Continuing on with our VG Music Spotlight, our latest track comes from 2009's historical action adventure game, Assassin's Creed II. The featured track is Ezio's Family, which plays a very prominent role throughout the game and is perhaps one of the best themes from the Assassin's Creed franchise.
For this edition of the feature, I will be sharing the spotlight with one of GamingUnion.net's other editors, Melissa Evans as we share our thoughts on the many different elements that went into constructing this piece, including the composer and the setting.
The Opening - Jared
To start off, let's set the scene. You're Ezio Auditore da Firenze and your life involves doing the following: stabbing people with hidden knives; fighting the Templars; and trash-talking the Pope. But that's not all Assassin's Creed is about.
As the second main installment into the franchise, Assassin's Creed II saw you also playing as Desmond as he accesses the memories of his genetic ancestors. In this, that was Ezio, a rather young, dashing Italian.
Obviously, you can't have an epic experience full of drama and suspense if the music does not give assistance. And that's why we have chosen to feature the track Ezio's Family, a piece of music that doesn't just capture a mood, but creates it.
The Composer - Melissa
The composer responsible for this piece of music is none other than Jesper Kyd, a Danish video game, television, and film score composer. He is well known for composing the soundtracks for video games such as Hitman, Borderlands, Darksiders II as well as the other Assassin's Creed games up until Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
By the time Jesper become the composer for Assassin's Creed, he had won a BAFTA award for the music of the Hitman series and he was also nominated for an MTV VMA award. With the original Assassin's Creed, he created a soundtrack that gave off a spiritual aesthetic while retaining a dramatic effect. For Assassin's Creed II, he wanted to change this and it's for this reason that the soundtrack has a completely different feel.
Jesper produced a more adventurous soundtrack, using orchestrated music and operatic vocals. He created a memorable and atmospheric score that perfectly represents the Italian Renaissance setting of Assassin's Creed II.
The Piece - Jared
In Ezio's Family, there are many beautiful instruments used. These range from classical instruments such as the violin and piano, to the modern electric guitar. It also features some brilliant vocals.
It begins with both a piano and a heavily processed synth. There's a very soft, light, and calming tone. It's so calming, in fact, that I would be content with the music remaining in a loop playing the same soft sound over and over. But thank goodness the composer chose not to do so.
Instead the music is taken up a notch from its prelude. With little time wasted, the piano and synth are accompanied by a choir of droning vocals that exude tranquillity in their voice. Joining the choir is the electric guitar also playing calmly and precisely.
As the song progresses the volume increases, which in turn adds a sense of expectation. An acoustic guitar joins the scene, but then something interesting happens; something that I can only assume takes a considerable amount of experience and creativity to achieve. There is a moment where you hear melody rising, but it sounds like the voice of a young girl vocalizing along to the music. This comes later, but in its initial state, it's the electric guitar from earlier. I have listened to Ezio's Family perhaps a dozen times and still I mistake this initial sound for the voice of a young child every time. After a brief period, the guitar is then phased out for the ethereal vocals to take centre stage.
Something to note about the music: one of the aspects of Ezio's Family that makes it such a pleasure to listen to is that the beginning of the song is essentially repeating the same verse over and over with the final notes changing in both length and pitch each time it is played. Sometimes it's sombre and quiet, other times it's emotional and loud. Though a simple idea in design, in practice it creates an amazing composition based around the concept of ostinato.
Continuing on with the music, once the solo vocalist is made known, the song greatly increases in volume with support from the acoustic guitar, piano, and a few violins. The violins greatly add to the suspense and excitement in the air by adding that extra layer of depth. It's preparing you for an adventure of mystery, vengeance and wonderment.
A single violin plays a sad, solemn tone and the child-like voice begins to stretch to new heights. Just as this is the case, the next passage enters. The vocals go quiet, allowing for the acoustic guitar and piano to play in unison. The woman's voice quietly resumes, but in a different light. This then becomes the extended outro for the piece that's hit its peak.
Ezio's Family resumes the familiar cycle of the hypnotic repetition with greater power, volume, and impact. The electric guitar, no longer content with its calming performance, roars onto the scene for the crescendo. Gone is the innocence the music started out with. The music is no longer sombre or peaceful, it's bold, brazen and full of heavy emotion. Sadly it begins to take its leave. The song dies down as the acoustic, for one last time, plays for its audience and fades away.
The Personal Touch - Melissa
Taking all of this into considering, Ezio's Family stands out as one of the most unforgettable tracks on the Assassin's Creed II soundtrack. It gives off so many emotions and because of where it's heard, it sets the stage for what will be an epic adventure.
This piece conveys the moments in life when we realize just how small and ordinary we are to the vastness of the world around us. This is a feeling that Ezio may have felt as he began his journey to become an assassin.
The violins also help to create a melancholic feel and I found most of the operatic vocals helped to provide a mystical feeling for the listener - perfect for any would-be assassin.
This song took me by surprise. I often thought that the soundtracks for this type of game were made up of tracks that could not be enjoyed outside of the game and for quite a lot of this soundtrack, that still holds true. However, with Ezio's Family, Jesper Kyd provided a track that warrants special mention. It's a masterpiece among the many compositions of video game music that can be enjoyed by anyone.