I heard the mashup song “EPIC IV” by starling, and got immediately hooked. This is the kind of music that gets me the most excited: when it’s filled with constant subtle twists and turns, and every millisecond seems to have a thought behind it. And since I’ve been obsessed with this song for a while now, I decided to talk to starling herself about the song and her music in general!
Hi, starling! Do you recognize yourself in my description of your music? Have you purposefully made your songs to be like this, or how do you go about when you create music?
Thank you for your kind description of my work! I’ve never specifically thought of my writing or arrangement style that way, but as someone haunted by the memories the all too frequent boredom of being a cellist in string quartets and orchestras, I always strive to give each line something interesting to play. Thinking of each instrument as a character in its own right or representing an idea or theme may also have produced a similar effect. Additionally, I think that with a mash-up like the Hades / Hadestown cover, I was combining a number of discrete and disparate themes and styles so my primary concern was to make everything flow together and sound coherent – so the overall effect was ‘subtle’ rather than ‘large’ changes and only the attentive listener would register the different references that had been included.
The song is a mix of the soundtrack of the video game “Hades” and a couple of songs from the musical “Hadestown”, both good on their own, but so much better when you add your personal touch! What do you think you have that others don’t, when it comes to music and composing, that makes your version stand out?
What a difficult question to answer! I think with arrangements in particular my motivation of bringing together different ideas with a twist may set apart my covers from others who don’t seek to integrate different themes, but rather allow them to exist independently. I also tend to put a lot of time into listening to the source material (usually because I just like it) and trying to retain its original spirit in my cover, even through its transformed state. Otherwise I think the above answer could also apply to this question.
Well, it’s just something with starling’s composition style and emotion that’s special. No one else but starling could write and perform a song like Where The Ocean Runs Free like she does, and if someone were to cover it, it wouldn’t get the same sound or feeling, because her style is so unique. Listening to her other music, it’s obvious that she simply has a creative mind that comes up with special stuff. The songs may start pretty traditionally, but along the way something surprising will happen in the compositions and it’s hard to predict what and when. No big sudden changes, it’s just that starling is just being very clever with her creativity. For example, she makes video game music that’s so well-composed from start to finish that I can only imagining it stealing attention from the actual games instead of being a relaxed background. And while we’re at it: Let’s talk a bit about video games and video game music too:
Hello again! A month ago you tweeted about how you rank different aspects of video games as: story > music > art > gameplay. Is this something you still stand by, and if so, what made you weigh story and music so much higher than for example the gameplay?
I come from a long background of book-reading and I think for that reason I gravitate towards narrative to the extent that the absence of it (or of a strong narrative focus) can be jarring or mildly unsatisfying. Music is similarly an important aspect of games to me, as it creates so much of the atmosphere, world building and emotion. For this reason, I tend to favour games with a strong narrative focus such as RPGs or visual novels.
And a last question: When do you think video game music is at its best – when it simply complements the game, or when it stands out as a piece of art on its own? (Bonus question: What’s your favorite game soundtrack, and in which of these two categories does it fit the best?)
Can I say both? Hard to say what my favourite game soundtrack is, but one that I like a lot and does a great job at both of these things is NieR: Automata. I’d also say the Ori games + the early Final Fantasy games also do a great job at this!