The Pitch-perfect Bard: A Cosmere Mix
(Art by @botanicaxu, used with permission)
I decided it was time to share the Fan Soundtrack I have compiled for Sanderson’s works.Well over eighty hours have gone into the booklet alone, in which I take the listener through each song and how I think it relates to the Cosmere. I have included the text from my booklet below the list…the introduction does contain a warning, but just be forewarned that after the listed songs, there will be spoilers for almost every Cosmere-related work. :)
6. Protectors of the Earth
7. All is Hell that Ends Well
8. Gollum’s Song
9. Flight of the Silverbird
12. Cannon in D minor
14. Our Destiny
16. Creation of Earth
Wax & Wayne Novels:
17. Big Sky
Short Stories & Novellas:
20. Strength of a Thousand Men
21. Mephisto Waltz
If you are reading this there is a good chance you are a fan of the work of Brandon Sanderson. This album has been a pet project of mine for over a year now, and is still incomplete. However, since I’m not sure that it will ever be more than a work in progress, I decided it was time to share it with those who enjoy Sanderson’s writing.
The project of finding a ‘soundtrack’ for the Cosmere began when a friend of mine mentioned how perfectly 2 Steps from Hell’s “All is Hell that Ends Well” described the life of Marsh (from the Mistborn Triloyg), both in the title and music. Since then I’ve kept my ears open for other pieces that fit specific characters, scenes, or emotional moments in the Cosmere.
My selection process is a complicated one. I am constantly listening to music, and I wait for the moment when a piece reminds me of something in the Cosmere. Then, I listen to it a few more times to confirm that it has the correct feeling, emotionally and musically. Often I will listen to it randomly over the next few days to make sure I still get the same vibe, even when I’m not specifically listening for it. Then I check it with friends who have also read Sanderson and can confirm the overall feeling of the piece. One more interesting note to make is that I try to avoid know the names of pieces until I have set in stone what they correspond with, because I don’t want the name to influence my decision. In light of that, it’s fascinating to see how many of the names are appropriate for their Cosmere moments.
You will notice that most of the music itself is by 2 Steps from Hell (2SFH). This is because I find them particularly suited to Sanderson’s writing, being epic and detailed, classical and modern, all at the same time. I do try to avoid film scores, because I don’t want to be inhibited by emotional associations that I and others already have with those pieces, but am not completely opposed to using them.
I have organized this album in the order that I first read the books of the Cosmere. For each book, I put the pieces in the order that they occur within the story. This seemed like the most logical way to organize it, and I hope it makes the listening experience enjoyable.
While I’m sure you might have already guessed, I think it’s wise to mention that there are major SPOILERS contained within the pages of this booklet. I know having a book spoiled is one of the worst things that can be done to a reader…please proceed with caution. This continues to be an amazingly fun project to work on and I am so excited to share it with you! Thank you for listening to The Pitch-perfect Bard.
The Penniless AuthorWarbreaker
1. El Dorado (Skyworld, 2SFH) - Vivenna and Parlin entering the Hallandren city of T’Telir
Beginning with the wild dervish of violins was the perfect musical picture of the strict Idrian princess and her woodsman companion entering the colorful and wild city they had been warned about all their lives. Around 0:20, I imagine that Vivenna and Parlin have gone through the gates and are being bombarded by all the sights, sounds, and smells of the foreign culture and religion surrounding them; people hawking their wares in the open market, strange foods scenting the air, and garish colors of all shades swirling in an unending kaleidoscope. At 1:26, the listener zooms out to get a birds-eye view of the whole city. A mass of humanity living in one place, with the magnificent Court of Gods situated in the middle of the city, high above the common folk. The piece ends with a frenzy of instruments playing, focusing back on the two Idrians and just how overwhelming this new city is to them.
