ReMix: Final Fantasy IV 'The Dark'

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Final Fantasy IV

Patrick Waters writes:

"The Dark gestated in 2005 as one of several now lost and indefinitely abandoned projects following a massive data loss; the rebooted project began in late 2007 to be finished February 2008. The short tone poem draws on the music of Mahler, particularly his first and seventh symphonies, and of Debussy.

A bassoon begins the piece, intoning the opening motive of the melody; it is joined by the other bass instruments of the orchestra as the line unfolds. In the second section, a solo violoncello carries the primary melodic material, colorfully accompanied by pizzicato and staccato strings and woodwinds. The final section explores the canonic possibilities of the source tune as various parts of the orchestra laminate the texture leading to the climax with chromatically altered harmonies, resolving to the sudden and subdued coda-like conclusion; the final, hushed utteration of the motive comes from the lowest register of the solo cello.

Scored for two flutes, alto flute, three oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, three horns, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, tam-tam, celesta, two harps, organ, and strings with solo violoncello."

That's certainly an official-sounding, borderline hoity-toity description - but is the mix any good? Thankfully, yes, though I must say it would have been amusing to have a submission email namedropping Mahler and Debussy attached to a mix filled with generic, FruityLoop-preset trance. Mr. Waters is certainly wielding the vernacular, but he's wielding it accurately, so props. Very quiet, deliberate introduction, living up to its title with a cavernous bassoon solo that feels like you're tiptoeing around a sleeping dragon. Dynamics are excellent, though - don't turn it up too much because it's quiet, as that does change. Vinnie writes:

"...really cool harmonic elements that add a lot of character to the original. Great balance of new and old. It's very quiet for most of it, but the dynamic range is used fairly well, and the quiet moments work. You get that sense that the instruments are bubbling under, waiting to burst out."

AnSo adds:

"Great writing at 1:29-1:40. The harmonic changes at reminds me of the overworld theme from Final Fantasy VII and works really well. Natural use of 5/4 from 1:40-2:11, doesn't sound forced as some odd time signatures easily can. Even the 7/4 that follows fits like a glove. Great support-writing throughout and good instrument choices."

I'm glad he pointed out those signature changes, as I didn't even notice them the first time through - everything flows very naturally. This is a fantastic example of an orchestral arrangement that conveys power and emotion without bombast: lots of subtle detail and part writing that weaves a rich, integrated tapestry. I might start sounding hoity-toity myself (too late), but it's the type of music that basically requires such language to effectively describe. I think I can personally classify this mix as "deceptive" - it seems very direct, almost simple, but it progresses in a fashion that really spirals into something simultaneously enveloping and developing, not to mention enjoyable. It's a smart arrangement, but it doesn't shove its tricks in your face or beat you on the head with them - an excellent, very deliberately-crafted ReMix from trickwaters.

djpretzel

Discussion: Latest 15 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
Crulex
on 2014-05-21 08:01:09
Emunator;625586 wrote: If I ever needed a song for one of those thought-provoking, reflective moments in a movie, I think this is around the style I'd be looking for.

It does have that sort of whimsically powerful darkness about it that I could hear in a movie. Sounds just like the kind of arrangement that would fit a Final Fantasy 4 movie score for the dungeons, because it has those deary booming bassoons that turns into more of the same with fantastical lifts dancing around them. Got a small shade of Potter vibe in some areas, but just a little one. Like everyone else mention, the thing is overly quiet and I had to turn the volume up just to hear the ReMix, but after that, not bad.
Emunator
on 2009-12-22 01:14:10
I don't currently have headphones, so I had to crank this one all the way up just to hear it. The arrangement seems intentionally deliberate and very moody, thanks to the sudden drop offs and haunting choice of instruments.
If I ever needed a song for one of those thought-provoking, reflective moments in a movie, I think this is around the style I'd be looking for. It feels like you're trudging through uncertainty and darkness for most of the mix, but toward the end when the instruments get louder and more profound, you feel like you've reached enlightenment and everything is much more clear. If that's the concept you were going for, then kudos to you! :-D
Otakatt
on 2009-11-30 23:50:20
I remember when this came out I was confused. It was right before the release of the FF4 album, but it wasn't affiliated with it. But it was still a very pleasant surprise, being from trickwaters, and being of one of my favorite FF4 tunes.
I had to break out my headphones to listen to this one, because it was just so *quiet*. Admittedly I should listen to more music with headphones, especially for reviewing purposes, but I don't have a great setup for that kind of thing. In this case I'm glad I did though, because with the headphones I'm picking up a lot of stuff I missed initially. Some of the strings and flutework in the background, for instance. And it's all done well, in that the instruments don't sound too fake to me. In pieces like this, authenticity is important. (Then again it could be real instruments for all I know.. I'm not too good at telling the difference XD)
The overall mood of this piece is really reminiscent of the original for me. Haunting, but still beautiful. My one complaint is something I'm torn about. The quiet beginning sets up the mood of this really well, but at the same time my instinct is to cut up the volume so I can hear it. Then later it gets loud! So the volume must come down, and the having to cut it up and down makes this.. not the best candidate for easy listening or just having something on the mp3 player to chill to. But that's me just being anal and nitpicky, I'll admit.
Overall, this is really worth a listen if you love orchestral stuff, and moreso if you're into the FF4 soundtrack!
Mtlbro
on 2009-08-10 19:17:54
I LOVE this dungeon song. I can imagine hearing this version in the game. .

