Espen Gätzschmann - Music/Sound Design

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Dark Ambient

Dark Ambient is a genre that is often heard in games and movies, but only rarely in standalone music. It's usually slow and ponderous with little regard to melody or musical climaxes.

In my music dark ambient can often be recognized by being very slow and moody, usually with some kind of drone-like instrument acting as the glue that holds everything together. Orchestral elements are often used in unusual ways, with disharmony and chaos being important keywords.

The inspiration for this kind of music comes from many different sources, but if I were to pick one single source that has influenced my style more than any other, it would be the Fallout soundtracks by Mark Morgan. Its mesh of synths, slow orchestral sweeps and enigmatic guitars creates a mood that instantly defines the entire game without being something that you'll go around and hum the rest of the day. It affects you without distracting you away from the game itself.

Overwatch
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Extraterrestrial Lifeforms
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Denizens of the Underworld
Guitars by Tore Aune Fjellstad
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Dark Magic
Guitars by Tore Aune Fjellstad
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Thunderous Depths
Guitars by Tore Aune Fjellstad
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Open Your Eyes
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Snowfall
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Beyond the Event Horizon
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Path of Regrets
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Restless Slumber
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Ambient

As the name implies, ambient is a genre that is closely related to dark ambient. Unlike dark ambient however, ambient is usually made for listening, not merely as background music in a game or movie.

My ambient music can cover a lot of ground, often within one single track. Some tracks focus on melody and harmony, while others focus on mood and relaxation. They may or may not have drums. Most can also be defined as electronica, though considering the breadth of that genre it's more useful to give them a more detailed categorization.

Examples of ambient music that inspires me includes Enigma, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield and Bjørn Lynne.

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Electronica

"Electronica" isn't really a genre. It's more of a catch-all phrase invented in America to describe any and all kinds of electronic music. Despite this, it's actually quite useful when you're not really sure what genre something is, as often happens with me. Common to all the tracks listed in this section is that I'm having a hard time classifying them as anything but electronic music.

The common thread here is of course the fact that these tracks are clearly electronic in nature. The emphasis is on synths, though real instruments may appear from time to time. Fast, arpeggiated bass lines are common, as are breakbeats. The tempo can vary from slow, almost ambient speed to fast, pulse-pounding speeds that gets your heart racing.

Since I usually don't plan to make music in a specific genre, the results often end up in this category.

On the Razor's Edge
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First Contact
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Anigma - Title Screen
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Anigma - Gameplay
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Infiltrator
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Into the Dark
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Heroic Intervention
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Origin Story
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Stealth
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Showdown
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Orchestral

This is a pretty self-explanatory genre. An orchestra is a large collection of brass, woodwind, string and percussive instruments played by individual people. The actual instruments used can vary from orchestra to orchestra, and even from song to song. While most of us can recognize a trumpet or a violin, many have a harder time identifying more esoteric instruments like the güiro, tam-tam or double bass by name.

Orchestral is a great style for movies and games and never goes out of style, though it tends to change. Orchestral music from 80s movies sounds very different from today. The challenge lies in letting the average musician compose orchestral scores without having to hire an entire orchestra (which could get very expensive fast).

The solution lies with modern sample libraries. These days I have every instrument in a normal orchestra (and more!) at my fingertips, though it might not sound quite as good as the real thing. It's still a big step, and I love the challenge involved in making synthetic orchestral music sound authentic. I usually combine orchestral elements with synths or rock instruments.

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Ethnic

Though "ethnic" is a word that could be used to describe any music in the world by someone somewhere, I limit it to mean any music that is clearly non-western in nature. Ethnic music has become increasingly popular over the last few years, particularly through games and movies, as many instruments from exotic cultures are very dramatic or evocative. As an example, one of the most common drums used in action music, the taiko, is from Japan.

It has become increasingly common to combine ethnic instruments with western orchestral and even synth music. This is a concept I've come to embrace myself as it lends itself very, very well to cinematic music and the instruments fit together in the first place. You'll notice this trend in almost all my ethnic tracks.

Into the East
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Desert City
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Into the Jungle
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Tau Ceti
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Lucid Dreams
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Agile Mind
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Trance

Trance is an often misunderstood genre. To many people it's all about 4/4 patterns with a bass drum on the down beat and a hihat on the off-beat. To anyone who's spent some time listening to the wide variety of trance out there however, it should be clear that the limits of this genre are blurry and can encompass a large variety of musical styles.

I myself am particularly fond of the more relaxing kinds of trance, sometimes bordering on house. I prefer trance to have a recognizable melody instead of focusing on the dance aspect. Acid can be cool but is far from necessary.

To give a better idea of what I look for in trance, you can listen to some of my favorite groups. I recommend groups like Oceanlab, Chicane, Hybrid and Ayla. The common denominator among these is their focus on melody and mood.

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Remixes

Most of us have heard a piece of music and wished that it was slightly different. Perhaps you didn't like that guitar part. Perhaps you felt it was too fast. Perhaps the sound was too grainy. For one reason or another, you felt the track needed another pass, perhaps by someone else than the original artist.

I feel that way often, and not because the original tracks are bad, but because they are good but can't quite reach their potential for some reason. This usually happens when a piece of music was composed for an old game where the technology didn't allow the artist to reach his potential. Games like Super Cars 2, for example, used MOD-files, a music format that limits the artist to using simple, low-quality samples with few to no effects and only 4 channels.

Today these limits are mostly gone. Games can play high-quality MP3s without affecting the framerate in any noticeable way. So what if the older music that we know and love was made today? What would it sound like? That's usually how I start out making a remix.

Welcome to Falayalaralfali
Original by Dan Nicholson
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Odyssey Part 1
Original by Greg of Alcatraz
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Super Cars 2
Original by Matthew Simmonds
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Kohr-Ah Battle
Original by Dan Nicholson
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LeChuck's Lament
Original by Michael Land
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