Minecraft has something special about it that brings back cozy feelings from my childhood. Part of it is the construction aspect – of being able to put things together like my LEGO sets without the fear of stepping on them. Part of it is the sense of adventure, fighting with a sword against monsters that lurk in the dark.
One of the best parts, however, is the music, which is new, but childishly familiar.
That’s one of the best things about video games. It gives me a sort of carnal pleasure that I don’t always get as a working adult. I can create, discover, test new things and not fear consequences. Minecraft satisfies all these wants, but the music adds the icing on the cake from my fifth birthday.
The composer, Daniel Rosenfeld, aka C418, got into Minecraft by hanging out in irc chatrooms where he met Notch, the man behind Minecraft himself. After a sharing of demos for games and music, Notch asked if Rosenfeld could come up with some music for a new game he was working on, and thus, Minecraft got its composer.
There are no fully orchestrated tracks here, no intensely complicated compositions, not even a live instrument in sight. Rosenfeld’s simple approach really matches the plain graphic design of the game. Nothing would have ruined the experience more than Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.
Music is gradually introduced to the player, with no sudden loud noises. Instead, the music grows in volume and instrumentation, allowing the player to acclimate to hearing something other than chickens for a minute. The silence of general activity compared to the relative loudness of the music is really dulled thanks to this, making the music really pleasing, almost relaxing at times.
In a game like Minecraft, where the main action is harvesting resources, it is best to keep the music simple, memorable, and not too repetitive. The simplicity is aided in part by instrumentation. The songs hardly stray from a piano, or synth, and the sounds used are soft and mellow; perfect for enjoying a nice pixelated sunset before hiding from skeletons.
The songs are triggered at sunrise, sunset, noon, and midnight, and a random song plays each time. With the day/night cycle lasting about 20 minutes, it can seem like a long period of time between songs, when it actually isn’t. It works out quite well, as sunrise and sunset are the times when things change in the world of Minecraft.
The sun goes down and monsters come out, time to go home! Or the sun comes up, and it is time to emerge from hiding, and begin a new day. It fits so well, as the calming music meets the exhaustion of a long day’s work while you hide at night, and it can be an inspiring way to start the day.
The songs don’t repeat that much, which is great, especially with some songs like Minecraft where the theme is repetitive. You’ll probably notice there is quite literally one phrase that repeats the entire song. A piano plucking out notes to a chord is all that is needed, with synthesized strings in the background creating an open feeling. I love when this song comes on as I’m scaling a mountain in the game, especially when I reach the top and can see a vast spread of land before my eyes.
The theme of Minecraft (the song, not the game) comes back over and over throughout the soundtrack. One such example is Subwoofer Lullaby, a soothing synth piece which has two parts. The first is reflective of the title – a warm synth bass with a slow melody in the upper range. The latter part of the song features a piano hitting some rare high notes, but this is where you hear the Minecraft theme again.
Again, the theme makes an appearance in Mice on Venus, which is another two-parter. The first features the main theme in a light piano melody. The second part goes kind of crazy with synths and slightly distorted sounds. This is one of the stranger tracks to hear, but it still manages to fit, as it evokes the feeling of an alien planet, which is more or less what Minecraft feels like at times.
Door is another one of those songs that uses the Minecraft theme. This time, in awesome synth style. The melody comes from a monophonic analog synth, which only plays one note at a time, and it flies through the spectrum of notes. It creates a futuristic but large sound, sweeping all over the place like that.
Haggstrom uses bell or xylophone-like sounds, which really brings home the kid-playing-with-toys atmosphere. It has a very simple chord structure and melody, like the other songs, but it has seven beats per measure, which is pretty unusual. It makes for a unique addition to the mix, keeping you on your toes.
That’s what gives Minecraft’s music a very special feel. The simple sounds coming from the synth give me such a retro-nostalgic vibe, I can’t help but be brought back to my childhood. Simpler times with simple music, no frills or complications, and none wanted.
Minecraft at first glance is off-putting to some, with graphics that look like something from the original PlayStation, but once you delve into it you find a world to discover, with seemingly endless possibilities for adventure. The same goes for the music; the easy listening and straight-forward instrumentation create a very simple presentation, but it makes for the perfect companion to Minecraft.