King (Invincible, 2SFH) – Lightsong healing Susebron
We begin in the cell with Lightsong as he realizes why he Returned, and what he must do with his Breath. The overwhelming emotions of pain and loss, mixed with the fresh knowledge of why he must now give his Breath to the God King is represented in the somber but driving melody. Around 0:36 we can hear the triumphal healing of Susebron, and his determination as he rescues Siri from the murderous hand of Bluefingers. The black walls stripped of their black sheen and now reflecting a spectrum of brilliant colors, mirrored by the swirling army of colorful clothes Susebron Awakened, can be felt in the amazing vocalization during this part of the piece. 1:51 to the end is a heartbreaking representation of when Susebron takes Siri down to the dungeon, and they, along with Scoot, reflect on the final selfless act of the man known to the world as Lightsong.
the Fall (Invincible, 2SFH) – Vasher and Vivenna leaving T’Telir together
This piece has the end-of-the-story and characters-moving-on vibe. I imagine this in the background any time I read the Epilogue of Warbreaker. The looking forward, moving toward adventure, and expectation of finding out more about oneself are all felt in the propelling beat and the yearning but calm vocalizations. Vivenna and Vasher discuss his Returned status, as well as the potential threat they are hoping to head off. The musicality of this piece gives the listener the satisfaction of feeling like the story is complete, but there is a possibility for more stories to come, which is what Sanderson’s epilogue does.
4. Undying Love (Invincible, 2SFH) – Sarene discovering Lord Spirit’s secret
The beginning of this piece drops us right into the scene where Roial has been stabbed and Raoden reveals himself to Sarene and all his friends. The swirling, undulating melody of the strings clearly brings to light Sarene’s emotions in this bittersweet moment. The complexity of Sarene’s sorrow for Roial, coupled with joy, confusion, and hesitance at discovering that Lord Spirit is her supposedly dead betrothed, is reflected in the simultaneously major and minor tones of the violins against the backdrop of violas and celli. Around 0:56 we move to the roof of Kiin’s house, where Raoden and Sarene are surveying the city and discussing all that is happening. The soaring melody with the staccato violins behind it gives voice to the calm way in which they talk about the constant upheaval their lives have gone through for the past several months. At 1:18, you can hear Sarene’s request for Raoden to drop the Aon and let her see his Elantrian face, this time knowing that he is the man she is betrothed to. The single-voice piano repeating the same phrase gives the listener an impression of Raoden’s reluctance to concede to her request, but when he does, the orchestra begins building behind the piano and Sarene reassures him that she is not bothered by his Elantrian features. Around 1:45, the burgeoning melody gives me the feeling that my view has zoomed out and I am getting a 360 degree view of this couple, standing on the rooftop, completely in love with each other.
5. Never Back Down
(Battlecry, 2SFH) – Raoden’s final Journey
We begin immediately at the point in time when Raoden is being held by Dilaf as a trap to lure Sarene out onto Kiin’s roof. Raoden’s need to protect the woman he loves, balanced by his pain and misery, is emulated by the positive violin melody that contrasts with the deep, persistent hammering of the lower strings. Right around 0:32 is where Dilaf runs Raoden through and he becomes Hoed. The melody takes on a mournful quality, incorporating more of the celli and vocal sections to bring out the incredible agony Raoden experiences as one of the Hoed. Galladon and Karata’s trek up the mountain, taking Raoden to the pool, begins at 1:07. The vocals and timpani take over the melody, with the strings in the background, giving the piece a marching vibe. The sorrow is still there, in the melody, and the listener can feel how physically and emotionally difficult it is for these two Elantrians to carry their friend all that way. We switch back to Raoden’s perspective at 1:40, which is when he begins to realize the secret to fixing the Dor. The slow build of the vocals and strings perfectly resonates with his train of thought, and then at 1:13 he jumps out of the pool and starts his dash back down the mountain. We now hear everything we have heard previously, but with something new: Harpsichord. Torn between his love and pain, struggling to stay lucid and resist the Hoed mantra, Raoden gathers enough strength to sprint back down the mountain. The rolling arpeggios of the harpsichord reflect the urgency of his mission, as Raoden comes closer to the end of his strength.
