in depth with the Portal:Awakening OST - part 4

This post follows on from the three previous posts discussing the music from the upcoming portal mod 'Portal: Awakening' in development here;

I was all set to deliver another peek into my work on one of the biggest game mods I had had the pleasure of being asked to join.
Since part three the way in which music was being made for the mod had changed quite significantly. I was being contact direct from individual level designers and collaborating more closely with them to get a feel for exactly what they felt would work, what emotion and mood they were trying to put across. We were working in a more iterative fashion sharing ideas, commenting on samples, making the required changes and moving on. All in all I was beginning to enjoy the process a lot more.

You may notice that this blog is quite late in comparison to the consistency of the previous three and quite frankly that was because as of June the awakening camp went very quiet. Well, as is usually to be expected from a quiet and low lying mod this news came in from the mod team late last month.
It would seem that 'Portal: Awakening' has succumb to the fate of many mods, I am quite sad to see it go as I personally felt very good about my role in it and the music I produced. The mod team were one of the first to pick me up on my work and I have a lot to thank them for in terms of finding my place over on moddb.com

Below is the blog I had begun, detailing work on the two tracks which had come to light since the main body of 9 had been handed over. Please feel free to read it with a slight tear as I will and please contact me if you can find a home for these or any of the songs previously intended for 'Portal: Awakening'

Since the previous parts of this blog series there has been a lot of change in the fictional world of Aperture Science. The release of Portal 2 in April and the subsequent release of the soundtrack has created quite a stir in the modding community. 
After a few setbacks the Portal: Awakening team have been tinkering away to transport all their work from the old gaming engine of Portal 1 to the improved engine which powered the impressive new visual styles in Portal 2. I'm not completely au fait with how much work this entails but it has meant that mappers and level designers have begun to contact me to discuss the themes and feels they want for the areas they are creating.
It has been nice to work on more of a one-to-one basis, passing ideas over soundcloud and then tweaking and augmenting the track to suit the specification.
So a number of new tracks are turning up of the game, and as such I thought it  only proper to continue where we left off with this blog series with another three track rundown of how the music has come together for what was last  (and almost certainly this) years most anticipated portal mod.

10. '00'

The opening of Portal (and many other Valve games) is integral to creating the ominous atmosphere of the unknown which is enhanced by your players silence to the world around them. As you can see in the short capture from Portal 1 (below) there is a clinical, intriguing and slightly sinister air to waking up in an unfamiliar surroundings of Aperture Laboratories. 

I was asked to create a short piece to give the opening chamber of Portal: Awakening the same feel but also throw in a modicum of awe as the surroundings outside the glass walls of the booth will be significantly different to that of Portal. 
The song itself is a series of four long chords played through a preset in the ?? synth. The individual notes are slightly out of time with each other, you may be able to hear them come in at different times. They provide the main 'constant' for the track with some variance and rhythm coming from the pedals and oscillators within the synth. The three note bass riff was added to give the track additional rhythm in that the ear has something to expect and to give the track something above the feel of a simple ambient. 
It would have been very easy to allow this opening piece to sit behind the action on screen and this is something I am still discussing with the project leader as I have yet to see it in place with voice actors and video. But I really did want to convey something more and provide more emotion than the plot itself will create, I believe that its my job as musician, to give this mod the unique presence that a great score can achieve.  

11. Deadzone
Another unique moment to the Portal franchise is the reveal of the malfunctioning AI. In Portal it was the entrance into the room to find GLaDOS, your previously unseen antagonist hanging with a sinister calm from the chamber ceiling.
This moment signifies the 'wizard behind the curtain' reveal of discovering who ones nemesis is and as such requires a particular suspense and overt theatrical build to the music.

Discussing the feel and requirements of the piece with one of the developers was a new way for me to be working on Portal: Awakening. Previously I had been left to my own devices and allowed the level designers to place the MP3's I created wherever they believed they would fit. This was now custom music for the game with the designers ideas and necessities included in my music, a much healthier way to collaborate in my opinion.  
The track itself - entitled 'deadzone' due to the proposed dilapidated state of the Portal: Awakening's AI chamber - went through many iterations, the final idea began as what is now 'variable #26' from volume 2 of my experiments project 'Variables'.
There was call to make the track more organic and use more real-world sounding instruments, I decided to use piano for its versatility and ability to simultaneously create sinister chills and bombastic drama but I really wanted to tie it back to a previously composed song.

'We're a lot alike' was written with the idea of the co-dependant nature of Chell and GLaDOS in Portal and how the isolation of the empty research facility would be overbearing without any company, even if that company were someone you disliked.
I thought this sentiment within 'deadzone' would be one of slight reconciliation if 'We're a lot alike' were used to signify the Stockholm syndrome of test subject and AI in Portal: Awakening and so adding minor elements of its piano line into the new track seemed apt.

So please join me in commiserations to the visionware team and their hard (if fruitless) work on 'Portal: Awakening', may they find success in future mods and games. 

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