Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Composers Reveal How They Created The Main Theme
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has reached a new milestone on the road to its November 17 release date: The second soundtrack EP, composed by Assassin’s Creed veterans Sarah Schachner and Jesper Kyd and Norwegian musician Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, is out now, and it includes the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla main theme. A collaborative effort, the main theme is the product of seasoned Assassin’s Creed composers, and fresh Nordic stylings. To learn more about the meaning of the song and how it was created, we spoke with Schachner, Kyd, and Selvik. You can listen to the main theme here.
What feelings were you trying to inspire and evoke with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Main Theme?
The theme represents Eivor’s journey, as well as the Vikings’ hope for a better life as they move further south into the Anglo-Saxon regions [of England]. Jesper Kyd: We wanted to evoke Eivor's journey, what drives her, and the bond she has with her family. Eivor is searching for something, and this longing to find it and resolve it is a key element reflected in the melody and mood ideas I contributed to the theme.
Some previous Assassin’s Creed scores have tried to reflect the sound (or imagined sound) of the eras and places in which they’re set. Did you draw on any instruments or compositions from the ninth century and/or Scandinavia when creating the theme?
The main string melody is played by a group of tagelharpa, a bowed string lyre from Scandinavia. I wanted the theme to very much feel like a modern composition, while utilizing ancient instruments and textures to evoke the Viking atmosphere – but I never limit myself to only instruments of the time. There is an ancient Celtic war horn called the carnyx that you will hear subtly in the theme, and all over the score. I recorded it with John Kenny in Scotland, who is one of the few people in the world who has one reconstructed and can actually play it.
Did you learn about or use any instruments you’re not used to using?
SS: I acquired a number of horse-haired bowed instruments from various regions, including a bass and alto tagelharpa, as well as a plucked lyre and animal hide drums. I had never played these before, but they were incredibly fun to use, and I love the primal character these rustic folk instruments have.
JK: Yes, I used a lot of new instruments for this score: rebec, crwth, tagelharpa cello, morin khuur, and many more.
What sort of information does the development team give you when you have to design a theme or soundtrack?
SS: Scoring a game of this size is a very long process, and we’re given all sorts of material to help along the way, like gameplay videos and character info. However, the game is very much in progress as we’re creating the music, so sometimes imagination is your best friend.
The string instrument playing at 1:12 has a sort of haunting, muffled-echo quality; is that a peculiarity of the instrument? If not, why create that effect? SS: I intentionally wanted that repeating motif to feel ambiguous and invite the listener into this mysterious world. You can make a sound feel more eerie by pushing it back in the sonic space and blurring it with effects.
The song really builds up to the 1:50 point. Was there a particular story you wanted to tell, or mood you wanted to set with that build up? SS: That build represents the grand journey you will embark on playing this game as Eivor. This creates a continuously building emotional tension, propelling you towards something, which is at the heart of the Viking/Anglo-Saxon conflict.
Aug 20, 2020 at 00:28