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ATITD2: Neil Goldberg’s Composer Diary © eGenesis
By: Neil Goldberg

Wow, it’s getting hot in here. I’ve been stuck in this small room full of whirring computer equipment for days! Hummm ... you know, now that I think of it, it’s been a few weeks! I’ve been transported to the sweltering heat of Egypt (at least it feels that way).

Over the last few weeks we’ve been writing theme songs for eGenesis’s MMORPG “A Tale in The Desert II.” My partner in crime, Dave Fraser and I have worked together for 10 years and have built two studios here at Heavy Melody Music. We’ve been working with our producer, Chris Peterson, for a year and a half. Typically we compose individually, Dave and I have written about ten of the theme songs for different places in the game including the Log-in Screen.

While we brainstormed the general concept and direction of the music together, we split up this assignment and composed the songs individually. I wrote the music for the Universities of Art, Worship, Architecture, and Leadership, while Dave composed Body, Thought, and Conflict.

It’s been quite a journey. Writing authentic sounding, original theme songs, for a game that is suppose to take place thousands of years ago, was quite a challenge. An Ancient Egyptian tonal quality was the easy part but discovering instruments to perform that music was something else all together. We really had to be resourceful with our instrument choices.

Being in New York City, I figured I could go to the Metropolitan museum and borrow an Ancient Egyptian Lyre (they have so many who would notice?) but it seems they really screw those things on to the wall pretty well. Anyway, back to the studio where I start by composing the main melody for the piece with some violin sounds and other stringed instruments. Once I get to a point where it’s starting to take shape, I’ll experiment with other instruments to play the melody until I find the one (or five) that sounds best.

From there it’s time for the underlying rhythm. This is the really fun part for me; coming up with big pounding rhythms that echo what might have been heard thousands of years ago is exciting. As a composer there are so many different rhythmic elements at my fingertips (literally) that the combinations are endless. The trick here is to keep it believable yet weave in some big time cinematic excitement to immerse the player in the game.

I found myself looking through Asian and African instrument libraries to find instruments similar to what the Ancient Egyptians used. By layering these with other instruments, and with new elements, and throw in a bit of finessing, bake at 250 for one hour (did I mention it was hot?) and voila! The Egyptian sound of ATITD2 sound came to life.

The inspiration was the other crucial piece of information.
The last theme I wrote was for the University of Leadership. I needed some inspiration so I watched the presidential election... nope, no inspiration there. “Hail to the Chief” seemed so small for a Pharaoh. I was thinking Pharaoh needs a big sound with grandeur. I found a basic melody and started building. I added a few more layers of musical elements like a big ominous vocal choir, some tweaked-out acoustic guitar and flute, before I felt like we really had something.
The object is writing a piece of music that brings the player to that particular place and time then immerses the player completely in the game. Hopefully there are players walking like Egyptians in living rooms and college dorms across the world – for me, that’s the last test of the game that I call “Player Bliss.”