Oh and beautiful key change during the climax was a special "oooh" moment for me :)))
Polo
on 2009-08-09 04:16:54
This forcibly reminds me of Shadowgate 64, thanks to the corridor-creeping pizzicato strings (1:52 = strongest), the woodwinds expressing tall tower wonder (2:47+ = ditto), and the overall vibe (exploring in a musky, people-less fantasy setting). Furtive and gripping, like a spellbook waiting to be found.
Martin Penwald
on 2009-07-23 12:16:56
Nice arrangement and instrumentation. The deliberate pacing didn't put me off at all; I think it fits the overall mood of the song very well.
It's awfully quiet, though. As Kirby Oak said, it's kinda hard to have this remix as part of a playlist. As a standalone song, though, with the volume cranked up accordingly, this is pretty sweet stuff.
DramaNoMore
on 2009-07-10 17:27:19
This piece makes me feel hopeless and vulnerable.
It's been a long time since Music pulls my strings like this.
gotta start listening to this genre again.
thanks.

Edit: Oh, I agree whith this:

OA;565512 wrote: If only it wasn't so short, I felt it could have gone for quite a bit longer with some additional expansion.
OA
on 2009-07-10 12:52:55
Very deliberate pacing, and some very nice contrapuntal ideas contained within. I thought the dynamic curve was fine, though I can see how it would potentially turn off a lot of people who are looking for action right away, but if you are patient, there's some pretty good ideas here. If only it wasn't so short, I felt it could have gone for quite a bit longer with some additional expansion.
Still, it's good, and I enjoyed it. Nice work. :-)
ZealPath
on 2009-07-10 06:44:11
I really like the atmosphere this song sets up, I basically get a constant vision of the first dungeon of FFIV, Mist Dragon and all, which is definitely not a bad thing. It also conveys a sense of sneaking around and being careful, which sort of gets knocked out of its socks occasionally by the louder parts. The intro has got to be my favorite part, it sets the rest of it up wonderfully.
This mix is very quiet to start, and I have a hard time listening to the whole thing at one consistent volume level, but as I'm a pretty huge fan of the source I can certainly cope with this.
SmartLX
on 2009-07-09 23:23:23
Don't know about Mahler, but there's a lot of Holst's Planets in there. The celesta arpeggio is almost a quote from Neptune, for example. Very good regardless.
Nobbynob Littlun
on 2009-07-09 18:39:06
If it's instant gratification you're after (as I often am) this won't do it. If you're looking for a well-executed tune that doesn't intrude terribly on your psyche as you try get some work done at the computer (as I often am), this will do it.
Gario
on 2009-07-09 16:22:49
Hmm... Well, as far as the arrangement goes it's top notch, and the orchestrating is quite good. Yes, it's very quiet, but if you listen to any classical CD it's about at the same dynamic volume so it could fit in perfectly with a Debussy album or even Mahler. Mind you, I believe that if your listening to classical music, you need to have it up loud enough to hear the quiet parts and let the loud portions blow your head off (no tweaking the volume, people!) - that's the only way to go, and this piece is great for that type of listening (other genres of music don't have this element, which is rather sad, but that's life).
I do feel that the instruments don't sound very real, though, but it does the job well enough - the arrangement and dynamic play works well, making up for that one deficiency. Nice stuff!
Kirby Oak
on 2009-07-09 11:11:36
Like someone mentioned, a little quiet, so hard to add to a playlist without the other songs blowing my ears out, but definitely a relaxing piece. It's very fitting with a "Dark" castle of some sort in a fantasy movie. Retaining some of that majesty of it's lost kingdom while still being in a state of disrepair and spookiness. It very much reminds me of the witches' lair in Stardust (probably because I recently saw that movie and it's most fresh in my memory), or even the crystal towers of the third Pokemon movie. Overall, very nice mix, even if it could use an audio boost.
Lucentas
on 2009-07-09 10:58:38
Excellent job here! I've been waiting around for someone to cover this source track adequately...haha. (I'm such a jerk.)
Anyway, this is beautiful, marvelously subtle, and evokes the atmosphere of the original perfectly.
DragonAvenger
on 2009-07-09 09:00:57
Trickwaters has alwasy been a great arranger, and it shows here in this mix. Great use of dynamics; it only gets loud once, but when it does it really counts. Instrumentation is pretty cool, because he uses a bunch of instruments that you dont normally here even in concert music these days.
Nice work.