COMPOSING IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY WITH SHAUN CHASIN

January 12, 2018

  When you’re working in the music world you never know what gig and what association will put you to work. Composer Shaun Chasin knows this all too well. His musical pedigree (Chasin is a graduate of Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music) vets his abilities but opportunities are what makes for a career. Shaun has an eclectic list of accomplishment yet one of the most current and timely for this modern day composer are his creations for video games, including his most recent score for Quell 4D. Chasin’s association with Swedish Video Game Developer Felix Nordanåker has seen numerous collaborations resulting in epic and cinematic scores to video games. For the Canadian this is all a given in the career of a twenty-first century composer. One day he might be writing for TV or film and the next for the latest offering from a gaming company. Current day video games are massive productions with graphics and plotlines that rival any TV and film production, in large part because many of the same professionals work within all of these mediums. This holds true as well for composers like Shaun whose goal is essentially the same regardless of the production with one glaring exception. Video games are meant to be interacted with rather than simply watched. This is exacerbated with a virtual reality game such as Quell 4D, meaning that Chasin is at the forefront of new ground for his generation of composers. Setting the standard means digging deep and pioneering, something that this composer is able and excited about.

  Felix Nordanåker (CEO of Rubycone, video game developer) had previously hired Shaun to compose the music for the game HEKTOR and declares, “After working with Shaun on HEKTOR we knew he was the only choice to score Quell 4D. His score for HEKTOR perfectly imbued the game with such a unique and fitting atmosphere that we knew he would be able to do the same for our subsequent projects. In addition, we have seen his success working with other developers and directors. In particular, his theme song for the anime ‘Beyblade Burst’ demonstrated such broad stylistic diversity. He was able to compose such fitting music for styles as different as a terrifying horror game like HEKTOR and then turn around and write an equally perfect theme for this children’s show “Beyblade Burst.” Both HEKTOR and Quell 4D were released on the Steam distribution platform to great success and were praised for their music and sound design. The HEKTOR music score received several awards for its excellence.”

  To inspire his compositions, Shaun was given some early game play footage as well as artwork and screen caps. A few examples of modern musical styles were suggested but an adamant request that the music be unique was included. To increase the originality of the score, the composer took to creating many of the actual sound sources himself, augmenting organically recorded sources with synths and software. He describes, “An interesting sound I was able to create came when I was sitting outside one night and heard a cricket chirping. I hastily recorded it with my phone and scurried back to my studio to have a look at the audio in a spectral analyzer. Sure enough, the distinct high pitch chirp was strikingly noticeable visually on the spectrum. I was able to cut out all sound bellow and above it spectrally to be left with a perfectly isolated chirp. This audio was then passed through a time stretching program that allowed me to stretch it out into a long pad like tone. From here, it was tuned and then brought into a sampler so it could be laid across my midi keyboard and played like an instrument. Though initially a high pulsing sound, I now had a smooth pad that could be played extremely low down to create a haunting and breathy bass sound that was used frequently in the score. So many wonderful off-the-shelf synths and instruments exist that we all have access to but I’ve always found that making your own instruments, like my cricket bass, is not only fun but an easy way to ensure you’re using sounds in your music that no one else could possibly have. Though I have no doubt that many people have thought to sample a cricket, the fact is they didn’t sample MY cricket, record it with MY crappy phone mic, or process it in the same way.”

  Once Chasin had written the music for the trailer and achieved a musical attitude which was congruent to the tone of the game, he was able to apply this to the actual body of Quell 4D. It’s in this part of the work that the experience so drastically differs from that of his role composing for TV and film. In the formerly mentioned productions, the composer is able to set his musical creations by every second and frame, giving the audience the same experience during the storyline. Film and TV is a linear medium. In stark contrast, video games allow different experiences as each individual may choose to spend more or less time in a particular part of the game. Chasin takes this aspect into consideration when creating the musical ambience. The music must stick with them and score their unique experience. To achieve this, Shaun will create different layers of the music that enter and exit based on various game states or events to add or decrease tension. Another is the ability for the game to branch to totally different music at set times in set ways. The composer relates, “It’s important to me that the people who love and play video games have an incredible experience. The fact that composing music for these games is similar to other types of productions yet demanding in its own way is something that excites me. To illustrate, in HEKTOR the character’s ‘insanity level’ was tied to a layer in the music that would increase or decrease the tension based on how healthy you were. Your proximity to certain monsters would also bring musical aspects into play, allowing the player to know simply by listening that a bad guy may be looming around the corner. In Quell 4d, the music had its own considerations to be accounted for. There are two ways music in game may be interrupted: if the player is killed, or if the player completes a level. If one of these two events occurs the music will branch off into one of two musical exit stingers. For the Boss music, the player enters the battle area and may look around while no music is playing. As soon as they encounter the boss however, a surprising musical entrance stinger triggers along with that boss’ unique battle music. Every area and every boss in Quell 4D had its own music giving the player a sense of progression as they make progress in the game and begin hearing new music.”

 Chasin’s 2015 Global Music awards for his HEKTOR score seems poised to be the predecessor to the acclaim that Quell 4D is already receiving. After hearing his Quell 4D Drum & Bass inspired score, Toronto based Hard Music hired Shaun to compose synth tracks for them as well. His compositions for the game have also become a sensation on music service Spotify proving that there is a music fan base for his work that is independent of gamers. For this composer all of these creations are simply a representation of his musical talent being channeled into different avenues. Shaun Chasin is always ready and up for the challenge which lies in the next composition. 

 

 

 

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