Interview With Kyle Gabler about World of Goo soundtrack

We had a talk with Kyle Gabler about the music in World of Goo. He was the designer and composer of that game. The soundtrack is available for free in his website.

As a composer, what has been the main influences? In other words, who are your musical idols?

All the big film and show composers have been on loop in my music player at some point or another. Each one has their own quirks and unique tricks to learn from. For example, John Williams and Andrew Lloyd Weber are geniuses with creating new melodies that you feel like you’ve heard before a long time ago. Danny Elfman, Vangelis, Ennio Morricone are great with unusual instrumentation that create worlds in your head.


Screamer

World of Goo has several song that you did before the game itself, some made for shorts films, some for other games, with different styles, but in World of Goo all of them has sense, its fit perfectly. Do you have a favourite of that previous work? Why?

Yeah, for some of the cues in the soundtrack to World of Goo, I dug through clips of old music I had written years earlier that were just sitting around on old hard drives and that had not really been released in any substantial form. Most of the music was admittedly awful, but a few seemed to actually fit with World of Goo.

My favorite little rediscovery, and probably oldest of all of them, is the track called “Screamer”. It’s one of the first things I ever wrote back when I was 16 or 17 (and I just turned 30!). The track uses just two chords with a very simple melody, but I remember it always made me feel like I was sitting on a rooftop in the rain. There was definitely a Blade Runner influence there. But the trouble with cannibalizing music from your youth, is that it’s a finite resource, and soon there might not be anything left!

Many of the instrument we hear in the OST are computer, but some themes like Best of Times has a very orchestral feel. How did you record it?

When you’re making music on an old laptop, it’s very easy for the whole thing to sound mechanical and dry and very “MIDI”. To help make the whole track feel a little warmer and more human, I try to layer in a few real instruments or voices to the mix. With Best of Times, I was lucky to have one of my university’s acapella groups come over and all huddle around a microphone and sing.

I also got a violinist friend to come over and record her real violin for one of the main melodies. For the staccato “chanting” choir section, the whole choir was just one singer, an amazing vocalist named Hope. She sang the melody in several different octaves, multiple times, with varying degrees of staccato’ness. Finally, with a little panning and reverb, all the instruments magically come together.


Best of Times

With Best of Times, what feelings do you wanted to transmit to the gamer of World of Goo?

Best of Times is an over-the-top flamboyantly dramatic song, while World of Goo is a game about little sticky balls. I hope the music was able to give some weight to the Goo Ball’s journey, but I would never want the game to take itself too seriously.

For example, the first time we hear the Best of Times in the game, we have just injected a bunch of botox into a giant power generating lady statue thing, and now she can power the world again because she is so pretty. Thank goodness for cosmetic surgery! Hopefully players are nice and conflicted over what they should be feeling in these moments.

**What are the lyrics to the Chanting?

The singer of that section brought over some of her Italian music books, and we chose a bunch of single syllable sounds, strung them together, and sang them. The result is absolute nonsense, but the syllables are something like:

Splen Day Oo Nah Fah Chay Kay Lah
Mah Hah Chen Day Star Vee Chee Noh


Ode to the Bridge Builder

Best of Time is my personal favourite, but, If I play World of Goo while sounds the song “Ode to the Bridge Builder”, I feel like I am making the most heroic thing in my entire life… And its simply a game. How did you make that? From where came that melody?

That’s funny! The level Ode to the Bridge Builder occurs right towards the end of the first chapter, and all the action takes place in silhouette against a giant setting sun. It reminded me of a cowboy riding off into the sunset at the end of a movie, so I thought I would try and write a piece of music in the style of Ennio Morricone’s classic western scores. The melody itself started with a modification of Amazing Grace and then built a bunch of variations from there.


Main Theme

But the main theme in the game isnt the epic Best of Times or the heroic Ode to the Bridge Builder, but a tango. What is the story behind the ending/beginning song of World of Goo?

Yeah I was really struggling at first to come up with a main theme for World of Goo. Then I remembered that in the original prototype Tower of Goo, I had used Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango as the background music, so it seemed appropriate that the main theme for World of Goo be inspired in some way by that classic song. Playing with Libertango on a keyboard, I learned about some lovely new chord progressions that used notes that aren’t even in the key.

For any music theory folks, it goes something like I(minor) II(Major) II(diminished) I(minor). The final song and theme to World of Goo isn’t even a tango, and has almost nothing in common with Libertango other than the opening few chords, but I like to think the song helps ground the game back to its original roots.

In addition to the interview, Kyle Gabler has been kind enough to send two exclusive demos of ** Best of Times **, which served as a guide for vocalists and musicians when recording their parts:

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