Do me a favor. Take a second to listen to this piece of music from Playdead's INSIDE, one of the best games of the year.
The track features during a particular sequence in this harrowing, beautiful game. Composed by Martin Stig Andersen, the piece attempts to simulate the feeling of being trapped inside one's own head. But the themes and power of INSIDE required something more unique. So Andersen concocted an idea that would bring him closer than we can imagine to the inside of the human skull.
A Modern Soundtrack From INSIDE a Human Skull
"I had the basic idea of trying to recreate sounds as they would sound if they were happening inside your head. That was the curious thought that led me to acquire a human skull and experiment with it."
'Curious' indeed, Andersen.
After having listened to the piece above, you can hear how the composer connected with a synth when attempting to craft the sounds of INSIDE. It's ethereal, strange and almost Lynchian in its execution—there's a bit of a Twin Peaks quality to the sound. But the composer felt like this almost familiar ambience was too imposing on a game that was clearly establishing its own "unique world."
"I didn't really want to hear synth music in the game. I tried to do it, but it felt too much like a statement — like we wanted express something by subscribing to a specific genre. I don't think that's appropriate for a game like Inside, a small game that's all about creating its own unique world. ... But when I played them through a skull, the sounds acquired another quality.
So, you're probably wondering what sort of qualities a skull lends to these synthy sounds, right? Check out the difference below.
The contrast between the two is startling. The sense of atmosphere the skull lends the music almost transports us to INSIDE's horrid landscape. There's a humming noise in the background that resembles that of machinery. Everything is muffled, unattainable, distant. And to think that a deceased member of the human race lent these qualities to Andersen's sounds.
"During the development we acquired an intuition for what kind of soundscapes resonated well within the skull. ... The end result, after the post-processing, is generally a bit creepy and cold. The sound has almost a chill about it. Eventually all the teeth fell out of the skull because of the vibrations, but while they were still there they created this small vibrating sound that I think was unsettling but also strangely familiar to people. Because we all know it, in a way."
The soundscapes perfectly compliment the game in that sense. We're certainly familiar with the mechanics of INSIDE, and Limbo almost helped us adjust to the dark world from the beginning. But familiarity eventually dissolves, giving way to one of the most frightening and disturbing game worlds in recent memory. From gameplay to music, this is a remarkable achievement.
What do you make of the composer's approach to music in INSIDE?