I’d been holding off on this post for a while. Part of the reason is because I had a difficult time coming up with music beyond the initial two tracks; other part of the reason is because I said I’d stop making “Lists of Stuff I Like” for a while. Yet, the more I thought about it— and the more I thought about the music that was on my mind, no thanks to Pandora Radio— the more I wanted to get this off my chest and onto proverbial paper. Because, you see…
It’s not every day a piece of music can give you goosebumps. These works are few and far between. When it does come along, however, it really sticks with you— the subtle nuances, every key change, each note. They stand apart from all other music. Their purpose isn’t singular like the battle themes or even the ambiance tracks. If it had to be boiled down to one word, it would be inspirational. Precisely what these pieces inspire, however, is complex and deeply emotional; it stirs up a mosaic of feelings.
And that is precisely what makes them so awesome.
Stormwind City from World of Warcraft
Back when I was just starting out on my little human warlock, so many years ago, I was still skeptical of this thing called Warcraft. I ran around and killed wolves, mercilessly took candles from kobolds, fought back against the Defias, and saved a bushel of grapes. “Big whoop,” I thought. Then, I got a quest to deliver something or another to the main city. So, off I went up the road from Goldshire.
And that’s when I heard it: the initial chorus of voices and rumble of drums, as I stepped from the main gates into the Valley of Heroes. I stood there, shocked into awe-filled silence. I let the music wash over me and fill my brain, utterly humbled. At that moment, I decided I wanted to be a hero worthy of such a welcome— greeted by heralding voices and the monuments of legends long past. Even now, as a mainly Horde-side player, I still carry that same sentiment with me. I’d like to think I accomplished at least part of my goal.
During the Cataclysm slump earlier this year, I had a couple of guildmates suggest the first Mass Effect game to me. A grand space adventure? Sure, why not— I’d always been a spacer at heart, after all. I created my character, clicked start, and settled in to watch the opening cinematic.
The music was subtle at first. It was reminiscent of classic sci-fi movies from the 80s and early 90s, utilizing synthesizers and keyboards in addition to the usual orchestral tones. Little did I know that the first crescendo was a hint at humanity’s rise to greatness in the galaxy. But my favorite part of the whole piece? The bit at around 1:23 when the strings come in and harmonizes with the horns. That, right there, makes me smile every time and gives me goosebumps.
The majority of the piece is slow, almost gentle, with brief flashes of menace. This is the beginning of something epic— you can feel it in the music.
Cinematic Theme from Diablo 3
Maybe I’m just getting psyched for May 15. Maybe this brings back memories of going to BlizzCon ’08 and seeing the wizard’s reveal.
Whatever it is, I can’t listen to that initial tolling of the bell without shivering. I used to say that Blizzard could rarely do wrong by me if they continued to set amazing storylines to incredible music. It’s held true so far. These few minutes of music speak volumes of despair and danger, shot through with moments of dogged hope and ragged persistence.