12 January 2015

When the Endurance was torn apart in a heavy storm, and the crew forced onto a nearby island, the horrors had only just begun. The island inhabitants are inhuman, with no desire for resolution and stripped of morals. They learnt to survive by scavenging off new wrecks; creating tools and shelters from pieces of old ships. They attack those they viewed as weaker and feared those who were stronger; a hierarchy established by violence.

It's clearly dark game, and to help kindle feelings of fear and desperation, it needed a solid soundtrack which reinforced those emotions.

Jason Graves is a BAFTA award winning composer also known for his work on the Dead Space series. With Tomb Raider, he took it to the next level and worked with McConnell Studios, a design, sculpture and architecture company, to create something incredible; The Instrument.

The Instrument is a combination of art and practicality, and was used in creating the Tomb Raider soundtrack. In fact, the first 15 minutes of the game is accompanied with music solely made from it, setting the mood perfectly. The combination of materials (steel, glass and fibreglass) however allows for a variety of interesting sounds which can be heard throughout the game.

Today we're going to be taking a closer look at some of the finer details of The Instrument, from the drum's frame to the welding. It's a hauntingly beautiful design.

This is a close up of the hook suspending the three glass domes over the centre. The thin piece of metal is channelled through the centre of each.

Above the centre hangs four chimes of various lengths. The indentations on each were made by forge and power hammer. Created by Ben Galati, the uneven surface was formed by request of Jason Graves. Both the off key sound and design were intended to symbolise the island's imperfection and rough nature.

These bamboo inspired wires, not only acts as a great background to The Instrument, but produces a rattling sound when touched; perfect for creating an unsettling noise. There are over 80 stalks which are fixed to the base, which consists of layered sheet metal, acting as a resonating chamber to amplify the sound.

A closer look at the bamboo inspired wires surrounding the instrument.

The Vessel is made from patinaed stainless steel and is capable of producing a variety of sounds both sharp and deep.

One of the things I particularly like about The Instrument is the base for the centre piece, often referred to as the Tree Trunk for its shape. This section not only looks beautiful with its gorgeous peach tones but certainly gives the impression that it's alive. The Tree Trunk is lit internally, which makes the texture of it more captivating. 

There are three glass domes in the piece, with each being a different size and producing a different sound. The purpose of the glass is to contrast the much sharper sounds created from the instrument. However the sound which is produced are dependent on the tool used on it.

This horsehair bow is designed to resemble Lara's in the game, but it is also a practical tool used to create specific sounds. More often than not, it's used on the Vessel in the centre. When it's not needed, it's placed on a special hook on the left of the Instrument.

And finally, above is a photograph of the connection, which fixes the pole holding the glass domes, to the supporting structure. A simple but really elegant join!

The Instrument was created in collaboration between Jason Graves and McConnell Studios. All photographs can be found on the company's website and Facebook page as well as on the Tomb Raider Blog. To learn more about how this piece was used to create the score for Tomb Raider, make sure to check out The Final Hours of Tomb Raider: Sounds of Survival.



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