Jeanne d’Arc Original Soundtrack
Jeanne d’Arc Original Soundtrack
January 24, 2007
Buy at CDJapan
In 2006, Level 5 recounted the life and death of the French heroine Jeanne d’Arc with a tactical RPG named after her. Though most features of this PSP title were impressive, the soundtrack for the title was relatively mundane. Previously a sound effects designer on Rogue Galaxy, Takeshi Inoue made his compositional debut on this title and gradually gained proficiency as an orchestral composer. However, the resultant score lacks the maturity, diversity, or memorability one would expect from the scores of more experienced musicians.
The main theme for Jeanne d’Arc provides a suitable portrayal of the character. Above all, it reflects her strong sense of spirituality with a modal melody interpreted by synth chorus. The composition nevertheless also reflects other aspects of the character: her youth and feminity with a doubling glockenspiel, her vigour in war with transient military percussion, and her rural French heritage with a focus on mild pastoral instruments throughout. While multifaceted, the composition avoids any melodrama and sentimentality that would be out-of-character throughout in favour of an understated and dignified quality. That said, while the music serves as respectable underscore, it lacks any features that would make it captivating as stand-alone music on either a superficial or deep level. After all, the melody is drab, the orchestration is thin, and the synthesis is unexpressive, as might be expected for a first time orchestral composer.
Sadly, the same is true for most of the rest of the soundtrack: Takeshi Inoue’s offerings are always serviceable as background music, but rarely interesting otherwise. Setting themes such as “Plains” build on the organic flavour and bittersweet emotions of the main theme, yet lack the masterful melodies, dramatic arch, or timbral variety associated with great setting music. The darker parts of Jeanne’s story are represented suitably in tracks such as “Enemy Counterattack”, “Bedford’s Theme”, and “Before the Stake”, but such compositions always rely on pale imitations of clichés, for example synthesised suspended strings or uncompassionate trumpet leads, and end prematurely before the 90 second mark. The “Final Battle” theme manages to capture the image of approaching armies with its progressive layering and scenic strings, but is surprisingly temperate overall and loops before it evokes more personal feelings in the listener.
“Premonition” is one of the most damning reflections of the composer’s amateur musicianship. The composition is clearly inspired by the neo-classical waltzes often used to portray disturbing or twisted scenes in many film and game projects. But incredibly, rather than taking lessons from the harmonically exuberant neo-classicists that preceded him, Inoue adheres to a single piano chord throughout the vast majority of the composition; in fact, he only changes to another inanely repeated chord after 30 seconds. The result is not mysterious or expressive as intended in any context and simply sounds empty. It is saddening reflection on the game’s quality control that such a composition — which would get an F even in elementary music classes — could make its way into a major project by one of the industry’s most well-supported developers. This is just one obvious example of the persistent immature musicianship featured throughout the soundtrack.
There are passages in the soundtrack that are genuinely fulfilling, but these are sadly transient. The beautiful flute writing on “Ravine” compensates for the mundane nature of the backing orchestration and touchingly symbolises Jeanne’s radiance in sinister times. Though still undermined by naivities, “Cathedral” and “Folklore” provide a much-needed break from the dreary orchestral writing with their respective gothic organ lead and playful renaissance instrumentation. While far from orchestral masterpieces, the soundtrack’s closers “To Domrémy Village” and “Ending” are also quite emotional. Written in a similar manner to the “Main Theme”, both provide a consideration of Jeanne’s character, but this time are written from the perspective of observers (including players) rather than the character herself; as a result, sentimentality and drama is permitted to commemorate her remarkable if tragic life and both compositions provide this in bucketloads. Yet they are too little, too late.
Overall, the soundtrack for Jeanne d’Arc is largely a fitting accompaniment to the story and gameplay, but it rarely enhances the experience like a great score should. On a stand-alone level, the music fails to immerse or impress listeners — hampered by weak melodies, orchestration, and synthesis in addition to a lack of variation throughout. While Takeshi Inoue clearly put effort into the score, he clearly wasn’t experienced or talented enough to make the score a special one. The game is well worth playing and the score will be a decent addition to the experience, but the stand-alone soundtrack is too lacklustre to be good value for money.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.