Game music: Grim Fandango

Grim Fandango OST CoverYet another humiliating hole in my game background. In researching my post on the early games of PC game music I read a lot about the LucasArts games, which included Grim Fandango. I was never able to afford it as a boy, and now – having listened to the soundtrack – I fully intend to rectify that.

“Big bands, bebop and bones.” Delightful. Too few games use jazz and the like, though recently Gunpoint hit all the right notes. It’s a delight to hear, to simply have in the background while you relax or work. Close your eyes and you’re in a bar decades ago, cool drink in hand, band playing.

It was composed by Peter McConnell, who has a finger in nearly all of LucasArts’ musical pies. Grim Fandango was his first outing as lead composer though, letting him stamp his touch on the whole score:

In Monkey Island 2, it was geographical: I had an island, Mike had an island, and Clint had an island. There were certain themes that were Michael’s themes that we all employed, but then there were tracks we did ourselves that were our own themes.

Later on, we went on to a primary composer model and in that case, generally speaking, one guy would handle the whole score. Grim Fandango was all me.

That was a great project. Tim Schafer’s singular vision really shone in Grim Fandango in a way that still resonates. Tim gave me some Mexican folk music to listen to, and he also gave me a collection of Bogey films that I kept for way too long, so I listened to those old Max Steiner and Adolph Deutsch film noir scores.

– Peter McConnell to Square Enix Music Online

As with most LucasArts adventure games of the era Grim Fandango made use of the iMUSE system to add dynamism to the music, and it has to be said, the soundtrack really lends itself well to the concept.

[The soundtrack can be downloaded for free at the Grim Fandango Network]

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