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What Makes it Memorable? – Chrono Trigger – “Corridors of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

November 21, 2010

Chrono Trigger has one of the most memorable soundtracks in a game. Looking through all the arranges of Chrono Trigger music, it becomes clear that the most popular of these is “Corridors of Time” (also known as “Chrono Corridor”). With more dedicated mixes than any other on OCRemix (12 to “Schala’s Theme” which has 10) and a popular choice among doujin arrangers, “Corridors of Time” is a good fit for “most memorable piece from Chrono Trigger.” So how does Yasunori Mitsuda do it?

Chrono Trigger – “Corridors of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

First, he establishes an underlying melody using the mystic, ethereal bells playing four notes in a series of four bars, each beginning with a slightly higher note than the next (it is interesting to note that “Schala’s Theme” uses a similar set of notes – 8, to be exact – in a different melodic structure, so the two have a similar level of memorability). This pattern is repeated throughout the entire piece, and the tones selected are pleasing to the ears. There is also a nice echo to the bells, which becomes clearer in the DS version (above). The constant repetition creates a meditative feel (though I suppose alternatively it could make you go mad if repeated long enough!). Thankfully, more variation is added 10 seconds in with some groovy-cool bongoes and almost-liquid drums. Atop this is layered the main melody, beginning at 0:18, with a fine exotic transition. I’m not sure what instruments are used here, but this outlines another key factor to Mr. Mitsuda’s music (particularly this song) – exotic instruments that give the music a unique feel. Bells, bongoes, and hippy guitar – though perhaps it makes us want to ask whether the people of Zeal are meditating on the secrets of the universe or ‘meditating’ on hashish. At any rate, the unique sound of the instruments aids in memorization.

Next, the melodic structure. Here, the first half is comprised of easy notes that maintain a dominant key, returning often to the same two high and low notes with low range, creating two distinct bands of repeated notes that make the melody simple and easy to recognize – but also achieve a set tone that has a meditative quality. It is also important to note that the bottom note in the tonal key has longer notes that are repeated more often, creating emphasis. In the second half, the guitar is replaced with a female choral line. In juxtaposition with the first half, the choral line plays long, high notes, creating a nice contrast in both instrument, scale, and pacing. I also think these high female chorals are distinct and memorable.

Finally, “Chrono Corridor” establishes a tone and emotion that is also distinct and memorable. It is played in a minor chord that recalls something in the ancient past, an exotic location with warm skies where meditation is the primary pursuit. However, the people of Zeal have become so engrossed in their magic and studies up in their guru cloud they have forgotten the people on the snow-covered earth. So while the music seems to have its head in the clouds, there is a sadness here that is ignored – the loss of the earth, a loss of sense of reality.

There are a lot of mixes to “Chrono Corridor”, so it is very difficult to go through them all and find out what are worth the listen. One standout piece is “Corrupter of Time” by Jordin de Bruin and Tweak, a nice rock mix (it’s possible!) done in the style of Metallica. This is four minutes of rock-out with Schala and the Nu’s (I’m calling that their band).

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