6. Protectors of the Earth (Invincible, 2SFH) – Kelsier teaching Vin pushing and pulling
The reason I love this piece so much is that you can feel the pushing and pulling. It starts off a little slow, like Kelsier standing on a rooftop with Vin, telling her just a little about how it works. From there it just starts building. It has a very strong ¾ beat to it, which only serves to intensify the feeling of pushing-and-pulling-and-pushing-and-pulling. Throughout the piece you get bits where I like to imagine they’ve crested a building and are above the city before dropping back down to more street-level. At 1:31 they get to the city wall and you get the feeling Kelsier is going to do something incredibly stupid. Just before he throws himself into the mist, he challenges Vin to follow. And she does, right at 1:56. The emergence of the brass over the strings gives the listener the feeling of rushing through the mist with Vin, wondering what could be waiting below. And then, miraculously, you come upon the spikeway at 2:15 and use the rush of adrenaline to follow Vin and Kelsier off into the mist.
7. All is Hell that Ends Well (Skyworld, 2SFH) – The life of Marsh
The choice of this piece was not my doing. However, I think it’s brilliant, and totally agree that it perfectly sums up the direction that Marsh’s life takes. We start off melodic and mournful, emulating how tired and frustrated Marsh is when we first meet him. At 0:35, the timpani starts to pound while the brass builds, still in the beginning stages of taking over. The decision for Marsh to infiltrate the Inquisitors is made, and he leaves the crew to do his job. Becoming the thing he hates is a hug sacrifice for Marsh, and you can hear this in 1:24, with the pounding beat emphasized by string arpeggios, and the melodic but jarring brass. The interlude from 1:53 – 2:10 gives voice to those few, precious moments when Marsh is with one of the crew, passing on information, and doesn’t have to worry about being discovered. The single-voice piano has a hurrying quality to it that emphasizes the secrecy and danger of what he is doing. We return to the infiltration theme for a bit, then at 2:39 we receive Marsh’s communication that he has information on the soothing stations around the city. It is similar to the previous interlude, but has more weight behind it from the strings supporting the piano, which speaks to the importance of his information. And then we hit the dub-step at 2:58. This, of course, is his inclusion into the ranks of the Steel Inquisitors. The unnatural and hellish sounds and rhythms of dub-step are perfect for this affront to humankind and the tortured life Marsh will lead from this day forward.
8. Gollum’s Song (The Two Towers, Howard Shore) – Zane Venture’s theme
I had a difficult time allowing myself to use this song within the Cosmere. Personally, I already loved it, and it has so many emotions I already associate with it, I didn’t want them to color my perception of Zane. However, I finally decided to include it because it really does encompass the struggles that Zane goes through in our time with him in Mistborn. Not only does the doleful melody speak to Zane’s terrible back-story, but the lyrics express his longing to have what he couldn’t. His fascination with Vin and constant struggle against his father to find himself give the lyrics new meaning, and provide a fresh perspective on what it is like in Zane’s head.
9. Flight of the
Silverbird (Battlecry, 2SFH) – Elend and Vin’s Dance
I must confess, I cheated a bit with this piece: it does not correspond with something that happens within the Mistborn books, but rather, with something I wish had happened. Upon reading the ball scene when the Emperor and Empress dance with their enemies, I couldn’t help wishing for an epic Allomancy dance for the two Mistborn. So I wrote my first piece of Fan Fiction, labeled simply “The Dance”. In essence, the soaring melody coupled with the sweet notes of the flute gave me the idea that these two humans with incredible magical abilities, and so deeply in love with each other, would find a way to use their Allomancy to do something they both love: dance.
