fishing skills, reconnect with friends and family, and attempt to rope the fractured community of a crumbling coastal town back together.
How do you approach a new project, and in Moonglow’s case, what inspiration did you draw on for the initial ideas?
Lena: Moonglow Bay is a really interesting premise, because it’s something I’d never scored before: a fully open & seamless world, with so many spaces to uncover as you explore the town and take your boat out onto the water. Because it really felt like working with a huge sense of scale, I wanted to try incorporating that scale into the instrumentation. So I drew up a diagram for myself centering on the player’s home. When you’re inside, it’s just solo guitar. Outside in the town you start to get more of a folky chamber vibe. In local waters, the fuller orchestra starts to come in, with unique instrumentations for the icy and sulfur biomes. And then for the final area, which I’ll not spoil much of, I brought in synths into the orchestra to really go for an otherworldly sound.
How did the development of the soundtrack interact with the development of the game? (in terms of access to assets, early builds etc.)
Lena: I’ve always been really close with the development team. I actually joined right around the final prototype phase, and was able to develop what ended up becoming the main title theme as background music for that prototype. It shaped a lot of the initial feel for the soundtrack without feeling like I had to set it in concrete. Once the actual production began, I stayed in touch throughout development and played new builds constantly even if I wasn’t ready to start writing yet. Even just keeping the game’s feel in the back of my mind while I’m working on other projects, it helps me come up with ideas once it’s time to hone in on something for the game.
Do you have any trademark compositional flourishes or production techniques we can hear in Moonglow Bay?
Lena: It’s always really hard for me to pick those apart, but people find them anyway! I think any time I’m playing piano specifically, I really get to express myself the most since it’s “my” instrument. Moonglow’s score is so centered around the guitar, and I worked with the wonderful Stemage to record those parts, so his playing is very much core to the main character’s sound. Piano, then, is tied thematically to sounds of memory and mourning, and eventually acceptance. My favorite piece in the game is probably what I ended up writing for the credits, which incorporates both main melodies from the game in a duet for piano and guitar. It always gets me really emotional!
Did your push into using live instrumentation for the soundtrack to Chicory continue into the soundtrack to Moonglow Bay?
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Lena: In a lot of ways, you could actually call Chicory and Moonglow Bay sister soundtracks. I worked on them simultaneously over the course of the past 3 years, so they both fueled each other in their own ways. While Chicory was very much inspired by older soundtracks and 2D Zelda games, Moonglow was inspired by more modern scores & Breath of the Wild in particular. I have a huge affinity for the Zelda series, and how the scores have evolved over the years. I thought it was a fun challenge to write something that evoked both ends of the spectrum, but brought into context for my own style and the games I was writing for.
What’s next for you?
Lena: I’ve always got plenty of things I’m working on, some of which are unannounced, but I can at least talk about two things! One big thing I’m working on is Earthblade, the next game from the Celeste team Extremely OK Games. We’ve only shown a vibes teaser which I debuted a little music from, but it’s a huge thing that’ll take a while to make so I’m constantly playing with new sounds to figure out that world. And the other thing is my next solo game, tentatively called Project Astray, which I released a little teaser for on Halloween. It’s a 2D pixel adventure game about a girl named Astra who might be a ghost, and that’s about all I’ve said so far. Excited to show more for both those, and a couple other things that haven’t been announced!
Moonglow Bay’s soundtrack can be purchased through Bandcamp by clicking HERE and you can pick up the game through Steam below: