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"Ori and the Will of the Wisps" excerpt analysis

Gareth Coker’s scores for “Ori and the Blind Forest” and “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” are what reignited my passion for orchestral music and what made me survive the hell of the past two years of not being able to play an instrument. 

No surprise that I’ve listened to them countless times deciphering the music that made Ori games so magical. 

What amazes me every time I dive into this score is that the music is fairly simple (which is not a bad thing by any means) and choices made seem obvious yet it is so effective in creating atmosphere and conveying emotion in every scene. 

Melody rules in every track and the motivic work in “The Will of the Wisps” is fantastic – referencing themes really connects the whole picture together which makes the experience more immersive and intense.

Here is a short snippet from “Dashing and Bashing” from “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” that I transcribed today. It’s only the first approximately 50 seconds of the 4 minute track, yet it packs a lot of interesting things to analyze.

The piece begins with an ostinato figure in Violins, the technique that is used extensively in the “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” score to create the effect of movement and buildup. The figure starts the same way in every bar and maintains the rhythmic pattern throughout with very minor variations utilizing melodic techniques such alternating stepwise motion with arpeggios and hidden counterpoint to keep the line interesting.

Immediately with the ostinato the contrapuntal line in percussion comes in adding extra interest and excitement to the pulsating texture. I must note that there are more things that are going on in percussion that aren’t reflected in my transcription, but the use of various pitched percussion is a wonderful extra touch of this score worth mentioning, especially the track entitled “In Wonderment of Winter”.

This section of the piece develops by layering more parts on top of these two lines and next comes the piano with variation on Ori’s theme in counterpoint while the string section handles further tension buildup. The use of staccato both in strings and piano create a quirky, somewhat playful but nervous atmosphere while referencing Ori’s theme adds heroic intonations to it. Overall the music is very beat driven while maintaining light and transparent instrumentation and all of these elements help to enhance the story development in the corresponding section of the game.

Listen to the original recording:

I hope you’ve found this interesting. Transcribing and analyzing music is a very effective way to learn more about composition in particular, but also other aspects of music in general. If you’ve enjoyed this, let me know in the comments and I might do more of this type of content. See ya!