I won’t deny that I’m a massive fan of the Halo soundtrack. The whole series combined constitutes my favorite video game soundtrack of all time, and possibly some of my favorite orchestral arrangements in general. When I heard that Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori were moving with Bungie onto Destiny – along with Paul McCartney – I was thrilled. And although we know that Bungie is ready to throw some great storytelling at us, filled with wonder and secrets we must discover ourselves (per Bungie trademark), how will the soundtrack fit in this time? Moreover, will it tell a story of its own?
Based on what I’ve seen of it so far, I’m willing to bet yes.
First, let’s have a look at Marty and Bungie’s previous, and most famous, work – the Halo franchise. The series is renowned for its multiple layers of storytelling across multiple mediums and levels of subtlety. Most famously, its soundtrack reinforces the game’s overarching narrative.
While the Halo soundtracks contain the usual in-game ambiance, take the main theme of the original trilogy below:
The main theme itself is Gregorian Chant, a form of sacred song initially coined by Pope Gregory the Great during the 9th century (thereabouts, my knowledge is a little rusty). The fact that the trademark motif of the games open with Gregorian Chant immediately establish the religious themes of the series, followed by the fast-paced and memorable ‘action’ sequences with the rest of the orchestra that represent the same action found in a first person shooter title.
This theme is Halo.
This storytelling is present not only in the theme, but all the songs within the actual games tell brilliant stories alongside the action on-screen. It seems that Destiny will now follow a similar path. But now the soundtrack is looking less of an attachment and more an asset to debut alongside the game.
Observe the photo below, tweeted by Martin O’Donnell on the 28th of June:
The artwork specifically lists eight “movements”, as opposed to eight ‘tracks’, implying a link between the pieces that transcends simple numerical order. Further, the fact that they comprise a “suite” alludes to the fact that it is just one chapter of many – one piece of a whole. A suite, in musical terms, is generally multiple movements that are all related or share common themes. This may also mean that the next suite deals with a completely different theme or part of the game or its story.
From what we know of the Destiny story so far, The Traveler hovers above Earth, long ago giving humanity the means to kick-start The Golden Age – a time of peace, exploration, and adventure. The Age did not last, however, and humanity was pushed back to the verge of extinction, only saved by The Traveler’s sacrifice. In the centuries that followed, humanity rebuilt a City below the safety of The Traveler, and slowly began exploring among the wastelands of Earth once more. That’s my summary in a nutshell, you can learn more here and here.
Going from the pieces of information we have so far (and extending on parallels between Marty and Bungie’s obsession with the word ‘The’ – The Traveler, The City, The Frontier, The Path and so on), it almost seems that the names of each movement in the suite are levels or chapters.
If you can’t see the names, they are:
1. The Path
2. The Union
3. The Ruin
4. The Tribulation
5. The Rose
6. The Ecstasy
7. The Prison
8. The Hope
Taking each of these titles and the story behind Destiny into consideration, it almost seems as if each ‘chapter’ tells a prologue story taking place before the events in the game. If you think about the information Bungie has provided – concerning The Traveler (The Union), humanity’s downfall (The Ruin), the centuries of rebuilding civilization only under The Traveler (The Prison), and venturing back out into the world with The Guardians (The Hope) – then the idea that this suite tells a completely separate story isn’t that far-fetched.
Equally as interesting, the track Awakening, which you can find here, is not included in this suite. This may mean that, not only will there be many other suites to come, but it may pertain the events taking place after this suite (such as the awakening of the players as The Guardians).
Whether this is true or not, I have very high faith that Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori, and Paul McCartney will deliver an astounding soundtrack to accompany an astounding game, and I believe that if anyone can tell a story alongside the game, as well as in the game, then they are the perfect candidates. If I wasn’t already excited for Destiny and everything that will come with it, I truly am now.
And if you think it is a bit unlikely because it seems pointless or trivial, just keep in mind that this is the composer who included an encrypted message in the Halo 2 soundtrack that’s only audible when played backwards: