Isle of Joy Kickstarter Concludes, “Soundtrack” in Progress

The Isle of Joy Kickstarter concluded last night, after a couple of really stellar days. I was impressed with how many people decided to back the project in those last days and hours, and I’m grateful to them all. People managed to unlock a lot of nice stretch goals—including colour maps!—and as was announced in the last announcement for the campaign, I’ll be making a collection of tracks titled Songs from Isle of Joy to release as a special bonus for all backers. (More about that below.) Anyway, I’m really excited for our backers to get their copies and I hope they really enjoy their time with the Isle as much as I’ve enjoyed the time I spent with it. 

As for that bonus collection of music tracks: 

I currently have about five tracks in roughly finalized format, one in slightly rougher shape, and am working up ideas for about four or five more tracks. In other words, the music should be done well before it’s time for fulfillment of the Kickstarter.

One sample track, “Walking the Highlands,” has been released:

For those interested, here’s a little background on the track, and how I’m putting together the “album.”

First, I should note why I started making this. Originally, I put together a few different tracks, hoping to capture something essential about Isle of Joy, for use in the Kickstarter promo video. One was an ambient track, one was a version of the traditional naval song “Spanish Ladies”, and one was the track we actually ended up using. As the campaign progressed, I found myself returning to the unused tracks and messing with them. If nothing else, I thought, they were a healthy distraction from checking the campaign’s progress too obsessively. Somewhere around the middle of October, I found myself making new tracks that felt very Isle of Joy-themed, and so I proposed the idea of a bonus album. That’s how it came into being. 

Some technical deaths: in “Walking the Highlands,” the tabla loop is a public domain loop that was shared online. (I got it here.) Everything else is me, mostly made using my Aerophone AE-30 Wind Synthesizer, pictured at the right. The Aerophone is both a MIDI-controller and a synthesizer. All that means is that I can play both the built-in sounds on it, like the lead line of “Walking the Highlands,” and I can also use it to control any other MIDI-compatible synthesizer. (The latter is how I created the electric sounds that start around the middle of the track and eventually take over.)

In general, there are samples in most of the tracks, and I’ve done my best to ensure they’re public domain: anything I couldn’t verify as such, I haven’t used. In one or two tracks, it’s bird sounds or voice samples. In others, it’s percussion—because percussion and drums are my one seriously weak point. (That said, I am thinking of experimenting with programming a few percussion loops for one of the tracks I’m starting to puzzle together. The Aerophone actually has a MIDI-in port and some percussion patches, and apparently I can program external MIDI tracks that can then be played through the sound engine of the Aerophone. We’ll see how well that works in practice, I guess.)

Not all the tracks are produced with the Aerophone, though it is my favoured synth/controller. Some of them (including the theme song from the Kickstarter promo video) were composed as notated music in Musescore (like a classical music score) and exported as MIDI and/or audio tracks, and on others I also used my Arturia Minilab keyboard as a MIDI controller, mostly with freely available VSTs. There’s a wealth of great free sounds out there, if you look for them, and lacking a budget for this project, I’m making do with what I have on hand or can get for free. Sadly, I’m not a good enough drummer to bother plugging my Yamaha edrum kit into my computer, though. 

All of that said, I’m letting my inspirations range widely for this project, spanning various genres of music from around the world as well as ambient and even Hollywood cinema soundtrack writing. Obviously, none of the music is intended to be diegetic: it’s not anything that player characters hear on the Isle in-story, I mean. Rather, it’s intended as inspiration and mood-setting, whether for players during sessions or just for the GM during prep time. I think that’s pretty standard for RPG-related music, like the Dungeonsynth genre that seems to have sprung into being in the past few years. 

I still haven’t figured out how I’ll be making the music available, but chances are good that I’ll be hosting it on Bandcamp, so that while backers will get a free copy, others can purchase it if they like. Like a lot of aspects of this mini-project, that’s still a little up in the air, though, and I’ll need to decide it in the coming months. For now, I’m just trying to get the music sorted out. 

And now, we return to our (ir)regularly scheduled blogging. I won’t be writing about Isle of Joy as much, and hope to resuscitate this blog a bit more, as well as get it working so that it’s in the Fediverse, for anyone who’s interested. The heyday of blogs is long over, but I’m happier blogging than I ever was on social media, so I’m going to try put some of my energies back into this place for now, and see how it goes. 

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