The Moment of Silence Original Soundtrack
The Moment of Silence Original Soundtrack
House of Tales
February 1, 2007
Buy at Sonicminds
One of the many attempts to bring the point & click adventure genre of yore into the 21st century, The Moment of Silence was released in Germany in 2004. The game’s story, taking more than a few cues from X-Files, is set in the futuristic America of 2044, which has turned into a Big Brother state. It is up to the player to investigate the seemingly random kidnapping of his neighbour Oswald by police elite forces, of course only to discover that much bigger things are at stake. The game’s soundtrack was created by Pierre Langer and Tilman Sillescu of German game sound production company Dynamedion, with additional tracks crafted by Henning and Ingo Nugel. First going unreleased, in a surprise twist of events the game’s score was made available as a bonus item on the game’s 2007 Special Edition. Later, the soundtrack was also released via Dynamedion’s own online music store Sonicminds.
If you expect the composers to translate the game’s futuristic setting into music that is best described as cold, ambient and sterile, congratulations: you’re correct — at least most of the time. The album’s first track “Main Themes” sets the particular mood that will be prevalent throughout the soundtrack right away. Synthetic drum loops form the foundation for a bed of melancholic string pads, while the piano carries a lingering, fragmented melody that exudes loneliness. The piece does grow more tense later on, with some orchestral hits and quite artificial-sounding brass chords, but now and during the remainder of the score, the focus is squarely on the more atmospheric, ambient material.
When melodic elements, or rather fragments, turn up in these mostly languorously paced compositions, they’re usually performed by a solo piano. The juxtaposition of solo piano and moody synth backdrops, consisting of sustained, layered chords and various drum loops, is initially quite effective, and the composers make good use of it on “Oswald’s Apartment”, which presents Oswald’s five-note character theme. Its echoing, timid piano sounds underscore Oswald’s role as the victim of a government conspiracy quite well, while ominous background synth effects never let the listener forget that menace is looming. The theme for the game’s protagonist, Peter, is introduced in a similar fashion on “Peter’s Apartment”. Again, the piano, now performing a slightly more elaborate melody, is pitted against washes of synth pad layers.
The washy, echoey sound of the piano however becomes problematic here, and on other tracks. It’s all very fitting in its portrayal of futuristic desolation, but on “Peter’s Apartment”, the instrument sounds distractingly fuzzy. And unfortunately, this observation isn’t only restricted to the piano. Particularly the deep strings too often sound muddy, and on many occasions, the different layers of a piece converge into an undefined mass of sounds that makes close listening to the soundtrack unpleasant. The grating, shrill saxophone sounds on “Airport Lounge” will make you wish you didn’t listen to this score through your earphones.
Different to other Dynamedion soundtracks, the character themes don’t have much of an impact on this score — in fact, there’s not much melody at all to be found on the album. Oswald’s theme returns on “Oswald’s Under Control” and is presented in rather straightforward fashion. Equally, Tim’s theme returns in mostly the same shape on the album’s penultimate track “The End”. Only this time, the theme is performed without the omnipresent echo — a choice that Langer and Sillescu should have made more frequently throughout the album. The one creative use of a character theme occurs during “Peter’s Apartment Revisited”, when Peter’s theme can only be heard quietly and purposefully distorted in the background, while ominously pulsating strings and tremolo string racket up the tension.
What works well on a number of tracks, however, becomes tiresome when stretched thin over the duration of a whole album, especially if said album runs for a generous, but ultimately tiresome 72 minutes. While the mood that The Moment of Silence evokes remains consistent, the means the composers choose to create that futuristic, cold atmosphere generally remain the same. And after a while, the typically slow tempi, the monotonous synth backdrops and the overuse of the piano as carrier of melodic elements become tiring. This impression of increasing tedium is not helped by the fact that the album’s second half contains some of the soundtrack’s most mundane tracks. “Suspense”, “Underground”, and “Pentanet Monitorrom” are unfortunately as unexciting as their names make them sound, and are not much more than meandering, low-key synth ramblings that are vaguely atmospheric at best. The score for The Moment of Silence is a classic example of music that works perfectly when accompanying the game’s visuals, but which fails when pushed into the foreground, forced to stand on its own two feet.
