Friday, 28 October 2016

The Witcher music

I can’t remember the world without the Witcher. Being Polish and about as old as The Sword of Destiny, I was always aware of Geralt, at first learning about him from my dad and aunt, and seeing simple white covers with single-coloured stripes all around, later, reading the books myself, (probably much too early), loving Ciri and being sort of disgusted with the neverending drama of Geralt and Yen (much too early, told you). Still, I only got into games 3 years ago, when I rested after an operation and needed distraction (and they are the best distraction in the world, proved by all games completed 4 times).

Responsible for soundtrack to the latest games were Marcin Przybyłowicz and Mikolai Stroinski, also joined by Piotr Musiał in Blood and Wine, and by Percival, Polish folk-metal band (think Eluveitie but heavier and crazier), in all three works. And as much as I enjoy the games, I urge you, even if you are not a gamer, try the music alone. It completely dominated my playlist in the recent months, and rightly so, as it has everything one may desire from daily music companion.

So let’s make a reference point list! If you are looking for:

Action - check Silver for Monsters… & ...Steel for Humans - the most characteristic feature of witchers is the fact that they carry two swords. While all Percival songs are amazing, these two show two very different faces of this story - Silver is the chase, wildness, entrancing dance and fear creeping at your shoulder, Steel smells of sweat, heavy weapons and hostility. Choose for yourself which one will be more helpful fighting Mondays.

Vikings - go to Spikeroog and King Bran's Final Voyage - with Skellige being the land modeled after Scandinavia (and to some extent Scotland), its two introductory music tales are properly winterly, moderate in words and spectacular in its actions and nature, vibrant with underlying emotions. To me - definitely top of the list. While Spikeroog calms and sooths, King Bran's Final Voyage is seriously the most sublime, honoring and yet humble melody ever.

Game of Thrones - Emhyr var Emreis, Witch Hunters - the game plot takes place in a shadow of a great war and it’s really interesting to see how themes related to two rulers are very similar in their thrilling, spying and merciless style of terror and yet, how much they differ - with Emhyr’s subtlety, depth and growing waves of threats and simple, blind cruelty of Radovid’s Witch Hunters.

Wise love - The Wolf And The Swallow - The Witcher saga and the third game could be summed up as Father, monster slayer, seeks his lost daughter - a princess and monster slayer in training - and fights everybody who stands in his way - monsters, monarchs, wizards and a surprising amount of side quests). Seriously though, I can’t imagine capturing complexity of desperation, worrying about loved one and homesickness accompanying parent-child love better than this song does it. That said, Geralt is the father of not year, but eternity. Also, SPOILER ALERT for gamers, this was the first scene that caught me off-guard and left me crying like a little girl I am. And gets me every. single. time.

Epic Fights - Welcome, Imlerith, Ladies of the Woods and Eredin, King Of The Hunt - I am not overly fond of either of main story big bosses, I found book Eredin annoying and we don’t get much back story of Imlerith. However Imlerith music theme always scares me a bit, and Ladies of the Woods scare me… a lot. Ok, so here is scary confrontation music for you.

Ghost story - Whatsoever A Man Soweth… - while the main theme of Hearts of Stone is thrilling on its own, it is this slowed-down version with exposed strings, slight reverb and ghost-like moans that fully reflects the sad loneliness, hopelessness and remorse. Also Go Back Whence You Came. Seriously, you should listen to these songs before going to confession, I recommend!

Cool languages - apart from Polish and English you can also hear old Belarussian (The Song of the Sword-Dancer), Scots (The Fields of Ard Skellig), Bulgarian (...Steel for Humans) and Croatian (Widow-Maker). And they do it oh-so-great!

Awesome trailer music - Sword of Destiny - a powerful combination of fight/hunt sequences, Lullaby of Woe - have you ever felt sorry for a vampire? The song is a tender, yet morbid in lyrics, lullaby, which will give you goosebumps. Also, if you are playing - look out for its cameo in the latest expansion.

The love song we are all humming - Wilcza Zamieć aka Wolven Storm, sung by female bard, Priscilla, and telling the story of Geralt and Yennefer’s romance. I do encourage you to listen to the Polish version as it’s nicer vocally, but there are so many language versions, that you can check them all.

Twisted France - with the last expansion set in quasi-France, countryside, names and its entire OST bear a lot of French blinks of an eye. One such example may be On The Banks of The Sansretour, the other…

The creepiest accordion you’ll ever hear - Seeking Resonance and On The Champs-Désolés - if accordion makes you think of lousy old folk and wedding music, go listen to these two and see for yourself. Simply horror tunes. Wine Wars also has nice accordion, but it’s not THAT scary.

Weird fight music - I Cannot Let You Live, Tesham Mutna - one of the best things about Blood and Wine are these crazy broken-rhythm, squawked-sung pieces. And vampires. Who under no circumstances shine insunlight.

Bonus: Since all Witcher soundtracks are amazing, I give you my favourite Witcher song ever: Dwarven Stone Upon Dwarven Stone. If you happen to find yourself in Polish mountains and see a girl playing and singing it - big chances it’s me.

