ReMix: Sid Meier's Civilization IV "Destined for Greatness"
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- Game: Sid Meier's Civilization IV (2K Games, 2005, WIN)
- ReMixer(s): Geoffrey Taucer, prophetik music
- Composer(s): Christopher Tin, Jeffery L. Briggs, Mark Cromer, Michael Curran
- Song(s): "Baba Yetu"
- Posted: 2009-05-12, evaluated by djpretzel
- Terms (BETA): acoustic-guitar collab electric-guitar lyrics-existing rock singing vocals-male woodwinds world
'Destined for Greatness,' indeed. I'm proud to present our first ReMix from the legendary Civilization series and our first mix this year from dynamic duo Geoffrey Taucer and The Prophet of Mephisto. From Civ4 specifically, this arrangement takes on the epic 'Baba Yetu' theme, which has quickly become a legitimate modern VGM classic. You can read more about the game's soundtrack on Wiki, but we've already gone to the trouble of conducting a full interview with the composer of this specific piece, Christopher Tin. We met him at VGL in DC and he's an awesome guy. Incidentally, he worked with ex-Judge, ReMixer, and in this case vocalist Jillian Goldin on his soon-to-be-released original album Calling All Dawns. 'Baba Yetu' is an amazing piece of music and a daunting task for anyone to arrange, but Jeremy & Brad have done a great job. We'd intended on posting this mix at the same time we published the interview, but we've been noticing that when we try to coincide things like that it ends up delaying everything else and creating a bottleneck, so the interview went up first. Nevertheless, now that the mix is posted, be sure to check out Mr. Tin's observations & revelations about VGM composition, along with some thoughts specific to this very track.
To me, this is a frightening track to attempt to ReMix, filled with energy, life, and... vocals in Swahili. It's a piece that feels universal and timeless, and the overall sound is extremely rich, so right off the bat it presents numerous challenges. I think, however, that Taucer & Mephisto are the perfect guys for the job. Both artists are multi-instrumentalists, they've collaborated before, and they both approach music from an emotional, soulful perspective that seems right for Tin's vision. They also both had a lot to say, but it's all compelling & explains where this mix came from and how it eventually formed into a finished composition. Taucer writes:
"From the moment I first heard that menu theme, I considered it to be one of the greatest pieces of music I had ever heard in a game. Such power and majesty within such simplicity -- it was utterly amazing. And I knew the simplicity would cause it to lend itself extremely well to remixing, so I sat down to see what I could come up with. This was around the same time I was starting work on a certain track for the Xenogears project for which I used DADGAD tuning, and since I already had the guitar tuned that way, I decided to see how the Baba Yetu chord progression would sound in DADGAD.
It sounded beautiful! So I ran with it. I forget where along the line I decided to do it in 7/8, or what gave me the idea, but I think it worked pretty well. In all this time, I never actually recorded anything; I never did anything beyond playing it on guitar or whistle from time to time when I was putzing around in my studio. Then I went to the VGL concert in Washington, DC, and Christopher Tin himself was in attendance. After melting into a puddle of fanboyish adoration, I eventually plucked up the courage to let him know I was working on a remix of Baba Yetu myself. He said he'd love to hear it when I finished it.
After getting home, I realized: shit, now I actually need to do some work on it. SO I got started, and things went pretty smoothly, then I got a promotion at work. Good for me, terrible for all the remixing projects I had in progress. At one point I e-mailed the WIP to Tin himself; he replied saying he loved it, and sent me the score for the original. Since I was pretty much stuck and didn't have much time for remixing, I did what I usually do with mixes I know I'm not gonna finish: I looked for somebody else to unload it on. Since Brad and I had collaborated on a few somewhat similar tracks in the past and I knew he'd be able to do something awesome with anything I gave him, he was the obvious choice. While I do still wish I'd had a bit more time to dedicate to working
on this, I can't say I'm at all disappointed with the final result; Brad did a damn fine job with it."
Damn fine indeed. Always gratifying as well to hear that the composer himself is digging your arrangement, and very cool of Chris to lend a hand with the score. Brad picks up where Taucer left off:
"jeremy contacted me almost a year ago (late june) with the files for this track. he told me that he had reached an impasse, and wanted me to finish it. he had the first 2:11 of the final version done. so, it was his idea to do it in 7/4, and his idea to use some crazy super-low guitar tuning that inspired my half of the work.
i started by taking what he had given me (lots of guitar, whistle, and vocal tracks, some midi files for the piano parts, and a general idea for the piece in mp3 form) and mastering it. i used melodyne to fix the vocal parts he had originally given me, since the original idea was just open fifths, not moving chords. after i had fit that into the chord structure, i cleaned up the piano part a bit, added in the hand percussion and bass...and then i was stuck, too, for a while.
after a few times of listening through what we had, i wondered what taucer's guitar parts would sound like with some distortion on them. i was in this phase where every song i wrote or programmed had to have a rock section, and this one was no exception. i booted up Guitar Rig 3, and the second half of the piece developed rather quickly after that. the lowered guitar tuning (i think it was DADGAD, but don't quote me on it) really lent itself to a heavier sound in an awesome way. some custom Addictive Drums and Virtual Bassist work, a few synths, and we had our track. i re-melodyne'd jeremy's vocals for this section to add some power to them up higher - they're done with the same files that the first section was, just like the guitar was.
on my end, i sequenced and mastered everything with FL Studio 7/8. i used Addictive Drums, Virtual Bassist, Rob Papen's Blue v1.7 for the synth leads, NI's awesome B4 II organ for the rock organ in the second half, and Guitar Rig 3 for the guitar distortion. Melodyne was used on the vocal parts and to tune the whistles properly. the percussion came from Ueberschall's excellent The Resource collection for the Elastik sampler."
Whew. Like I said, a lot of info there, but all of it really speaks to the process this ReMix went through to get from start to finish. The combination of rock and world elements reminds me of Peter Gabriel, specifically 'Come Talk to Me'. Things intro with percussion, then strumming and piano. As someone who's listened to Paul Simon's Graceland in its entirety at least a hundred times, the vocal samples at 1'08" remind me of 'Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes' ...but hey, Paul Simon? Peter Gabriel? These are pretty great artists to be channeling. Samples work well but I'm also glad we've got original vocals in there, too, and the decision to cross-pan the call & answer was spot on. The 7/4 (or 7/8) time sig works a treat - sometimes the timing is a little loose and the measure transition is surprising, but the decision was a solid one and the arrangement makes everything feel natural. I can see why Jeremy hit an impasse at around two minutes in, and I also feel like Brad's decision to rock everything out afterwards was 110% the right approach. The original piece has this feeling of ascension, of rising/climbing towards something, and while it might have been nice to reintroduce the vocal elements towards the end, the wall of sound electric guitar maintains that soaring, rising feeling quite effectively.
Awesome source material from an awesome, newer game composer, and an awesome ReMix from two awesome artists. Generally, much awe to go around. Check out our interview with Christopher Tin while you're listening to Jeremy & Brad's mix for the complete, full-circle experience, as originally intended; truly something unique, memorable, and vibrant.
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