Have you heard? 04. Udan Mas

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Udan Mas - Geoff Knorr (2013)

Take a traditional Indonesian motif, add an orchestra and what do you get? Well, if Geoff Knorr is in charge, you get wartime music for the Indonesian nation in the highly acclaimed video game Civilization V. Each nation gets its own set of peacetime and wartime music, based on traditional melodies and local instruments, but “Udan Mas” takes the cake for taking such a simple tune and turning it into something fierce and respectable.

So how does a battle cry for an army of Indonesian Kris Swordsmen constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

The beauty lies in a simple four-note theme that creates the entire essence of the piece. Drawn from traditional music, it drives it forward while still keeping the traditional Indonesian feel. Traditional instruments are included alongside a full orchestra, giving it authenticity that would otherwise be lost. The masterful blending of the brass with the rest of the orchestra gives the piece the distinct ‘war’ feeling. The piece never stops moving forward. Always marching, it swells, it glares and it calls out. The entire orchestra is only a rhythmic conduit for the deep brass to annunciate their call for war. It’s tense, yet so craftily traditional. You can feel the army approaching, step by step. You can feel the hesitation and the deep breath before the plunge as the woodwinds trill, teeter and then strike in. From a tune so simple as four notes, Knorr has created a piece of music that makes you sit tense in your boots. When listen to this piece you know those swordsmen are coming.

This piece has had some influence on my music. It shows how the brass can be used in effective, but not overwhelming, ways. It has directly influenced two of my pieces: “Serenade in F: II. Sunset” and “Serenade in F: III. Nightfall”.

Happy listening and enjoy!