Bear and Bird – A Review

JD Moser, or just “Jay”, is a freelance composer from Regina, Canada. He specializes in video game composition and takes heavy influence from Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, two of the biggest names in video game scoring. Bear and Bird is Jays homage to these composing giants. It is a short, 6 track album developed between the years 2011 and 2013 and can be found on Soundcloud. It was created as a sort of “fantasy” soundtrack for a non-existent game in the Banjo-Kazooie series, where each track represents a different level theme in this non-existent game. Through an analysis I will attempt to review this work not only on it’s musical content but it’s ability to fit with the works it is attempting to emulate.

The music itself, much like the works of JD’s inspirations is derived from jazz. Specifically the “Jump” Piano style of Boogie-Woogie Jazz for it’s rhythm. This gives the tracks a “bouncy” feel, that is extremely fitting for the platformer genre. The rhythm makes you feel the pace as you bounce around the levels and even though Bear and Bird doesn’t have a game to lend itself too you can definitely agree that it would fit straight into the genre.

Being written for a platform-adventure game, the tracks are intended to be listened to for long periods of time. This is where the melody comes in to save us from the rhythm. JD uses lots of high-frequency instruments such as flutes, saxophones and xylophones to make the melodies stand out. To keep things even more interesting JD will “reverse” the instrumentation on the melody and rhythm sections to add even more variety. For example he will switch the flute with tuba to add a sense that the music is “dragging” instead of “bouncing” which causes a dramatic shift in the musics dynamics.

Along with being musically accurate to the works he is trying to emulate JD even uses humorous naming conventions and puns in his song titles. In Banjo Kazooie the theme and name for the snow level is Freezezy peak which humorously tells you that the peak is so cold that it “freezes easily”. JD uses the title “Inca-Venient Trail” to let you know that the song will be for a Mayan themed level and that the path will be “Inconvenient”.
Lastly, as a little spice on top of everything, like those he inspires to be JD uses sound design within his music to truly give a sense of location and theme. For example the howling wind and screeching carrion in “Endervale Range” really give you a sense that your approaching a wide open canyon.

Considering all the individual components that make up these tracks and the creators intent for them to be used as a video game soundtrack, I would conclude that he has succeeded. He has emulated the original composers styles perfectly whilst using his own creativity to apply the styles to several new themes. If you love the music found in Banjo-Kazooie and want more of the same then I would definitely recommend giving JD Mosers works a listen, particularly Bear and Bird.

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Bear and Bird – A Review

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