Skyrim Obsession: Installation II: The Music

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Last post, I wrote about how beautiful Skyrim’s digital landscape is and how it is one of the reasons the game is so immersive. Music is another factor that aids in immersion. It works with the digital environment to create a specific tone for the game. 

Jeremy Soule composed the soundtracks for the Elder Scrolls games Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. In each OST, there are instrumental motifs that provide a certain tone, and this differs from game to game. For Skyrim, Soule created pieces that audibly describe and enhance the Nordic culture, cold climate, and sublimity of Skyrim’s landscape. It is very ambient, instrumental music that can describe a place or, when that ambience changes to more sinister and higher tempo pieces, cue the player to encounters with dragons, Forsworn (think fur-and-bone-clad  berserkers), marauders, thieves, and other hostile NPCs.

Here’s a question for you: If the tone of the game is partially defined by the music, what happens when you replace the original music with something else? What would happen, say, if we replaced the Skyrim OST with…Metallica. That is a whole new game, my friend. To me, instead of the medieval Nordic vibes I get from the original OST and graphics, I would probably think post-apocalyptic if we were to replace the OST with Metallica. Why? Because Metallica uses modern, electric instruments. When you couple that with the medieval-ness of Skyrim, it signals a regression to and reliance on more primitive ways of life, particularly when the game juxtaposes the “current” medieval lifestyle of the Nords to the technologically advanced, abandoned dwarven ruins that dot the landscape. Of course, the quests would still be the same. The overall narrative would still be the same. But with the change of music, the tone changes and implies something different about the history of Skyrim that might affect how players play the game.

If all that game music mumbo jumbo doesn’t make sense, think about it in terms of reality: If you walk into Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, you are not going to hear Van Halen or Journey blasting loudly on the radio. Instead, you will probably hear something more instrumental to convey that “well-cultured people with a fine palate and taste for gourmet foods shop here.” When you walk into a sit-down restaurant, places like Chili’s and Eskimo Joe’s (if you don’t know what Joe’s is, you should Google it–friggin’ best cheese fries EVER) will probably play classic rock to encourage faster eating and table rotation, while a fine dining restaurant will probably play something more classical or ambient to encourage patrons to take their time and enjoy their expensive meal. Same kind of thing goes for games. The music creates an atmosphere.

So, moral of the story: Jeremy Soule is awesome, and so is Skyrim. Like I said, it’s a small obsession.   


  1. Dovahkiin says:

    Completely right especially the trailer music when he shouted FUS-RO-DAH and shit just went awesome.. Do you know the title? And also the installation’ music title.. I wanna listen to the them all day!

    • aldabaran88 says:

      I’m not really sure what you mean by installation music…if you’re talking about the computer, I’m totally not the person to ask! haha. If you’re talking about the 360, the load music is also “Dragonborn,” but the tracks differ for the load screens in-game (like when you walk into a town or dungeon or whatever). I can for certain answer your question about the trailer though! The title of the song they used is “Dragonborn.” I agree with you about that trailer– it is definitely epic! I really like the “Sovngarde” track, too, which is kind of similar.

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