Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Forest Interlude” (David Wise)

November 28, 2009

The Donkey Kong Country series has some of the best music on the SNES and gaming in general. The series was composed by Robin Beanland, David Wise, and Eviline Fischer, features some fantastic monkey antics, and simply oozes atmosphere. When you listen to one of their songs it literally feels as if you’re in the jungle that has been brilliantly prerendered. I love the gameplay (this was back before Rare focused too much on item collecting), but the art and sound design is simply impeccable.

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Forest Interlude” (David Wise)

“Forest Interlude” is the theme from Web Woods and the other haunted forest levels in Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995). The track integrates some fantastic ambient forest sound effects to go along with the lazy and somewhat nostalgic, slightly melancholy feel of the notes. The sequenced wood drums and saxophone give a great sense of the depths of an old forest full of blowing leaves and mists. The track is very soothing and has wonderful development. Definitely one of the best tracks in the game. One final interesting thing about these albums is that unlike most vgm albums, the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks are not arranged in chronological order. As a result, they more paint a picture of Donkey Kong Country rather than tell an aural narrative of the game.

David Wise has composed for the entire Donkey Kong Country trilogy as well as Wizards and Warriors on the NES and Star Fox Adventures on the Gamecube. Like the rest of the Rare Sound Team, he composes with a midi keyboard as well as real instruments if possible. However – and this can’t be stressed enough – a midi keyboard is still an instrument that requires somebody to play it. In fact, the high quality of the Trilogy’s soundtrack is in large part to get the SNES’s SPC700 sound chip, which was notoriously hard to work with, to emulate the Korg Wavestation synthesizer, one of the top units on the market at the time. Wise attributes this not so much to the hard work of the composers but to the programmers who got the system to do what they wanted.

Because he has a background in the early days of game audio when there were only three or four sound chips to work with, Wise’s music is very melody-based. However, he does recognize the importance of implementing ambient sound effects, as shown in “Forest Interlude” and other tracks from the Trilogy. As for the inspiration behind composing the music, well:

Sometimes, making something sound easy and obvious has been the hardest part of the process. I had no idea what the underwater level should sound like. How do you write something that sounds as though you’re struggling to stay afloat? Or a beehive dripping in honey? The experimentation is all part of the fun of writing music.

And by the way, Donkey Kong Country 2 is the soundtrack he’s most proud of.


One comment

  1. This soundtrack is indeed incredible. Thanks for the post.

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