[b] Would you kindly lend me your ear

Il Credo Degli Assassini.

This is where our musical journey to Rapture begins. Not through waves of sound, but through moving images…

Not the actual way to Rapture

The well-known Assassin’s Creed series has, not unlike many other franchises, become the proverbial milking cow. Not a dead one, not yet. At least one movie adaptation will be churned out before Ubisoft is done with it. How well this entirely new epic will turn out, will soon be seen in a theatre near you, but if the lead roles are any indication of a ‘make or break’ performance, we can expect big things.
Swooning the ladies is a job for the ever versatile Michael Fassbender, of Inglorious Basterds and 12 Years A Slave fame, and turning the gaze of every man alive is a right reserved for the more than lovely…

 

Marion Cotillard. Mmh-hmm.

 

Many will know this femme fatale as the no-nonsense Lilly from the original Taxi movies, while others may have spotted her for the first time in Big Fish, Inception, or the Dark Knight Rises. However, this damsel in non-distress was plunged into Hollywood fame with an Oscar for La môme / La Vie en Rose, for an all-too-real interpretation of the original songbird…

 

Edith Piaf. The Little Sparrow. The woman who regretted nothing.

 

One of France’s most famous icons, Edith Piaf born Gassion, mesmerised the country – and after the war, the world – with her chansons about love, life, death and sorrow…
Her work still captivates the hearts of other artists, as “Je Ne Regrette Rien” is featured prominently in Inception – as is Mlle. Cotillard, coincidentally – and “La Vie en Rose is still touching certain strings in…

 

Rapture. The city under the sea.

 

We’re getting there. But we start at the end. Or the beginning. Or maybe both?
Burial at Sea, the final chapter of a long and arduous road throughout the universe that is Bioshock.

Between some ocean bedrock and a high place, we hear the Sparrow’s voice resounding from an idealised vision of Paris to the submerged hallways of Rapture.

 

Ephemeral fantasia

 

And that, there and then, is when it struck me: Throughout these spiritual successors of System Shock, you are not only (mis)guided by man, machine, or fate, but by music long passed as well.

These pieces are at times barely audible, often drown out by the insane ramblings of the junkie-like Splicers, the crackling fire and lightning spewing forth from your hands and body, or the booms and bangs blasting from your tweaked out shotgun and rocket launcher.

When you really can’t take the noise anymore.

 

You’re trying to carve your own path through these games, through bits and bytes of a medium that is still not fully appreciated as the art form it represents, but you’re also strolling down society’s memory lane, side by side with the likes of jazz legend Django Reinhardt – with his striking resemblance to Andrew Ryan, Rapture’s benefactor – or The Ink Spots, whose numbers are becoming a recurring theme in dystopian scenarios

 

Some people just want to hear the world burn

 

Both random and scripted, the tunes of jazz, ragtime, classical, swing, gospel or boogie-woogie can be heard throughout your journey beyond the sea.

Irrational Games did the rational thing and brought in timeless classics from The Andrews Sisters to The Mills Brothers, passing by Patti Page and Noël Peirce Coward, while not shying away from the real ancient stuff such as Billy Murray, Scott Joplin, or Polk Miller and his Old South Quartette, all the while feeding us titbits of the undying symphonies from Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and – my most surprising personal favourite – Borodin with his Polovtsian Dances.
Some pieces have kept their original form, while others have been re-recorded by Jessy Carolina and her band Ommie Wise, or by Duncan Watt on the piano.

 

 

And speaking of re-recordings: several more ‘contemporary’ songs have been rearranged to fit in with the atmosphere of the early 20th century sky-city of Columbia, such as Tainted Love, Shiny Happy People, or Girls Just Want to Have Fun, with a dash of Scott Bradlee’s magic on half of the tracks. The voice actors even join the fray at times.

All this and more is perfectly sewn together by Gary Schyman, who composed the score for everything Bioshock. His sound mixes that distinct early to mid-20th century feel with a hint of dystopian dread and discord whenever things go awry.

 

And things

go awry

a lot

 

 

 

 

 

 

You, as a player, are bombarded by the four elements, by bullets and shrapnel, by the fantastical and the mechanical, at every turn of the corner, after every sliding or revolving door, almost without pause.
Almost.

 

You, as a listener, are still able to take momentary breaks, by chance or by force, and enjoy the soothing tunes of yore. No matter how desperate the situation, no matter who is the hunter or the hunted, or if you’re under the sea or above the clouds… there will always be a place or time to lay off steam, whether it be hiding in a vent from a Big Daddy and his Little Sister in 1960, or hanging around a local bar in 1912 whilst trying to wrap your mind around the intricacies of quantum mechanics.

Feels almost like home

 

You, the person you are today, might never have heard from this music if it wasn’t for Ken Levine and his merry band of Irrational Game(r)s. Maybe you would never have found out if Marion Cotillard hadn’t starred in both La môme and Assassin’s Creed. And maybe there is no such thing as an ‘Edith Piaf’ on the track list of your local radio station.

Then again, some music lives on forever, and is resurrected every now and then in ways you wouldn’t expect. And even though Jack, Delta, Booker and Elizabeth might not wish the same, I certainly hope the circle will never be broken.

 

The Bioshock collection as a whole, books included, easily warrants a full
 out of 

 

Bioshock was released in August, 2007 and is playable on PC, Mac, Xbox360 and PS3 and sometimes iOS
Bioshock 2 was released in February, 2010 and is playable on PC, Mac, Xbox360 and PS3
Bioshock Infinite was released in March, 2013 and is playable on PC, Mac, Xbox360 and PS3
Bioshock: The Collection will be released in September, 2016 for PC, XboxOne and PS4

Big ups and downs to...
Assassin's Creed IV - Black Flag, by Ubisoft Montréal
Marion Cotillard, by DavidHakobian
Edith Piaf, by alkoret
La vie en rose, by Olivier Dahan
The Ink Spots, under Victor Records and Decca Records
Big Daddy, Big Sister and Handyman, from Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite respectively, courtesy of their wikias

DID YOU KNOW…

  • The Polovtsian Dances inspired a hip hop meets classical remix by Warren G and Sissel in ’97. It is grafted on my ear drums forever.
  • There wasn’t a lot of music to choose from for the 1912 setting of Bioshock Infinite, what with phonographs and gramophones recently being invented, jazz and blues starting to get off the ground, and most of what was recorded sounding awful anyway, manufacture- or genre-wise. Hence some liberties were taken, like using more recent songs or re-recordings with added gramophone effects.

 

2 Comments on “[b] Would you kindly lend me your ear

  1. The entire Bioshock series is, in my humble opinion, the absolute Michelangelo of modern games, but with bigger balls than the statue. Although anyone browsing this website probably already had his or her mind bioblown or blownshocked, one can never praise this series too much.
    The first 2 games were masterpieces in their own right. Avoiding all trailers and spoilers going into the third installment, this game took me be surprise by its amazing artwork, yet having the desired good old feel to it. So brilliant from start to finish (including expansions), I was almost hospitalized losing too much saliva.
    Bravo.

  2. We’re going to be hard pressed to find anything quite like it, for now.

    You could always take a few steps back, with System Shock (remastered) or System Shock 2 (also by Ken Levine).
    Or maybe Dead Space, made by the guys who were (supposedly) originally pitched for System Shock 3.
    Deus Ex 1 and 2, courtesy of ex-System Shock developers?

    Nah, let’s just wait for the actual System Shock 3, by those same people and some veterans from the Fallout series 🙂

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