Alastair McNamara

Composer for Film, TV and Games

Seeds of Life

Seeds Of Life is a VR Experience for the Oculus Quest 2 that I made music and sound for. It’s about the profound interconnectedness of all things, from the way tree roots are connected by mycelium networks to the the way we are materially and spiritually connected and indebted to the natural world around us. The player is guided through a dark cavernous space which is slowly lit by sprite-like seeds that the player frees of debris by reaching out and touching them. The sprites join together to form sections of a root network, pulsing with the same blue light as the seeds. When the player reaches the top of the root structure they awaken three old gods - spirits of the natural world, who welcome you to join their circle and send you up above. You emerge on a forest floor as a mushroom in a mushroom circle and realise that you were, and still are, a part of the earth - connected to everything.

Music

When scoring Seeds of Life, I reached for earthy, natural sounds - drums and percussion instruments with woody timbres and close-miked solo wind instruments. I also built synth textures and other gestures from sampling wooden flutes and incorporated gongs and other sounds associated with meditation to speak to the existential and philosophical content of the game. The whole score was then run through vinyl emulation, adding subtle but tangible warp and noise effects to try to avoid a sound that felt too polished or perfect. To this end I also ended up removing a lot of the high frequency content of the sounds which only emphasised the muted, muffled, underground quality of the experience.

I wanted the music to have a simplicity and purity which would imbue the game with a meditative openness, so I leant on major pentatonic colours for most of the game. I wrote a theme which is revealed piece by piece in the cello solos throughout the experience in order to emphasise the root network being built. When we emerge in the forest we then finally here the theme in full, stated gently on piano; the picture is complete - now we understand. I used a more rhythmic language made mostly of percussive elements for the 3 puzzle sections, joined by almost rhythmless interludes as you float up the roots you’re building, with rhythmically free Cello and rhythmless vocal textures floating around it. I also used voice to add a revelatory, euphoric feeling to the final ascent alongside the tremolo strings which were gradually introduced throughout to create a sense of growing scale and grandeur. Without what could be described as a traditional narrative, I was keen that the music ground the player in the simple joy of the experience and to emphasise the abstract arc of the narrative simply as it was.

Credits

Directors: Christine Saab & Leto Meade

Art Director: Leto Meade

Producer: Michelle Brøndum

Games Designer: Kamal Shaddad

Unity Developer: Guy Sargent

Audio Director: Alastair McNamara

Production Consultant: Ben Binney

VFX & Technical Artist: Conrad Hughes

Writer: Hipatia Agüero Mendoza

Narrator: Bianca Rahimi

Character Modelling: Ben Binney

Character Rigging: Leto Meade

Head of Animation: Leto Meade

Lead Character Animator: Markus Øvre

Sound

We wanted to make sure the seed sprites felt earthy and natural - they're not stars or planets, they're seeds and so most of their sounds are composed from various sounds of earth, rubble and dirt with touches of other more heightened sources. If the player doesn't see them, or doesn't realise they have to reach out to touch them, the sprites call out. I was keen for this call to be both cute and friendly whilst also being somehow otherworldly and they are in a round robin of 10 samples to avoid becoming repetitive and unnatural. As you touch the seeds, as well as hearing the dirt and dust fall away, they let out a musical note. These notes subtly spell out the main theme of the game and, once free, the seeds then start to sing their notes. This sound was made by combining singing bowl sounds. When all the sprites are free, they join together and their notes bend into a new chord tuned to the music.

The old gods were made from sounds of wood, stone, leaves and the human voice. We wanted each god to have its own personality and the bigger they got, the slower and deeper their vocal quality as well as their foley had to become. The mushroom god presented a particular challenge as the mushrooms on its shoulders needed to be heard growing - in the end I opted for the sound of leather being stretched.

CoVRt Operation

CoVRt Operation is a comedy spy VR game. You play as Henchman 698 who very quickly becomes Henchman 697 when his partner in crime is killed on a mission to steal the M.A.C.G.U.F.F.I.N from the Oval Office. With the help of GG, a sardonic Scottish call centre worker at E.V.I.L Inc., you hide your compadre’s body parts and continue the devious mission alone.

The music for this game unashamedly and gleefully satisfies every cliché of the genre, however, I was much more serious about approaching how seamlessly interactive the music system was in making the score unfold in a way which felt natural. Working in FMOD I treated every instrument with different conditions for interactivity, so as to create the sense that a band of real musicians was watching you play, each reacting accordingly.

Click here to download the game from itch.

Festivals

GSA Student BAFTAs 2021 -  Best Game, Nomination

Credits

Director: Guy Sargent

Producer: Michelle Brøndum

Writers: Guy Sargent & Tom Van Overloop

Composer: Alastair McNamara

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Sound Designers: Antoni Rutczynski and Dominika Latusek

Lighting/VFX: Sam Pearson

Modelling: Charle Van der Merwe

Skylark

In Skylark, the player finds themself on a space station with a critical power outage. The engine is powered by nuclear fission, and with the power off, there is little time left until the reactor blows. The player uses their tools to redistribute what little power remains in the ship's equipment to solve puzzles room by room until they can get to the engine room and fix the reactor before it blows.

I was thrilled to collaborate with Oliver Wegmuller on the music for Skylark. We were eager to explore other avenues beyond the clichés of a dark sci-fi score, and found unconventional ways to create the same atmosphere like bowing steel string guitar instead of the conventional strings and using randomised processes to create unpredictable and unnerving rhythms. We also used a variety of techniques to re-sequence the music in FMOD in order to reward the player whenever they successfully solved puzzles. For example, there was a mechanic where the player had to turn off the artificial gravity in order to solve a puzzle, and a 'weightlessness' synth stem was introduced to encourage the player to use this state to their advantage as well as enhancing the experience of floating.

Credits

Directors: Guy Sargent & Jonathan Palframan

Writer: Ben Mitchell

Sound Designers: Markus Andreas & Anteki Rutczynski

Composers: Alastair McNamara & Oliver Wegmuller 

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Voice Actors: David Weyman & Kate Nieland

Special Thanks: Alan Thorn, Ted Chaplin & Nina Norman