Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Music to Write by: David Wise

Video game music tends to get a bad rap. The first is that since a lot of people see them as pointless time-wasters they figure the music is just as pointless. The second reason is that because game systems used primitive soundchips in the old systems that they weren't capable of writing good songs.

The first is just silly, but the second is flat-out wrong. Here's the thing, early video game music up until around the PlayStation 2 heavily relied on instrumental music in the vein of old pop music like The Ventures or The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and since these songs had to keep people engaged and coming back for more game they tended to need to be better than average.

Whether you like video games or not, some of it is exceptionally creative, and some of it is downright brilliant. In fact, some of it is pretty inspiring to some including me.

Today I'm going to talk about tracks from one of my favorite video game composers, David Wise.

David Wise was a member of the company Rare (formerly Rareware) and was one of their in-house composers. He has since moved on to freelancing as the company has floundered in creativity and a loss of key staff over the years. The story goes that he was found selling keyboards in a music store and wrote some catchy tunes that played from them, for that he was approached to work at Rare. And the rest is video game history.

The reason David Wise has become one of the most popular composers in the video game world is because of his writing style. What I said before about The Ventures or The Glenn Miller Orchestra? Throw in a bunch of other genres from dance, tribal, surf, post-punk, and classic video game music and you might begin to understand his appeal.

*Tracks after the break*

 So let's start with a classic off the bat:

Stickerbrush Symphony is regarded as one of the best video game tracks ever written. Could you believe this was written for the Super Nintendo back in 1995? Not only is it pure video game music, but you can hear both the classic influence and post-punk melding together to form something great. If I feel the need to muse about the story I'm writing, this track does wonders for me.

But he does good with other motifs, too. Let's try a list of a few other moods and settings he's good with.

Volcano / Lava






But those are just settings. Though they are great, he's also apt at coming up with different tracks inspired by film genres to test his skills. He is not above spreading his tastes out over other games he writes for.

Some impressive results includes his dabbling with racing music and kung-fu film inspired tracks. Good music to get you pumped for a dramatic fight or chase scene. Or maybe just for fun.

Check it out:

Of course that's more in league with normal video game music. How about different genres? Okay, I think I can hook you up.

These are a bit more recent, but no less great than his classic tracks.

Reggae (Pay special attention to around 2:38)


Synth Pop



Pirate Chanty


To leave this off, I'll just reiterate that there's no one quite like David Wise in the video game world, and we're all better off for it. If you don't even care for video games, I suggest at least giving some of these a listen. I can't imagine not liking them if you're a fan of music. You might even find yourself surprisingly inspired by them.

In closing, I'll leave off with some final encounter themes to really get your blood circulating. The next time you hear someone say nothing good has ever come out of video games, show them the work of David Wise and make them think twice.

You might be surprised at what you find. Have a good one.

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