Considering tomorrow is Christmas and most of the world’s weather finally realized it’s December (we saw our first flurry of the year on Friday! Halt the presses!) I thought it would be appropriate to focus on one of Zelda’s colder, more icy songs. For today’s feature I have chosen to look at “Snowpeak” from the soundtrack of Twilight Princess. This song is a very quiet and subdued remix of the game’s “Hyrule Field” theme.
If you’re ready to read more about this frosty tune, then grab some hot chocolate and jump on in!
Setting the basic mood for an icy theme is not terribly difficult. All you need are tinkling instruments and a quiet tune and you can consider yourself set. Examples of this can be seen in dozens of great video game soundtracks, such as that of Metroid Prime. One could say the Zelda series helped pioneer such a musical archetype with the “Ice Cavern” and “Snowhead” themes. Despite the mastery of icy tunes over the years, it has been rare for games to perfectly capture the simple peace of snow. Sure, you can put an icy cave that wants to kill you into music, but a mountain muted by a never-melting blanket of snow? Not so simple. The song just could not be too much or it would spoil the peacefulness of snowfall. The minds at Nintendo had to add a little something special to the “cold place” archetype they mastered long ago in order to make Snowpeak’s music work.
The track starts with a choir softly holding a single note. Thanks to the magic of synthesizers, this note is held for a full minute into the song and only changes a little bit as the theme’s primary melody comes in. That melody is nothing more than a few echoing notes plucked upon strings. This chilling, simple recreation of the “Hyrule Field” theme players are already accustomed to is simply beautiful. No extreme complexity here. Just the choir and the strings, nothing else is heard in this song. And that makes it perfect.
The reason for the bare-minimum approach of the tune can be easily seen in snow itself. Unlike the cadence of rain or the whistling of wind, snow is arguably nature’s most quiet phenomenon. When you stand outside as the snow falls around you everything seems to stop. All the noise is sucked from your world. Snow mutes noise, and that is reflected in the quiet and simple peace of the Snowpeak theme. If you don’t believe me, wait for the next snow in your area. Play this song and simply watch the snow coming down. Better yet, walk through the frozen woodlands while listening to it. The combination is so perfectly surreal, you will not regret it.
If I had to pick out a flaw in this song, I would say it is too tied to its source. Sure, it makes an amazing compliment to snow, but I don’t see too many people listening to this on an average day. Folks aren’t exactly lining up to make covers of this song like they do for Gerudo Valley and Dragon Roost Island. It is limited to what it is good for. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing… it just makes it that much better for where it does excel.
In short I would have to say “Snowpeak” is the definitive soundtrack for snow, let alone an environment covered in it. Twilight Princess may have had its low points but this was certainly not one of them. There are very few songs in video games that contribute to a snowy atmosphere as beautifully and perfectly as this one, though Metroid Prime‘s “Phendrana Drifts” also holds a special place for me. Seriously, if you have yet to listen to that track, you owe it to yourself to do so.
How do you like this song? Do you think it fits its environment as perfectly as I do, or do you feel there was more that could have been done? What are some of your other favorite “snow songs” in video games? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and come back the same time next week for another Flute Boy’s Meadow!