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Minecraft And Celeste Composer On Nintendo Influences And Writing For The Biggest Game In The World

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Lena Raine
Picture: Lena Raine

Over the vacations we’re republishing a few of our greatest options, interviews, opinion items and speaking factors from the earlier 12 months from employees and contributors alike — articles that we really feel characterize our greatest of 2021. In them you may discover our standard mixture of thoughtfulness, frivolity, retro experience, gaming nostalgia, and — after all — enthusiasm for all issues Nintendo. Get pleasure from!


Lena Raine’s meteoric rise over the previous few years has taken her from working in High quality Assurance at ArenaNet, all the way in which to being nominated for a BAFTA and an award for Finest Music at The Sport Awards — fairly spectacular for somebody who’s technically solely 9 years outdated, resulting from her birthday being on February twenty ninth.

Raine’s love of online game music goes again a good distance, all the way in which again to NES video games, the place the likes of Koji Kondo and Hirokazu Tanaka wove their musical magic into a number of the greatest soundtracks of all time. As a part of the brand new technology of online game composers, Raine’s soundtracks evoke a sense of nostalgia, paying homage to Saturday mornings cross-legged in entrance of the TV, controller in hand.

But, on the identical time, Raine’s type of music is fully its personal, recycling her inspirations into one thing fully new. Her work on Celeste mirrors the tone of the sport by leaping between synth-heavy pop and mild, soothing piano melodies; for those who’re into Minecraft, you nearly undoubtedly know the fantastic, bass-boosted bop that’s Pigstep.

As a part of the Nintendo Life Video Sport Music Fest, we spoke to Lena Raine about her work, the composers that impressed her, and what’s subsequent for music in video games…


Nintendo Life: How did you get your begin in composing for video games?

Lena Raine: I feel there is a bunch of various solutions I might give for this query, however essentially the most sincere one is that I used to be decided from a reasonably younger age that I needed to jot down music for video games. So the whole lot I ended up doing after highschool simply stored funneling me in direction of that path, in a method or one other.

I went to high school for music, tried contracting for video games for some time, bought a job in QA and finally a design place at ArenaNet. I nonetheless wasn’t doing full-time music work, however I stored selecting away at it within the background. It wasn’t till I used to be simply turning 29 that I started writing music for Guild Wars 2, however I stored writing and hoping that I would get a chance. After which I simply used that momentum to maintain doing music and finally turned it into my full-time profession.

Lena Raine's Celeste Album, Farewell
Picture: Nina Matsumoto / Lena Raine

Had been there explicit recreation soundtracks/composers in your childhood that impressed you? How have they influenced your type?

I grew up taking part in a whole lot of Nintendo consoles, as early because the NES and Gameboy at six years outdated, so I used to be subconsciously absorbing a whole lot of the home Nintendo type from Koji Kondo’s Mario and Zelda music, and Hirokazu Tanaka’s contrasting sounds of Metroid and Child Icarus.

As I bought older, I ended up getting absorbed in JRPGs, beginning with Chrono Set off and have become a lifelong fan of Yasunori Mitsuda’s mixture of orchestral and people devices in addition to some sneaky samples and synths. And actually I’ve simply stored an open ear through the years, at all times listening for brand new sounds creating in each the video games house and outdoors of it in pop music, digital music, and new experimentations. It is an enormous pot of music fusion.

Have you ever ever been informed that recreation music isn’t “actual music”? What would you say to that?

I do not suppose I’ve ever been informed it is not “actual”, as a result of I would by no means let that fly. It is a foolish argument. Music is music, it doesn’t matter what it is for or what its intent is. Closing your self off from that argument is simply being intentionally obtuse, I really feel.

You carried out reside at The Sport Awards some time again — how typically do you get to carry out soundtracks reside? How bizarre is it to carry out reside versus composing?

Not typically! I am a bizarre introverted composer that spends most of her time indoors with a pc and keyboard. So I would say it is fairly bizarre to carry out reside.

