This week’s composition selection is “Stream” from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. The soundtrack’s composition is attributed to Yukie Morimoto, Jun Funahashi, and primarily to Hidenori Maezawa who will be the named composer in this study. In addition to visual and gameplay changes, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse‘s soundtrack changed from its Famicom to its Nintendo Entertainment System version. While the Famicom had access to the Konami VRCVI sound chip, the NES was only capable of five channels of audio and only three that could reasonably produce melody. The Famicom version will be the version analyzed in this study.
“Stream” is a simple upbeat track with three distinct sections that compliment each other well. Without the sweeping sustained string notes of orchestration to hide behind and without many tools to create a sense of musical space, “Stream” – clocking in at under forty seconds before repeating – is a good example of the techniques most chiptune music uses to stay interesting and utilizes quick melodies and bouncing bass along with driving percussion to keep the ear alive.
“Stream” begins with a short descending figure with quick low almost indiscernible bass. The melody repeats itself a little higher once before entering the brighter ascending second section. The bass picks up into a far more discernible plucky figure to match the liveliness of the main melody which should be considered the melodic focus of the work. Its quick, rising, and repeating notes are foreshadowed in the inverse in the first intro segment and recalled in the final and comparatively thoughtful third section which could be thought of as performing the function of a bridge if compared to modern music. This bridge section performs the only chords in the work and uses them to highlight the slower and more deliberate notes of its melody. The bass continues its rhythmic and stylistic motif from the second section but pulls back into sparser entries and making use of octive intervals to reflect the change in the melody’s focus.
While the track does not last long and the melodic figures are short and frequently repeated even within themselves, there is still an impressive amount of thematic cohesion within “Stream”. In addition to the work centering around the middle section, the stylistic choices of the running ascending and descending melodies reflect that of a rapidly flowing stream, the subject of the music itself. Maezawa also makes prudent use of rhythm to make the repetition and length of “Stream” feel less obvious.
Please use the comment thread below to add your own thoughts about “Stream” from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Is this track successful for you, or do you ultimately just find it repetitive? Do you still find it effective when arranged for another instrument? And, what other pieces would you like to see examined? Your suggestions may eventually be featured in an upcoming column!