(Interstellar Soundtrack, Hans Zimmer) – Ruin and Preservation become Harmony
The fantastic thing about this piece is that the entirety of it is spent building up to one, final moment. You can feel Ruin and Harmony struggling through time, push for pull, cause and consequence. The constant ticking within the piece is a tangible reminder that time is marching toward an inevitable showdown. And then you have all the contrasting instruments and methods within the piece. The organ layered underneath the strings, and then coming to the forefront in grand chords gives the listener a sense of the magnitude and power behind the two opposite shards contending for power. I especially love the use of the wooden part of the violin bow starting at 2:34. It is an underutilized method of playing that gives the piece an otherworldly feeling. As the piece continues, the rising chords of the organ and the harmony of strings meld more and more until they are inseparable, and then the last chord is gorgeously divided, both major and minor. This, more than anything, solidifies the feeling that, yes, Ruin and Preservation have become one in Harmony, but there is still a tension there that will continue as long as time itself.
(Classics, Vol. 1, 2SFH) – Sazed heals Scadrial
You can hear them. You can hear the wheels turning in Sazed’s head, as he becomes Harmony and realizes why he learned everything he knows: To heal the earth. The piano within the piece is very circular, while the vocalization fills it out into a melody, giving voice to the divine power Sazed now holds. I like to imagine him planting flowers at 1:01, and then as the melody swells around 1:14, he’s moving the ashmounts and creating the Elendel Basin. People begin emerging out of their underground havens at 1:40, shocked by the new world presented to them. And then, at the very last, we happen upon Elend and Vin, resting peacefully among the Marewill flowers.
12. Cannon in D Minor (Battlecry, 2SFH) – Secret Bridge Four Chasm Training
Now this is an energetic piece. Boom! It gets you right into the mood for movement, and I think it’s quite the pump-up song. And with that in mind, it’s especially appropriate to be in the background for the training of Bridge Four. We start off with Kaladin organizing the men, setting up leadership, and starting training. Around 1:00, I imagine that the men are doing the spear kata they’ve been learning as a group. The stomping/clapping in this section of the piece really emphasize this, and you can hear the force and ferocity of what they’ve been learning. 1:20-1:33 Kaladin is experimenting with his Windrunning abilities, testing the waters and finding them to his liking. We then get a repeat of the kata melody, this time with added vocalizations, which give an extra punch to the training the men are going through. From 1:53 to the end, my mind goes through a montage of Bridge Four bonding time over Rock’s soup, training in the Chasms, and learning to take care of their fellow human beings.
13. Jump! (Classics Vol.
1, 2SFH) – The Parshendi
I swear I did not choose this piece because of the title. Now that we’ve established that, we start with the first encounter with the warform Parshendi; terrifying, pounding electric guitars give the listener an idea of just how petrifying it would be to be challenged by a singing warrior in carapace, who can leap seemingly bottomless chasms in a single bound. The battle rages and in between the hammering rhythm, you can hear the furious chanting of the war song in the string melody. Right around 2:27 we get a little glimpse of the Parshendi way of life; the Parshendi in different forms, working together in one community to keep their people going, knowing that they are a minority and are barely scraping a living off the Shattered Plains. You catch the wistfulness of Eshonai’s wish to make her people great again in the beautiful violin melody. Then at 3:15 we return to the ever raging battle for the Plains between the Parshendi and the Alethi.
14. Our Destiny (Sun,
Thomas Bergerson) – Kholins betrayed by Sadeas
We begin with Sadeas riding away from the battle, leaving the Kholins stranded in the midst of the Parshendi. The resolute, marching violins give his betrayal a feeling of inevitability, and then from 0:13 till 0:33, we hear Dalinar’s train of thought. He goes from seeing that his ‘friend’ deceived him, to worried about his soldiers and son, with the rapidity of the swirling piano that gives voice to his emotions. At 0:34 Dalinar rallies his troops, giving them a speech to go down in the annals of history. You can hear as the despondent troops gain new courage from the words of their Brightlord, and then they charge back into battle at 1:26. Within the soaring melody, there is a beautiful tension between major and minor, highlighting the fact that every Kholin soldier knows they won’t survive this battle, but still continues to fight the Parshedin, spurred on by love and loyalty to the Kholin household. At 1:57 we get a brief respite from the battle, assessing the wounded and morale of the men, and then we jump right back into the fray at 2:32. The brass and vocals gain more power in the melody here, and we get a feeling of just how desperate this battle is. The piece ends, almost echoing Dalinar’s words: “We fight here because we understand…Other men may debase themselves to destroy me. Let them have their glory. for I will retain mine!”
