Drag-on Dragoon Original Soundtrack :: Liner Notes Translated by Ben Schweitzer
Nobuyoshi Sano - Sound Director / Composer
For the music in Drag-on Dragoon, we started by extracting phrases from existing classical pieces that would match the game's atmosphere. Then we took the samples created from having all of these phrases newly performed by full orchestra, and reconstructed them digitally. Boldly yet cautiously layering these phrases that differed in key, tempo, and mood, we chopped and shuffled them to fashion melodies that would be impossible in normal classical music. By looping them persistently, utilizing gimmicks like reversed-playback and other strong effects, we made full use of the techniques of club music to create a "classical music" that no one had ever heard before. It was the result of our efforts to bring to life through music the almost trance-like atmosphere of slicing and attacking the swarming enemies during gameplay and the story more strongly colored by madness and despair as it progresses.
By itself, the music may be difficult to understand. I don't think that one could say "I recommend it as music, not just as a soundtrack". I can't help but hope that this CD could take listeners to those battlefields, into that story, to the painful, strange memories that are not easily forgotten, and that perhaps some of that unique feel can reach even those who have not played the game.
I do not remember ever being as excited or surprised by any production as much as this one. As Mr. Aihara and I worked on "sampling" from the various pieces of classical music that Mr. Aihara had selected, I discovered all sorts of fragments that I thought were great on their own. When I heard these performed by full orchestra one after another during recording, it felt strange, like I was perverting history somehow. When we began to compile the recorded data, it may have been the sheer amount of stored information, but I approached creating anew from these sounds with a fervor that could never be compared to a breakbeat track. And then, as if in a trance, the music was completed. Afterwards I would take the time to listen objectively, cutting out any parts that were unnecessary, and this merciless work would inspire me further. If you have never really enjoyed classical music, or actively dislike it, I believe that this music can help to change the way you think of it. After all, the first was true of me...
(P.S.: I've provided a list of the sampled pieces, so please enjoy trying to find their sources.)
List of Sampled Pieces
Takayuki Aihara - Composer
There are two things I keep in mind when attaching sound to a game. That I keep the general flavor of the sound in mind goes without saying, so it would be mere formality to list that here. Of those two things, the first is the sound that the client has in mind, and the second is the reaction of the players who will buy the game. I can come to a general idea of the former by attending meetings and producing demo tracks, until the game is released, I can only guess about the latter. If I may be excused for changing the expression, I always try to "put the users' wishes before the clients'". If you think of music as a means to self-expression, then this is necessarily the unorthodox way to look at things (because you aren't pure as an artist). However, I think that in commercial music one has to think this way, and it can also point the way to potential points of compromise. In all of the previous large-scale titles I have been involved with, that way of thinking has played a considerable role.
But the sound of this game, Drag-on Dragoon, is an exception. I ended entirely disregarding the above premise while working on it. Of course, I still followed the client's wishes in my work, but I became very anxious that I had bypassed the players entirely. After composing a few dozen tracks, I looked back over all of them. Did I really make the right decision? I knew that it was a waste of time to simply go over the same things repeatedly, but I couldn't help doing it. Before I knew it, I had finished a large group of compositions, including some that I had rewritten close to ten times.
Although I would have a hard time calling it a commercial work, I believe that this music written without any of the "unorthodox" thinking that I have retained until now represents the purest part of myself. Now that some of the anxiety has disappeared, I feel refreshed by the sense that I've become an artist for the first time.
Taro Yoko - Director
It would be difficult to explain the music of Drag-on Dragoon in a single paragraph. I want you to imagine the following: on a morning without school or work, a carefully selected egg has been lying on the table since the previous night at room temperature. You lightly pluck the egg off of the table and crack it over a bowl filled with cooked koshihikari rice, adding a dash of katsuobushi, finely shaved on a wood block. To top it off, and here you need to be careful, you add a few drops of light-colored soy sauce. You take your time to lightly stir in these ingredients. Filtered amidst the grains of cooked rice, part of the egg cooks, and part remains raw. It must not be mixed in too thoroughly. If it is possible, it is best to leavetwo to three clumps of white rice completely untouched by the egg, sitting like clumps of marble. Combined with the raw egg, this rice, which is as hot as possible, will make the perfect temperature. We calmly debate the merits of our respective ingredients as all of this spreads inside your mouth and fills your empty stomach. Then, the song as we kill each other.
Takamasa Shiba - Producer
For Drag-on Dragoon, 2003 was the year of flight. It was released in September as a completely original project. Next year, it is slated for release in North America and it is already better received there than in Japan. If they start asking after it in Europe, who knows how it could end up within no time!
The music has contributed immeasurably to the game's impression. Among the biggest factors in getting it off the ground were those "otodama" [Editor's Note: Mystical sounds]. I asked the music director, Denji Sano, for something that "has a classical refinement, but also a pitch black madness to fit the game". Hearing the completed tracks I began to vocalize my satisfaction without realizing it. As it used a live orchestra, the sound quality was high, and since it used famous pieces of music as its base, the classical part of the request was fulfilled...but what exactly was this "dislocating" feeling I was having? Mr. Sano had dissolved the famous melody of The Firebird" and, with his art, reshaped it into something entirely different. By infusing elements of madness, classicism, and originality throughout the music, I think he expanded the scope of the game's world. It is a divisive project. These "otodama" that Mr. Sano has created are sure to spark debate. Perhaps when Mr. Sano hears about these players' opinions, he'll simply grin like Caim would. It was all part of the plan.
Takuya Iwasaki - Producer
Drag-on Dragoon depicts the pitiable madness of those people who have been brainwashed. The player acting this out needs an accompaniment that gives them those negative feelings. The negative feeling of one whose loved ones have been killed that thirst for revenge is an expression of the ego that will never decrease as long as the world has people living in it, and the feeling of repulsion at the selfishness of my subject was unexplored territory for me even as a creator.
A person who grew up in an environment that didn't acknowledge these realities has no need of these melodies. In other words, it is a hallucinogen inducing a nightmare that will not end that is the music that a certain magazine's panel review called "hard to enjoy listening to".
That's right... because those negative feelings don't just come from what we see.