In all fairness though, Langer and Sillescu do inject the soundtrack with some variety, although the results remain middling. In many tracks, the dynamics and percussion layers change sufficiently enough throughout a composition’s running time to make the music mildly entertaining. It’s just when a number of such stylistically similar pieces keep following one another that the listening experience becomes a dull one. A good number of tracks at least try adapt to the game’s locations. “New York City”, “Lower Eastside”, and “Nuclear Cafe” all incorporate harder-edged drum loops and electric guitar sounds — sometimes grungy chords, sometimes clean melodies — to address the game’s initial, urban setting. “Lower Eastside” even throws some hip-hop rhythms into the mix for increased street credibility. And the aggressive nature of “Nuclear Cafe” makes it quite appealing and a welcome change from the album’s mostly sluggish pace. The guitars return on the album’s ending track “Credits”, which interestingly almost veers into hard rock territory with its gritty riffs, live drums (including some driving double bass), and a guitar solo.
“SETI Research” and “SETI Observatory” easily fit musical descriptions of outer space into the soundtrack’s existing formula. The synth pads just turn a bit airier, the drum loops become less insisting, the constant echo effect on the instruments is taken away, and voilà: the listener is floating in the depths of space. “Lunar 5 Medical Diary” and “Lunar 5 Sector B” minimise the already sparse melodic elements even further and are among the score’s most ambient compositions, befitting the setting’s wideness and emptiness. But while all these slight variations imbue these tracks with a limited sense of individuality, the following “Bermuda Platform” mostly sounds like the cues written for the game’s lunar location, and this feeling of sameness only keeps on growing during following tracks.
Some action-laden, but short and derivative event cue like “To Lunar 5” and “To Bermuda Platform”, shake things up briefly with their ostinato-heavy nature and rising brass chords, but the score’s real highlights are a trio of tracks that demonstrate how this whole endeavour could have been pulled off more successfully. “Mac Dougal Street” for once highlights the strings, which perform some of the most emotionally charged material on the album, although that’s somewhat faint praise. Still, the swelling string crescendi contribute a sense of drama and forward motion that most other compositions lack. The musical arc of “Pentanet Hall” sustains the listener’s interest by constantly interrupting its melodic elements, like a rare cello melody, with harsh orchestral hits. And “Brooklynpark” turns out to be the soundtrack’s crowning achievement. Its seemingly peaceful flow, courtesy of acoustic guitar snippets and chirping bird sounds, is intriguingly mixed with swelling and ebbing background synth pads that never become obtrusive, but remind the listener that danger is lurking beneath the happy façade. This juxtaposition of conflicting atmospheres is executed perfectly, and the listener is left wishing that more of the music on The Moment of Silence was as multi-faceted as “Brooklynpark”.
The best thing one can say about the soundtrack for The Moment of Silence is that it gets the job done within the context of the game. Its synthetic textures and generally forlorn mood are a good fit for the story of a man fighting against a futuristic surveillance society. But when stripped of this narrative and visual context, the music for The Moment of Silence has a hard time satisfying the listener on a stand-alone basis. While initially nicely atmospheric, the soundtrack’s limited musical palette and thus emotional range becomes increasingly tiring and uninviting, particularly in the soundtrack’s somnambulist second half. The almost relentlessly sterile and monotonous music is made only more difficult to bear through a generally muddy sound that again fits the game’s setting well, but is ultimately overused. What partially saves this soundtrack are two factors. Firstly, Langer and Sillescu attempt to vary the music to a degree to represent a number of different locations. The results don’t make for a riveting, but at least more diverse listening experience. Secondly, some very few compositions break the mould and offer a satisfying amount of musical ideas, as well as new sounds. But ultimately, that is not enough to lift the score for The Moment of Silence out of the realm of mediocrity.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Simon Elchlepp. Last modified on August 1, 2012.