15. Cry (Sun, Thomas
Bergerson) – Kaladin speaks the Third Ideal
The soft drumming and synthetic bells that we start off with are Kaladin’s thoughts. He realizes that he cannot just turn a blind eye as Moash kills Elhokar, and begins the painful hike up to the palace at 0:28. The listener can feel the urgency of the situation with the constant, driving harmony, but sense the painful slowness of Kaladin’s movements in the tedious melody. Around 0:56, he finds Elhokar and tries to get him out of danger. The tension in the music is building, getting more intense as vocals and additional instruments join the melody till Kaladin is confronted by Moash in 1:56. You can feel the confusion, betrayal, and strength emanating from the two proud men in the wistful yet powerful vocals. At 2:31, Syl’s voice can be heard, pleading with the Stormfather to allow her to return to Kaladin. The insistent vocals coupled with the persistent harmony give us an amazing musical picture of how these two extraordinary characters work together within the text. Right at 3:00, Kaladin, cheered on by Syl, speaks the Third Ideal. The increased intensity of the piece does not negate the fact that the vocal melody and string harmony are still working together; in fact, they are even stronger than they were before. Just like the reunion of Kaladin and Sylpherina.
of Earth (Sun, Thomas Bergerson) – Windrunner and Truthless Duel
This piece is more of a big picture than individual moments. Each duelist has their distinct musical quality. Szeth is characterized by the haunting, tormented, yet gorgeous solo vocals. This speaks to his plight as Truthless (as he thought), and his anger at being used for murder. His loneliness, shame, and pride in his own expertise is clearly heard in the vocals that are now major, now minor. The overwhelming fury at the pointlessness of Szeth being Truthless is heard in the wild abandon with which the voice swings between notes, slashing vehemently at Kaladin’s voice, which is represented by the strings and choral vocals. There is a calm rage behind his melody, quiet and deadly. The interwoven voices and instruments can, once again, be heard as Kaladin and Syl working in perfect sync with one another as they spar the Truthless who threatened the people they love. You can hear Kaladin’s melody grow and blossom, gaining the heroic quality we all know he had but he refused to believe existed. In between the musical sparring between the two voices, there are many synthetic sounds, which only add to the landscape they cover in the course of their soaring duel.
Wax & Wayne Novels
17. Big Sky (Skyworld, 2SFH) – The Roughs
I don’t think you’ll have to listen very long to understand why this song reminded me of the Roughs. The composition of this piece is much like that of an old western soundtrack, utilizing cello, guitar, wooden flutes, and double bass to give the listener a rugged and worn feeling. I can almost see the dusty towns planted in an infertile land, the Scadrial version of a tumbleweed blowing down the street in a forlorn manner. And then to give us a sense of the epic proportions of this particular western, the orchestra and vocals build up behind the traditional instruments. The rollicking melody is a perfect representation of the proud resoluteness of the Roughs and the people who are determined to make a go of it there.
