What does it mean to be Vietnamese? Former CNN Producer and first-time filmmaker Hieu Gray seeks to answer that question through the lens of food in her debut documentary “Quận 13”. The short film features original music composed by BAO to compliment tantalizing cinematography by David Woo.
Join us Friday, November 1st at Nguoi Viet in Little Saigon, California for a screening of the documentary “Quận 13”. Stay for a discussion with director Hieu Gray (Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Larry King Live), composer BAO, and more, to be moderated by LA Times writer Anh Do.
Friday November 1, 2019 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM PDT
Nguoi Viet Online
14771 Moran Street
Westminster, CA 92683
UPDATE: A mobile game that I created the musical score for is now available in the US. People have been playing “Musashi World Warriors” in Asia for a while. If you feel like winning actual cryptocurrency while playing “Rock–paper–scissors” using ancient warriors, you should get this game on your smartphone and put on some headphones to enjoy the music and sound effects by yours truly.
Late last year, some friends invited me to compose the music for a game called Musashi, which is scheduled to be released in early 2018. It was the first time I had ever created original music for a game, so the experience really made me want to do more projects like this. This soundtrack album consists of full length versions of the musical clips used in the game. Enjoy streaming the music on this page or on any major digital streaming platforms and learn more about the game and my creative process below.
Musashi is a simple role playing game for mobile devices. Your character travels through ancient lands to battle opponents and win virtual gold. Players trade in that gold for armor and other powers for their characters. The thing that makes Musashi stand apart from other RPGs is that the fighting is ultra-simplified and is based on rock–paper–scissors. You can just play it casually while waiting for your coffee to get made. I really enjoy the game’s retro artwork, reminiscent of the Street Fighter II character art from the 1990s. And hopefully, players will also like the game’s music.
General Approach to the Music
Overall, the Musashi soundtrack is mainly electronic music with many sampled and digitally distorted acoustic instruments. I used classic synthesizer sounds and effects as the basis of the music, while adding traditional world instruments to create certain vibes that match the scenes in the game. But even the real instruments were heavily altered using digital effects because I wanted everything to have a decayed, unnatural feeling. For example, most of the orchestra strings were played on a software version of a Mellotron so that there’s something unnatural about them, but you can’t quite place what it is. While the game required short, monophonic loops (one speaker only), the full versions on this album were mixed in stereo with a few additional effects that help create the illusion of large antique spaces.
Vietnamese-inspired Musashi Theme
Musashi’s music all started with the main melody that you hear in the Musashi Theme, played by a sampled and digitally distorted Erhu, an old Chinese two-stringed instrument similar to a fiddle. I came up with this melody while in the shower after having played around with the game for a couple days. I wanted a melody that felt like a conflict between seeking adventure and longing for home. Once I had this melody recorded onto my iPhone’s voice notes, the backing music came out pretty naturally. The last part I did on this song was to add an electric guitar with lots of delay and reverb. There was a Vietnamese guitarist that was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s named Vô Thường, whose style inspired my guitar part. You’ve probably heard his music playing in the background at the Pho restaurant. LOL. Here’s four hours of his insane music.
Musical Themes for Each Ancient Civilization
We decided early in the process that we should have a few musical themes that correspond to the various ancient lands that your Musashi character travels through in the game. My approach was to use the main melody from Musashi Theme and use variations of that throughout all the other themes, even though the rest of the music could be significantly different.
The Arabic and Siberian themes are probably my favorites. For the Arabic theme, I found a loop of some tablas that had a cool rhythmic pattern and tuned them to my liking. I then added some synthesized and sampled vocals and detuned them, causing a melted feeling. The rhythm of the vocals on some parts sounds a little like chanting, but it’s actually accomplished by taking a long and steady “ahhhh” sound and using something called sidechain compression to make the voices pulsate to the rhythm of the tablas. For the Siberian theme, I listened to a bunch of traditional music from Siberia and Mongolia, which helped me pick some instruments that had a similar vibe: a primitive flute, a clanky guitar, and some deep voices that sound almost like throat singing. Put all that on top of a pulsing electronic beat and you have Musashi’s Siberian Theme.
How to Support BAO’s Music
How did you like the music? Let me know in the comments. When Musashi becomes available to the public, you’ll be able to download the game on the Apple and Google stores. You can also support me in a few different ways:
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