The Storm | Golden Sun | Orchestral Arrangement
One of the earliest tracks heard in Golden Sun - the ominous, foreboding bass guitar & co. from the opening storm.
You can find links for the recording, sheet music and more over here!
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"This track was a real challenge to arrange.
The exposed and ominous sound of the bass guitar juxtaposed with the strings fading in from silence are arguably the most iconic elements of this track. And updating the track while attempting to maintain that sparse atmosphere was surprisingly difficult: add too much, and that sense of foreboding is lost; add too little and, well, it's just the original track.
Achieving that balance is the true test for any arranger.
Here, the bass guitar opens with a quasi-improvisatory phrase on an F#, seemingly imitating the "ba-dump, ba-dump" of a heartbeat. In this opening, the metric dissonance is strong, creating a form of additive meter (6+2) which could be notated in numerous ways (e.g. it could also be a metric modulation, but I deduced that would be more challenging to read).
To complement the bass guitar, I subtle effects from synthesizers, waterphones and rumbling drums - a subtle approach to retain that sparseness but still providing additional mystery with modern virtual instruments. As the meter steadies out to 12/16 (0:11), these effects are nearly entirely removed, leaving a single swirling synthesizer swimming in the stereo space.
By 0:22, our classic string crescendos begin from silence, spelling out an F# minor triad (F#-A-C#). With these growths being a pivotal element of this track, I enhanced them with timpani rolls and additional brass to add some extra force.
As the crescendo concludes (0:26), a synthesized wind instrument appears with a disjunct melody on an F# Aeolian scale (F#-G#-A-B-C#-D-E). Here, I placed the material in the panpipes - an instrument favoured by Sakuraba in this OST - to remain close to the aesthetic of Golden Sun's soundtrack. The improvisatory drums are retained, but with additional rumbling from a bass drum to boost their scale.
At 0:32, we abruptly jump down a tone into E minor / Aeolian (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D) and repeat the previous 4 measures nearly identically, but transposed. This alternation between F# and E persists for nearly the entirety of the track. The panpipe melody is expanded at 0:42, now back in F#, as we get another growing crescendo. This time however, a choir appears as well as an additional major 7th (the E# trilling away in the violins) for additional tension and development.
As the panpipes climb up to the open 5th (C#; 0:46) at the end of the crescendo, a tubular bell appears - often used as a signifier for bad things (e.g. death). Once more, we drop down to E (0:52) with another crescendo and repeat of earlier material.
But by 1:01, we get something new; the bass guitar departs from its heartbeat ostinato and offers some ascending and descending parallel 5ths moving atop an E pedal. To complement this shift, I add some thin string pizzicatos expanding the bass guitar's material and to create a scurrying effect as if to tread carefully.
On returning to F# at 1:11, we get some more new material. And to mark this new addition, the melody is now also doubled with a bright synthesizer with the classic digital delay effect appearing in nearly every Golden Sun track. Further, we also depart from F# and E during this section (moving to G# minor), and so to highlight these new harmonies, I added a soft choir to present them. By 1:21, we return to familiar material.
From here to the end is an identical repeat of earlier material (0:42). But so that it is not an exact repeat, I added new string col legno material for an additional percussive fidgeting. Then at 1:42, we return to our metrically disturbed opening, and the track loops."