The final chapter for Celeste is here and while fans may be sad to see the game go, there is hope in learning some behind the scenes facts about how it was made. Composer Lena Raine recently talked about her experience in putting together the soundtrack and bringing together the team behind it.
In a blog post, she detailed some little known facts and influence that fueled her passion for creating the final few tracks for one of the most beloved indie games of 2018. Beware, there are spoilers in the post and if you haven’t played the final chapter of Celeste, you may want to do that first.
Raine says she wanted to focus on an emotion that was never experienced in the first eight chapters of the game: silence.
When you enter Chapter 9, however, there’s no music in a space where there’s always been something, whether it’s an ambient pad or a few scattered piano notes. Again, breaking from expectations. When music does begin, it’s after the new story has begun to unfold.”
The new experience sees Madeline and the bird she met during her journey head into space where Raine says she decided to introduce a new sound to help guide the story into the unknown. Where Celeste’s original score typically revolved around the piano, guitar, and synth inspired sounds, the new section focuses on glass and steel noises and is featured heavily in the track Fear of the Unknown.
Like most of the music in Celeste, Fear Of The Unknown goes through a transformation half-way through. When you turn off the electricity that courses through the odd underwater-like space above the mountain, so too disappear the drum loops and synths, leaving only the acoustic instruments to continue. It’s a bit on-the-nose when it comes to transitions, but it’s one I thought would be pretty fun.”
The new tracks also feature Michaela Nachtigall playing the violin and SungHa Hong on the Cello. They join forces on the third theme introduced in chapter 9, Granny’s Theme.
Instead of just stating it outright, I wanted to have some fun with it and created a 5-part theme and variation that comprises the majority of the piece. It’s cyclical, in turns optimistic, meandering, dark, and ever repeating.”
However, one of the most interesting details Raine brought up was when it came to writing Farewell, the final piece for the game.
At this point, players will have been going through some of the most challenging levels they’ve ever played in the game. They’re about to face the most challenging levels in the game, period. Not only will people be hearing this music a lot, they’ll be hearing it a lot as they die over and over again trying to reach the end.”
Being the final level of the game, Raine focused on three specific details to make sure players felt the emotion of the piece and the level. She says the music needed to progress along with the player and award them as they progressed. It also needed to flow naturally between sections without cutting out parts of the track. Lastly, the song had to reach the end in a satisfying manner without being abruptly cut off for speedrunners.
…while I was writing, Matt was designing levels, and eventually we settled on a progression that was about 8 minutes give or take. So if you played through the end run flawlessly, an 8 minute piece of music would play through from start to finish.”
If anyone completes it quicker than eight minutes, the team put in a fail-safe in the script that monitors the player’s progression alongside the track. If the player runs through the level quicker than intended, the music will seamlessly go into the final section early to match with the final screens.
🐦 One Year Later – On Continuing & Concluding the Score to Celeste 🌕https://t.co/R3abCstsGn
My behind-the-scenes blog post going into how I approached & scored the Farewell release for Celeste is now live!
[Spoiler warning: I go into the full themes & story of the release]
— Lena Raine! 🌟 FAREWELL OUT NOW (@kuraine) September 13, 2019
It’s fascinating to see how Raine pieced together every beautiful track for Celeste. The game is a masterpiece and the soundtrack includes the most satisfying songs in gaming I have ever heard. Due to the game’s success, Raine is now a full-time composer, producer, writer, and mixing engineer.
Expect to see and hear more from Lena Raine in the future, she is a phenomenal composer.
Scott’s been gaming since he could hold a controller in his hands. He’s a journalist who loves Dungeons and Dragons, video games, tabletop RPGs, and comic books. He has an intelligence of 6, he knows what he’s doing.