I do not actually take into account myself a performer in terms of my music. I am going to play the whole lot reside into my pc, to one of the best of my capacity, nevertheless it’s a extremely tweakable format. I am going to go into the MIDI knowledge (what communicates to synths or samples what to play) and tweak issues, make them softer or louder, poke at their timing. I am a little bit of a perfectionist that method. However then I am going to hand issues off to actual folks typically to carry out after which edit again into my initiatives. It is a whole lot of meticulous work. So performing that basically appears like I am form of placing on a present of what I’ve spent hours poking at in the dead of night, typically.

I adore it when different folks carry out my work although, it is far more satisfying to take a seat again and go like yeah, cool, I made that in some way.

Lena Raine's Album Art For "The Sounds Of Picnic Province"
Picture: Alexis Dean-Jones / Lena Raine

Do you will have a dream collaboration that you simply’d like to do, whether or not it’s one other musician, a sure instrument, or a selected recreation?

Collaborating with massively gifted folks is at all times one thing I am actually into. It appears like dishonest, typically, since a lot of my time composing is making my tiny concepts really feel like large spectacular items of music. So jotting down a cool thought and getting another person to elaborate it’s concurrently an incredible expertise, but in addition like… a fast method for me to really feel like I did not do something, regardless that I did provide you with the primary thought.

To reply extra concretely although… I would like to collaborate with Yasunori Mitsuda, as a result of it is at all times your pipe dream to satisfy or work with somebody that principally made you notice you possibly can do one thing, proper? I would additionally like to have the chance to work on a Ultimate Fantasy or first get together Nintendo recreation… As a visitor composer, perhaps, as a result of doing that full-time can be a method totally different profession than I’ve bought now. Oh, additionally I would love to jot down a extremely rowdy anime opening.

We all know Chicory: A Colourful Story isn’t on Swap… however the soundtrack may be very Nintendo-inspired (we beloved the Turnabout Squeeze bit a lot, btw). How did you handle to create a soundtrack that felt so acquainted, whereas holding it uniquely Lena-style?

I feel it is necessary to have tremendous versatile composers that may do something. However I realized very early on that the quickest method for me to cease caring about one thing is to lose a way of self in its creation

Thanks! Actually I feel something I write is gonna be Lena-style, as a result of I am me. It is exhausting to not be. And I imply that as like, some composers intentionally attempt to mix in. And that works tremendous effectively! I really like that for them, and I feel it is necessary to have tremendous versatile composers that may do something.

However I realized very early on that the quickest method for me to cease caring about one thing is to lose a way of self in its creation. It took me so lengthy to get into writing music for a residing as a result of I did not need to simply be a device by which another person might specific their concepts about music.

I needed to be a artistic one that informed my very own tales by the video games I labored on. So I attempt my hardest to make each type or style I find yourself engaged on really feel prefer it’s an sincere illustration of myself. I am constructed out of my influences, for positive, however there’s issues about how I write that I hope are nonetheless indicators for who I’m.

Lena Raine Live In Vancouver
Picture: Lena Raine

How do you’re employed with audio designers to create a cohesive soundscape for a recreation?

I am fortunate sufficient to have labored with tremendously gifted sound designers that need to make the sound of a recreation actually cohesive and uniform, so there is a little bit of backwards and forwards between us to attempt to seize what the general aesthetic of the sport ought to sound like.

With Celeste, for instance, Kevin [Regamey, from Power Up Audio] was in lots of instances coming in after I would completed the music for an space and was in a position to match his sound design towards my music. However then I might additionally come again in and see what I might contribute to reinforce the sound design in my musical ambiances. With Chicory, too, I labored carefully with Em [Halberstadt, A Shell In The Pit] and Preston [Wright, sound designer] in order that the music and atmospheres and brush sounds had been all a part of a cohesive “world” and never at odds with one another.

