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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Shaw

New Arrangement: "Mercury Lighthouse" from Golden Sun (2001)

The first of the lighthouse themes - the ominous Mercury Lighthouse - now for orchestra.

You can find links for the recording, sheet music and more over here!

If you are one of my Patrons, you can now find the MIDI, XML and SIB files I created for this arrangement now available to download from your Patreon Google Drive folder!


Arranger's Note:

"As soon as we step inside for the first time, this lighthouse means business.

The tonality is almost entirely obscured, with an opening melody that somewhat resembles E minor (E-G-B; 0:03). But this is quickly blurred with A#s - the devilish tritone interval - and also Ds (the 7th) and both Cs and C#s (the 6th). After the first four measures, we jump up to a tonal center of G (0:10) - a tertiary shift - and then up to A (0:13), allowing us to progress back to the opening tonality of E via a loose plagal cadence (IV - I).

Thus, even with such excitingly excessive chromaticism, there is still a trace of functional harmony here.

What is perhaps the most characteristic element of this track is its glissandi - the sliding between notes. This is most apparent in the opening violins (0:03, 0:10), but I have equally given it to other instruments here, including the clarinets (0:16, 0:22) and of course, the trombones. To complement this characteristic, I have also instructed the string players to play a with a heavier portamento ("molto port."), informing them to play with a more aggravated, yet subtle slide between each note.

The synthesizer from the original was a tricky element to orchestrate, so I actually decided to retain it and created a beefy, brassy synth. This adds an overall sizzling to the track.

With that in mind, I pose a question: why did Sakuraba construct Mercury Lighthouse to have rather heavy and dissonant elements? Considering this lighthouse is central to water adepts, shouldn't we expect it to be more soft and flowing like a running stream, perhaps with more twinkling like Aqua Rock?

I think some of these flowing elements are still there - as noted, by the use of the sliding glissandi - but overall I suspect the atmosphere of these lighthouses was intended to be more intimidating, mystic and ancient - like a form of slumbering deity. The theme for Jupiter Lighthouse is similar in this regard, but Venus and Mars differ - with Venus being a glorious fanfare (fitting for the final dungeon of the 1st game), and Mars a fleeting race (fitting for the lighthouse being on a literal cliffhanger).

I would also bring your attention back to the four "Rock" themes, which mirror the "Lighthouse" elements - water, earth, fire, air - and in this case, the "Rock" themes do complement their respective element. So perhaps these Lighthouse themes had to be treated differently as the elemental themes were already covered? Some room for thought!

At 0:29, we shift to the 2nd section. Here, the tonality is completely destroyed; extensive tritones (see the synth), semitonal clashes (see the low strings vs. synth) and a chromatic melody (see the flutes). I welcome anyone to try and suggest the tonality here :D

In 0:41, we get an instant metric shift to what might be 10/8 (namely as that is the lowest common multiple for the metric grouping of 3-3-2-2). We have now shifted loosely to D minor - again, very obscured and chromatic. This phrase is repeated twice, the 2nd time with extra chromaticism through a new countermelody in the horn (0:46).

By 0:52, we reach the final climactic section with parallel open 4ths and 5ths spread across the orchestra. It seemed fitting to add a tubular bell here to mark this building of tension. Tonally, it is tricky to say (shocking, I know), but the melody in the strings would suggest G Lydian (G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#). But since this is doubled a 5th above, it would thus also be D Lydian (D-E-F#-G#-A-B-C#). So, we effectively have bitonality with two Lydian scales at once, although this is very loose.

This material ascends a full tone at 0:58, and I added additional wind material to mark this intense shift. A countermelody appears at 1:05, plucking away in the high winds and xylophone, as the section repeats before we loop to the beginning."


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