10 steps to an obsession

You may have heard about this tiny hip-hop musical, beating world record in the number of Tony Awards. You may have also heard about Alexander Hamilton, the guy on the 10 dollar bill, one of the America's Founding Fathers. Or maybe not. After 8 months of a friend's nagging me to listen to it, I finally gave up and said I’d try, even though neither musicals nor rap are really my thing. And it took only 10 songs to make me (slightly) obsess about it.

But for some spoilers trailers of the story, some possible tags include: smart orphan(s), bromancing, intense studying, dueling and (sometimes) dying, enlightenment feminists, men being unreliable with the ladies, guns and ships, perfecting law, comma sexting, intense burns, bad decisions, even more bad decisions, good politics, beatboxing mothers, omnipresent male rivalry, sisters before misters.

Number one!
Wait For It – imagine it’s the middle of summer and your city is hosting World Youth Days, with everyone on the verge of panicking because of the risk of a terrorist attack is said to be higher than usual. And you run the streets in the evening, singing loud and proud death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints... One day I will get myself into some serious trouble. This was the first (and only) song I liked after listening to Act 1 of Hamilton for the first time. Simple but fresh in its rhythm&melody and emotional in its lyrics, it was really easy to like and remember it. Also when you realize that Burr (great Leslie Odom Jr.) was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards, (a well-known 18th c. fire and brimstone preacher), oh, the joy of English majors!

Number two!
I am not throwing away My Shot! Although parts of it are incredibly hard to sing along to, this song is a true anthem and motto of every ambitious nerd rising from less-than-ideal conditions to fulfill his dreams and succeed. It also has some of the best interactions between characters, funniest lyrics and the greatest self-motivator:
I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately
Smashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation!
I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow

Number three!
With all its beauty and intelligent lyrics, this song (or a person you'll identify the story with) will never leave you Satisfied. I cannot imagine an (overly) ambitious, sensitive woman not seeing herself at Angelica’s place enjoying intellectual connection and fascination:
So this is what it feels like to match wits
With someone at your level! What the hell is the catch? It’s
The feeling of freedom, of seein’ the light.
As heartbreaking as this song is, it is also highly addictive in its complicated melody.

Number four!
Non-Stop is the closing point of the first act of the musical. And it indeed forces you to play it again and again. This song is pure fun, both musically and lyrically and a great source of sassy lines for further use – can you brag like Hamilton does in here (I practised the law, I practically perfected it...)? It is also very (physically) moving, regularly changing the rhythm and quickly becoming my favorite cooking&dancing song.

I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation!
Well, this quote speaks for itself. The Schuyler Sisters have really great songs (and personalities) and their introduction, amidst the cheesiest pickup lines, is awesome! Wow! making sure we see them as such. Also, a really great song to sing with friends.

Number six!
What’d I Miss
Ok, so this musical is highly critical of Jefferson, and I actually really like him for a number of reasons (while still being aware also of his faults). Daveed Diggs, playing the future president, puts all to shame with his gift for music. But to the point: Jefferson songs all „draw on old-school African American genres like ragtime, boogie-woogie and other Southern jazz flavors that pay homage to his Virginian loyalties”* and It. Is. So. Great.

Cabinet Battle #1 & #2
So this is pure rap. This is also a brilliant lesson in politics at the time and of Jefferson-Hamilton conflict, a river of allusions and beautiful phrases (once again, all linguists get sooo happy), and a manual on how not act in a debate (so many ad persona arguments, shame on you, gentlemen, shame on me for enjoying that so much). And yet, the #burns in these songs are so hot!

Number eight!
Yorktown. One of, if not the most important, if not the single most important  battle in the history of America. Big emotions, a lot of pride, sadness, spacy music and great words. It took me some time to really appreciate it, but it is indeed the high point of the musical, and while I love the playful talk between Hamilton and Lafayette and Mulligan-bomb at the beginning of it, it is Washington’s hard Not. Yet. that roots the song and the story in history. After all, even if we try to forget it, we know well that great victories in battles often have little effect on the eventual end of violence.

Number nine!
All of Johnathan Groff’s songs. Yes, I'm cheating. You may know him from Glee but I enjoyed him in the reindeer song in Frozen. He is also said to be one of the funniest actors in the musical, even though his parts total ~7 minutes. Well, little or much time, I find his cheerful expression of I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love hilarious and WILL nail it one day.

Number ten!
Although the second half of the story is predominantly sad or bitter, in my list I somehow mostly picked the happy/intellectual songs. But as the last song that cemented my obsession I should probably point out It’s Quiet Uptown. It may seem less impressive, but yet this change of dynamics, musical minimalism, redemption and forgiveness (so unfashionable and rare in today’s world, in all circumstances) in Eliza and Alexander's relationship always moves me. / But also Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story and Eliza’s final big reveal..! /

So this is a summarized story of my obsession. To be honest, I grew to like every single song on the album (maybe with the exception of Say No To This as I am too angry with Hamilton to enjoy the song) and though I remember well the first excitement of singing Wait For It and Satisfied while running, choosing the latter songs was incredibly hard. When I think of all the amazing lines like these: (
Here’s an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements
/ Sweet Jesus
/ Hey, I have not been shy
I am just a guy in the public eye
Tryin’ to do my best for our republic )… well, simply put - if you feel open-minded and a little bit interested in history, go and give Hamilton a try!