As a aspect observe, I discover it actually exhausting to jot down background music for an space till I do know what sort of ambient sounds can be current in it. Because the music sits within the combine alongside the whole lot else, it is exhausting to know whether or not I am being too loud in my writing, or too refined, till I do know what kind of audio mattress it’ll be nestled in.

Not many composers get to be a part of a studio — most appear to work freelance, so far as we are able to inform. What’s it wish to be a everlasting a part of the Extraordinarily OK (Earthblade) group? How does it have an effect on the musical aspect of the video games?

I am actually fortunate to have discovered a gaggle of designers and artists that I gel so effectively with. Celeste was undoubtedly a little bit of a trial by hearth as a result of I had no thought if it could work out in addition to it did, however we got here out the opposite aspect actually nice pals, so it is only a pleasure to have the ability to work with them every single day.

Even when it takes some time for music to be a full time a part of a recreation, I really like to simply hang around with everybody and cheer everybody on, make ideas, and general simply be actually impressed by everybody’s work. With the ability to be in there with everybody lets me take up the essence of what a recreation is and finally channel that into music.

Are you able to inform us the story of how you bought concerned with Minecraft? It will need to have been fairly unimaginable so as to add to Daniel (Rosenfeld, AKA C418)’s work, however that will need to have been a whole lot of stress!

I bought an e-mail from my contact web page on Bandcamp from a developer at Mojang asking very plainly whether or not I would wish to contribute new music to Minecraft. I legitimately thought it was some hoax at first

It is actually nonetheless surreal that I am engaged on one of many largest (the largest?) video games on the planet. I’ve to form of separate that actuality from my work, as a result of in any other case I would by no means end something. A number of it was trusting that the builders at Mojang knew they needed to work with me, and that I used to be trusted to hold on the musical legacy of the sport in what I have been in a position to write for it.

As for a way I bought concerned, I bought an e-mail from my contact web page on Bandcamp from a developer at Mojang asking very plainly whether or not I would wish to contribute new music to Minecraft. I legitimately thought it was some hoax at first, like, actually? Me? However we went backwards and forwards for some time and I submitted a demo and everybody was actually on board with me writing new music for the sport.

So I did the Nether replace, and by the way Pigstep as a last-minute addition to the replace, after which as soon as that was launched I feel everybody bought so preoccupied by how a lot they appreciated the disc I wrote that some folks forgot I really wrote new music for the Nether too! However regardless it has been an incredible expertise, and I am glad that my additions have been welcome.

What’s your all-time coolest second of working in recreation soundtracks?

There’s actually quite a bit to select from, however I really feel just like the second wherein a recreation releases and also you get to look at folks play it for the primary time and uncover it, with out fail at all times affirms why I do what I do. I really like peeking in on streamers taking part in, or being at a demo session on a present flooring, simply seeing whether or not or not the expertise sticks with them, and when it does, it is such an important serotonin rush to have the ability to share that with one other individual.

Lena Raine's Album Art For Spin Rhythm XD
Picture: aurahack / Lena Raine

What do you suppose is the way forward for recreation music?

Marginalized composers from all walks of life and all over the world, everybody who hasn’t had an opportunity to be within the highlight and contribute their voice to video games.

There’s a lot attention-grabbing music on the market that hasn’t had an opportunity to assist develop the sound of video games, and I feel increasingly musicians with distinctive takes on music will and must be launched into video games. This goes for lots of points of how video games are made, and it actually fills my coronary heart each time I get an e-mail or message from somebody who hasn’t been part of the standard faces who feels invigorated to check music, to get into video games, and is not chased out by the unlucky racism, sexism and transphobia that mires a whole lot of points of media. I need to hear their voices, their music, and play their video games.


Due to Lena Raine for taking the time to speak to us, and for making a number of the greatest soundtracks to have on within the background whereas we dance across the kitchen prepare dinner dinner.

When you loved the soundtrack to Celeste, Chicory: A Colourful Story, Minecraft’s Nether Replace, otherwise you’re excited for the upcoming Earthblade, be certain to take a look at Lena’s work on Bandcamp and Twitter!





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