A lush retelling of one of the best game soundtracks of the 21st Century.
On the 10th anniversary of Journey, a game that is one of the best conceived “gaming as art” platform adventures ever made, the soundtrack that made the experience so grand has been reworked. Austin Wintory returned back to his score to embolden and in a lot of cases, reimagine the score. Working with The London Symphony Orchestra and bringing back Tina Guo, Austin Wintory has twisted the score into a 57-minute story that captures everything that makes the score so special.
It is difficult to undersell how special the original soundtrack is and how integral it is to the story. The violin shines across the ten-track symphony as the voice of the music but now every track is orchestrated to a mass scale. This means big bold brass segments in the climatic climaxes of “Road of Trials” that gives the piece added oomph. London Voices choir provide backing throughout the score instead of just a couple of moments and a mixture of solo voices give closing vocal piece “I Was Born For This” a new glow. In context to the theme of the game being a cyclic reincarnatory journey, having different soloists take over in different sections feels like multiple lives occurring across five minutes.
The widening of instrument scope with an orchestra definitely makes the soundtrack feel more cinematic. In some cases like “Descent”, it allows for a deeper sense of cinematic unease. Voices warp, brass rasp and strings shiver over low swung gongs and oboes. Percussion is used rarely in the score but the pulsing beats in “Apotheosis” and skipping brushed drums in “Threshold” give added character too. As with all reworkings that take advantage of bigger orchestrations, a more complex arrangement means some themes are less immediately melodic. As such, “Traveler” is more of a cinematic reimagining of the original direct to melody themes. I don’t see one as “better” than the other – they both are absolutely stunning. They do offer different moods for the listener though. Want a more intimate version? Go for the original. If you want a cinematic mesh of tracks into themes, the symphonic version is the way to go.
It is difficult to not get emotional when hearing “Traveler – A Journey Symphony” because of how many times I’ve played the game and got lost in its world. Somehow this retelling manages to warm the heart, surprise with a few new twists and turns and stay faithful to the foundations of the music. Austin Wintory said this soundtrack changed his life. This music and game in turn certainly impacted many others too. (Also check out the bonus track from FlOw which was also given the symphony treatment too.)
Recommended track: Apotheosis
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