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A.H. Sankhatayan

Original WAD Soundtracks With Distinct Themes and Leitmotifs

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Today, I replayed a bunch of levels from Icarus: Alien Vanguard, which is one of my favourite megawads.

One of the many reasons why is its amazing soundtrack.


On the whole, it is very varied. Some of the music is heavily atmospheric, then there are more fast-paced, action-oriented tracks, some of the simulation maps have a very strange, experimental music. More unique tracks also include the solo organ for MAP19, arrangement of a Bach piece for MAP22 and MAP32's jazz version of the Icarus theme. 

Most importantly, all of them are memorable, fun and fit their respective levels (which are equally varied). There isn't a single piece of music I dislike.


Since my love for music started with and is primarily centered around film scores, I love the idea of WAD soundtrack with reoccurring musical themes. 

When I first heard about Icarus once I started playing custom WADs, its soundtrack was my main point of interest because of this. 

I was very pleased when I played it for a first time. The Icarus theme is really good and the different composers created many interesting and unique variations on it.

My favourites are in maps 02,07 and 12. 


While I love the idea, I don't know about any other WADs that use it, besides Daedalus: Alien Defense (hmmm). 


What do you think of the concept? Are there any WADs with such soundtracks? Do you think more WADs should try this approach to music? 


And since I talked about it so much, what do you think about Icarus's music? 

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I don't know of any Doom WADs that do this specifically but there are people who make the music for their maps such as:


James Paddock who has made many absolute bangers like Icicles, which goes incredibly well with the map it's made for, makes music for his own maps and others'. He's headed his own projects in both mapping and soundtrack in WADs such as Jenesis.


B.P.R.D. made the this map and track and they go incredibly well together. Very atmospheric and slightly alien.


I imagine a project in the vein of what you're talking about could be structured like a symphony, 4 original maps and tracks. The music and map styles are structured after a theme such as:


1st map - open, pastoral spaces


2nd map - quick and fun


3rd map - dreary and hopeless


4th map - epic journey, vast halls and cathedrals


Despite the inevitability of a track repeating before the map is finished due to variety of playing styles, the track lengths could be made to reflect par times. This way the music could match certain sections of a map.


Just a thought

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You want Eternal Doom. Rich Nagel's MIDI soundtrack regularly reuses themes and ideas in different arrangements and contexts, the midis of different maps interlocking almost like the themes and leitmotifs of a Wagner opera. It's great.

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19 minutes ago, Woolie Wool said:

You want Eternal Doom. Rich Nagel's MIDI soundtrack regularly reuses themes and ideas in different arrangements and contexts, the midis of different maps interlocking almost like the themes and leitmotifs of a Wagner opera. It's great.

Thank you. I've actually played it, but it was long time ago so it didn't come to my mind when writing the post. I really should play it again.

I think I really liked the music back then, even though I don't remember its themes. I do remember how unique it was compared with other soundtracks from the era.  

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The closest I've ever come to something like that is in my current project that I'm writing for, a lot of my tracks are using similar harmonic ideas, based on stacked open 5ths. I was worried that this would be considered as a lack of imagination if anyone noticed - maybe I should just say that I've been doing it deliberately to make it a more cohesive soundtrack! Other than that it has literally never even occured to me that this is a possible thing to do. I guess you would really need to have a project all of your own to pull this off, rather than several people writing for the one mapset which is more normally the case.

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I was lucky enough to have @PRIMEVAL work with me for Bastion of Chaos. After some discussion we agreed on having a main theme along side a combat theme, which had 3 variants with differing lead in times. I then used scripting to have dynamic music changes throughout the map, approximating how modern games have combat specific music sequences. He also made the title and intermission music.
Now the really cool thing is that all of these pieces were actually a single song so there are clear thematic and tonal links between all the pieces. This full track has been released and is up there with the finest progressive metal you'll find from any label. 

Here is the full track


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I did this for Panophobia, which is as yet still WIP. I wrote a short track for each odd-numbered map (these are little intermission vignettes which themselves have a consistent visual theme) which each have this ticking clock, always the same speed, and this itself comes from the Ribbiks MIDI used on the final map, and in some cases they reference the track used on the following map too. It was pretty fun to put those tracks together.

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The first one I thought of is the soundtrack from HeXen, about half of the tracks are remixes of others.

In the Heretic category, there's the Wayfarer. If you listen to the intro music, there's E1M1 main theme, followed by E1M5's low hap melody. I find that kind of stuff really cool, and I would love to see more in the future. If any of you knows any ....

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I've done this a few times.


Eviternity's title theme is based purely on the opening melody from Eviternity MAP05's track "Sacred Light".


Rebirth MIDI Pack's title theme "Entombed" and MAP30's theme "Underlord" both center on the use of minor-major chords.


Escalation Titan's OST uses a couple of motifs that can be heard in the title and intermission tracks, which both share much of the same musical material, including the guitar arpeggios at the beginning. The main 'chorus' of MAP01's "Escalate" is also heard in the intermission track, and at the very end of MAP06's "Subjugator", you hear the string melody heard in the title track's fadeout. All these motifs happen within the same key and tempo, so they're pretty obvious to spot.


It also has to be said that The Adventures of Square has a number of motifs, chief of which is what I like to call the "Flunky arpeggio", which was originally @Alfonzo's doing. His track "Blue Flunky" for E1A6 prominently features a descending augmented chord arpeggio that perfectly fits the player's fall into the caves when the map starts, and so this arpeggio is also featured at the very beginning of the title track me and @Xaser wrote. You can also hear descending augmented arpeggios in "Jet Your Own Pack", which is directly a callback to the Flunky arpeggio.


The title track also borrows from a whole bunch more stuff featured in Episode 1 - an overture of sorts. In this piece you can hear bits of the intermission track "Oblongitude", as well as E1A2's "Crapchute" and E1A3's "Canoe Not?", that are essentially copied verbatim. (We also recut this track for the E1 YouTube trailer, which has a brief moment from E1's boss theme "Store It in the Phryg" by @jmickle66666666.)

Edited by Jimmy

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While I think only two songs in the soundtrack actually share a distinct riff, the whole Execution soundtrack is thematically consistent and action-packed. Surely one of the most underrated megawad soundtracks:


Also, years ago while my friend Sam and I were writing MIDIs, he came up with an amazing two-part MIDI. I’m halfway responsible for the slow first half, but Sam made it epic:




These were made for a large city map in Rot90Fix.wad. The whole wad was meant to have a custom soundtrack and leitmotifs, but it just got to be too much work, and ended up as a 20 map megawad with only half original music. Still, I think the MIDIs made for that wad are arguably the best part. I’ll have to upload them all as a cohesive video at some point.

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