This is something I wrote for the recent NiGHTS: Lucid Dreams album recently released by OCRemix.org.
“Dies, Nox et Omnia” is an arrangement of “D’Force Master,” the theme of the wicked Wizeman from whom all nightmares are spun into being. One of the larger challenges I had with arranging this piece was the limited material I had to work with – the theme is intensely repetitive and extremely memorable with variations in the original only coming in the form of transpositions of the melody. The idea to incorporate vocalists (Danielle Messina and Ryan C. Connelly) only came to me after completing an initial first half of the final mix you hear now (which had a lot of material removed) and was ultimately a decision that would either break or make this remix, and, of course, I assume it’s the latter. Another issue I was dealing with was a pre-existing remix of the material that appeared on NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, which is pretty epic in itself. Having soloists for my performance assumes a duality in that they replace the function the choir serves in the later Sega mix.
I chose to mirror the introduction of the original with a soundscape that is dreamlike and sort of what I imagine a more melodic Riven might have been.. Finding the ideal length for intro was very tricky, because I had to deal with the immense contrast of the remaining material which is largely operatic in material. I wanted to create a mature series of progressions that would descend much as a dream does as it transforms into a nightmare. It is hard to pinpoint a single, stable tonic key through much of the writing, an effect I chose to represent a nightmare’s lack of stability. This is most obvious at 5:03 when the soprano line begins with a slide and the orchestral backing becomes chaotic, with notions similar to that of Hamauzu’s compositions.
The text comes from the Carmina Burana, a collection of poems that was more famously set to music by Carl Orff. Choosing this text was both a nod to this original setting and to its use by Uematsu, a composer I idoled in my childhood. This particular text comes from “Dies, Nox et Omnia,” or “Day, Night and Everything,” a poem about a lover who is unable to find peace at night due to the sounds surrounding him at night. He hopes to find favor with a maiden, but instead is scorned by his peers who do not appreciate the severity of his longing heart. Everything about this text spoke to me in the sense of what a lover’s nightmare might entail, and more importantly, the imagery of “Day, Night, and Everything are against me” seems to be a more poetic way of saying “I’m living in a nightmare,” and, after all, this music is indeed about the master of nightmares. Splitting the text into two vocal presences was a result of my desire to create two misaligned souls in pain that come into unison (figuratively and musically) only at the end with a kiss (“I would be cured with a kiss”), an action that would ultimately end the nightmare with a return to reality, or at the very least, a more peaceful dream by all accounts.
There are many musical allusions to the text and to nightmares. 1:48 through 2:04 feature a rhythmic disconnection between the cellos and basses, which destabilizes the beat to mirror the descent into a nightmare. For “pectus habet glacies” (“your heart is of ice”), I chose to use a glockenspiel and ice-like timbres with a very abrasive, loud vocal line to represent the pain caused by this realization. The first vocal melody at 2:20-2:45 has many leaps that drift away from the tonic (starting pitch) to also mirror this descent.
And so, yes! Also, congratulations to Danielle and Ryan for their recent engagement!! 😀
More Ryan below: