On November 14th, the official website of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was updated in Japan, adding a new section: Production Notes. It’s a blog-like section, where members of the development team will come discuss various aspects of the game.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Production Notes #4: Music
The 4th Production Notes blog post for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is from Yasunori Mitsuda, the main composer.
He begins by explaining that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is by far the biggest project he’s ever undertaken.
Besides his own composition work, he also had to deal with schedule management, acting as co-ordinator (for recording sessions), proof reading the score of the other composers, management, finalising and printing the scores, sound direction, budget control (as producer), looking at the sound controls for the Nintendo Switch, and more.
When recording with the orchestra, he also had to find ways to proceed efficiently, and he was extremely careful in picking up the musicians for that orchestra.
What’s more, musicians from all sorts of countries took part in the recording of the soundtrack. The orchestra is from Japan, the chorus from Slovakia, the singer for the insert song and ending from the United Kingdom (Jen Bird), and the choral ensemble ANÚNA is from Ireland… that’s quite the global and diverse list of artists!
As a result, the soundtrack is quite varied… so varied in fact that he believes players will be able to enjoy the music even after playing the game for a long time, without getting bored.
The first time he heard about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was on December 9th 2014, from Tetsuya Takahashi. Three months later, he met again with Tetsuya Takahashi, and together, they discussed the direction to take for the sound and music in the game.
About 1-2 months later, they settled on the number of tracks to be composed, and he met with the other composers (including ACE, Kenji Hiramatsu) to determine who would compose what. Yasunori Mitsuda then goes on to explain that each composer was allocated the same number of tracks.
That part actually went pretty smoothly, because they wanted fans to be satisfied, and they wanted to avoid ruining the image that was already set by the first Xenoblade Chronicles.
All the composers were in touch directly with Mr. Takahashi, so that his thoughts could be conveyed to them in as direct a manner as possible.
Sometimes, he would get phone calls from Mr. Takahashi, asking him “Hey Micchan, about that track here… what do you think?”, and they would almost always think the same thing together: “Hmm… something’s not quite right”.
Mr. Takahashi always tells the composers what he wants to express through each music track in a precise manner (and not in vague terms), even when rejecting a demo. He’s always looking at things from the point of view of the composer when choosing his words. This makes things much easier for them, as it helps them understand what’s wrong (with what they came up with), and make the necessary changes.
Also, every time he works with Mr. Takahashi, he wants to bring a new artist on board. This time around, he really wanted to have ANÚNA (the famous Irish choral ensemble) take part in the creation of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 soundtrack. He believed that with ANÚNA, who have their own unique sound, he would be able to create a unique worldview, and that he could compose mysterious and majestic tracks that would be a perfect fit for this game.
And it’s quite the coincidence that at around the same time, ANÚNA just happened to come to Japan for a separate. As you can imagine, he didn’t waste a second to ask them for their schedule, for a recording session
Music tracks with ANÚNA vocals can be heard in some very important towns in-game. The lyrics were written by Tetsuya Takahashi himself, so if you can make out their meaning, you will get a deep understanding of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and its world.
Speaking of ANÚNA, Yasunori Mitsuda discovered them thanks to their “Deep Dead Blue” album, released back in 1996. At that time, he was literally addicted to music from Ireland, Scotland, the Balkans, Findland, and Scandinavian countries.
Generally, with such music, the traditional instruments of those regions are featured prominently. But with ANÚNA, everything is conveyed via the voices, which can be considered the original music instrument. The “Deep Dead Blue” album left a strong impression on him, as it does not feature a classical chorus, but instead of new type of chorus, different from any other (including Bulgarian and Gregorian chorus).
Yasunori Mitsuda is particularly fond of Michael McGlynn’s voice (ANÚNA’s leader), and from the moment he heard his music, he knew he wanted to work with the choral ensemble one day. Fastforward 20 years later, and that dream finally came true thanks to Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
As revealed a few months ago, they recorded a total of 4 tracks with ANÚNA, and you can listen to one below. That track is called “Shadow of the Lowlands”, and you can hear it in the Kingdom of Tantal. Yasunori Mitsuda is convinced that it will give you a strange, mysterious sensation when exploring the Kingdom.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch) comes out on December 1st worldwide.