18. Starchild (Sun,
Thomas Bergerson) – Wayne’s Speed-bubble fighting
First off, I have to say I think Wayne would be thrilled to hear that his song is called “Starchild”; he’d never let Wax hear the end of it. Anywho, we start in a room frozen in time. The solo piano with strings and vocals layered under it show us just how beautifully creepy the scene is. Just imagine looking around, and everyone is moving at an excruciatingly slow pace. Then, you notice that there’s something odd about one particular table…there seems to be movement inside an invisible sphere, practically dripping with the essence of time. Around 0:49, we move through the invisible barrier and find ourselves in the midst of a frenzied preparation. Two men are checking and loading weapons, removing excess clothing, downing vials of liquid and metal flakes. They discuss the various threats in the room, choosing their first opponents and getting ready for the conflict. The mounting tension of the music shows their anticipation for what is about to happen. At 1:11, Wayne drops the bubble and we are thrown into a time-defying fight. The elevated strings bringing out the melody gives the listener a feeling of zooming about the room, seeing Wayne drop his opponents in slow motion, and, out of the corner of our eye, we can see Wax leaping around the room, mistcoat tassels flying, shooting as he goes. Time catches up and we get to see Wayne’s fighting style up close and personal. We are trapped in a speed bubble with him and one other man, and watch, as Wayne takes him down with his dueling canes. The bubble is dropped until Wayne isolates another enemy and disarms him. And then, from 1:35 to the end, we get an even more amazing spectacle: to watch from outside the speed bubble. The consistent beat of the timpani gives a voice to real time, even as Wayne’s insane skills ride over it in the voice of the heroic melody played by the brass. We can barely see him, only catching glimpses as he dashes about the room, using his speed bubble to move inhumanly fast. Throughout the piece, you can hear Wax in the background, shooting away and generally being awesome in the bright runs of the violins; the two lawmen, fighting criminals, and doing it with style.
Short Stories & Novellas
19. Dragonland (Sun, Thomas Bergerson) – Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
The thing about this piece is that I think it has all the themes necessary to extrapolate a full soundtrack from if a movie were to be made out of Shadows for Silence. The overall otherworldliness given by the fantastic use of low brass, celli and bass as well as creepy vocals makes it the perfect piece for this short story. So, here’s the basic break-down. 0:00-0:42 is the shades wandering around, minding their own business, 0:43-1:25 is Silence and her daughter (or anyone else) sneaking through the woods slowly, trying not to attract the shades, 1:26-1:55 is the fight with the bandits, 1:56-2:24 is Daggon’s White Fox tale from the beginning of the book, 2:25-3:14 is the escape from the ambush, then their run-in with Red, 3:15-4:06 is Theopolis confronting Silence, and her unleashing her grandmother on him, 4:07-the end is Silence’s memories of what her grandmother put her through to prepare her for fighting shades. And like I said, anything else needed for this story can be tied back into one of the sections I just described. A perfectly haunting piece for the great Cosmere ghost-story.
20. Strength of a Thousand Men (Archangel, 2SFH) – Secret History, Kelsier running to the West
This piece is amazing because you can feel the momentum behind Kelsier as he strives to figure out what is going on and what he can do about it. The drumming, consistent strings, chanting voices, low brass, and violin runs all combine to give the song a feeling of wind rushing past and a persistent doggedness no matter how far Kelsier had to run. We get glimpses of his run, picking up the fire, sneaking up on the Eyree, following through the woods, being himself. Kelsier’s epic run to find out the secret of the shards is immortalized in this pounding and heroic tribute.
21. Mephisto Waltz (Franz Liszt) – Hoid
I love this piece for Hoid because it covers much of what we know about him, and leaves even more open for speculation. And the fact that it is a classical piece just gives it that bit of irony that I think he would appreciate. We begin in the middle of a hop between planets. The inane bouncing back and forth between the strings is the perfect musical picture of Hoid traveling between worlds. Starting at 0:42, you can hear what I call the “Wit Theme”. The classically played melody defies practical convention, much as Wit does in the court of Elhokar. I can just imagine him making fun of the brighlords while listening to this tune. Around 2:38, we catch a glimpse of some of Hoid’s other roles.: The storyteller in Warbreaker. The beggar in Elantris. The informant and Terrisman in Mistorn. And many more faces I am sure we will see him put on. The conflicted melody speaks to his differing interactions with people, and the ambiguity of where he comes from and where he’s going. 4:24 through 4:38, and then 9:28 through the end is an amazing tribute to the loneliness he must experience. His adventures are many and varied, as expressed by the highs and lows the listener experiences through this piece. A fantastically brilliant piece for an amazingly confusing and awesome character.
(I’m sorry for the insanely long post…I haven’t learned how to make those handy-dandy cuts in a post. If you made it all the way to the bottom, I wish I could promise you a high-five from Hoid, but who knows where he’s off to now…)