Inner conflict is one of the sole drives in stories. Characters battling with inner demons about what they should do or coming to terms with what they already have done. To me, there’s nothing more emotive and heart-wrenching, as a simple instrumental song to illustrate this inner turmoil. And it was with extreme excitement a few months back, that I discovered Jessica Curry’s soundtrack to the indie game, “Dear Esther.”
“Dear Esther” is a short paranormal/mystery game created originally as a mod from the Half Life series. I’ve already referenced mods before in my “Cry of Fear Soundtrack” post. My favorite game commentator, HarshlyCritical, did a let’s play of this game which can be found here. The game follows a male protagonist who wanders about an island reminiscing about his lost love and alluding to several scientific formulas and Biblical passages. The game’s pacing is slow but the atmosphere it provides is stunning. And Curry’s score for it ultimately swept me away. Haunting, delicate, and sorrowful in some places but also inspiring and uplifting in others, the 17 track album was probably one of my best buys this year. Today, I’d like to share 8 of those tracks with you.
I Have Begun My Ascent: The character is taking their final steps toward their destiny. Everything that they’ve done, everything they’ve overcome has led to this moment. The hero doesn’t know whether or not death awaits them, but they step toward it with a fury of courage unlike they’ve ever felt before. The hero is leaving several things behind, several things that mean the world to him/her. But to sit idly and do nothing, to not go and face this fate head on would mean the destruction of all he/she holds dear.
Twenty One: The Wanderer just appeared out of the woods as if forming from some sort of mist. He dresses in long baggy clothing that conceals his figure and his face. He speaks with a voice that sounds wise but full of sorrow. He sits down at the campfire that warms the other travelers and tells them he’s been traveling a long time, searching for someone he can tell his story to. After a few moments, he pulls back his hood to reveal his face. The travelers are aghast and fearful of it. Slowly, the Wanderer begins his tale.
Golden Ratio: Two characters face each other. They haven’t seen one another in a very long time. They didn’t part on good terms. The feud that divided them still burns a painful recognition in one another’s eyes, the longer they stare at each other. They circle one another, unsure how best to settle this unintended meeting. Will they fight now? Will one of them run like a coward from the prospect of a fight? In the few moments that pass, it could go either way.
Standing Stones: The character opens a drawer in the nightstand in a room that hasn’t been used in years. There is something deep inside, reflecting off the faint light provided by the moon. She reaches in and takes hold of it. Out comes a small silver photoframe with a picture inside of a young handsome man. There is a kind of emptiness on his face that she identifies with. But she doesn’t know who this man is. The photograph looks old, taken possibly seventy years ago. Why was he shoved to the back of a drawer in a no longer used room? Was he meant to be forgotten there? Perhaps she should ask the old lady she’s renting the room from.
Always (Hebridian Mix): The character stands on a grassy hill over looking the land that his family has owned and protected for several generations. It’s beautiful beneath the slowly sinking sunset, the orange light gushing across it’s windswept grass as though it were magma. He stays there watching it until the sky turns purple. He thinks back to his family’s house, to the bedroom upstairs where his father is laying, dying in old age. Very soon, all that lays before him will become his. In this solemn and quiet time that he stares at the fields, the character isn’t sure he’s responsible enough to manage everything. He’s not sure he’s ready to do this alone.
This Godforsaken Aerial: The carriage bumps over potholes in the dirt road the further along it travels. The great house is almost out of sight now, but she is already taking deep breaths of relief. It had only been a visit, that was all it was supposed to have been. But when she’d found herself alone in that room, with him, and the pianoforte, something inexplicable had happened. It was as if they had gazed directly through one another, recognized one another’s hopes and dreams without needing to say a word. It had felt liberating, and frightening at the same time. Never before had anyone looked at her with so much understanding. She felt naked. She had to get away as quickly as possible. Forest conceals the house and the shadows wrap themselves over the carriage. Despite her anxiousness to get away, now she feels as though she might have done the wrong thing.
Remember (Esther): (continuing from This Godforsaken Aerial) The woman arrives at her estate and immediately flees to her room. She’s overcome by guilt. She recalls the way he touched her hand when they first met one another, recalls how his eyes seemed to sparkle with a certain charm and yet the mystery in them as well. She remembers how she desperately wanted to know what kind of man he was. And when she got her wish so suddenly, she chose to run from it. Ashamed, she realizes that she is still so afraid of being seen and being understood.
Ascension: The morning arrives after the long night. The character has been awake the entire time, sitting by the bedside of her beloved, watching to make sure that he makes it through. Her thoughts have been plagued by memories of when they met, all of the times they kissed or held hands. The sun is soft and pink as it comes up over the horizon. With the new light, she sees her beloved’s face shift and his eyes open. Relief bathes the room, practically drowns her as she realizes how close she came to losing him. She places a hand on top of his and he touches her cheek with it. With the touch, a surge of energy races through her. She awakens. Confusion abounds. Morning hasn’t come yet. And he’s not awake. The happiness fades. “Come back to me.” she whispers.
[I know. I’m cruel when it comes to love stories.]
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be picking songs from one of my favorite vocalists, Norah Jones. Stay tuned!