Listen to David Shea’s new video game soundtrack


Well this is pretty unexpected. US born Australian based composer David Shea has released a soundtrack to a virtual reality game. We’re actually going to let David tell the story as it’s quite integral to you’re understanding of the work. Suffice to say whilst retaining some key elements you would associate with David’s work, The Ship is something of a departure. Though I suppose that’s what ships are for.

A note from David:

This game started its life as a project by the then CEO of Tantalus Game development company Tom Crago. At the time he was creating a PHD project at the Victorian College of the Arts and the game was to be the outcome of the practice led research connecting games and philosophy. The plan was to create a game where the visual and sound elements were to be collaborations with artists who had never worked in or knew much about the history of games. I was the choice to write the soundtrack and handle the sound design and over a 3 year period a group of painters, sculptors, myself, game designers and programmers to make a VR game that had its premiere at the Triennale in 2017 at the National Gallery in of Victoria, in Melbourne Australia. These pieces are a selection of the pieces inspired by and used in the game. My first video game soundtrack.

The game takes place on a virtual ship and the player plays as an avatar trying to discover the purpose of the trip and where the ship is going. The key to the key to the mystery is in collecting objects that link together and form patterns and have unique sounds that can be combined by the player. This ‘language’ of objects is collected by exploring all parts of the ship and navigating the ship as you gain and lose control. The purpose becomes clearer until the final scene reveals a destination but one that is unknown. The metaphor also become clearer that the ship is a sense of solitude and being trapped in one’s own mind trying to make sense of the patterns and clues. The VR environment reinforces this as the vison and sound is intimate and immersive.

The soundtrack and sound design were intended to be modular and integrated a mix of singing bowls, gongs, samples, piano, instrument ensembles and cinema sound design. Each object was a link in a type of modular ‘scale’ and the player could in certain locations make and enhance their own score additions by placing the sound objects onto a water mirror and experiment with new sound combinations. The use of acoustic, digital and instrumental sound was given to each object to give a unique character and quality to mix and supplement the score. The various regions of the ship are represented in these pieces I have chosen, and the object sounds I chose to mix with the scored music. A first outing for me but led to creating a course at Melbourne University called Games: Remaking Reality in which Tom is a regular speaker. I thank Tom for the chance to work in the unique medium which I plan to work in whenever given the chance and for an experience that was special from beginning to end. I share with you some fragments of this immersive experience with my music and a personal experience for your own journey wherever that may sail to…”

The Ship will be released March 2nd 2024 via Room40. You can find it here.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.