By the year 2000, Myst III was well under development by Presto and the rumors of the falling out between the two Miller brothers had been put to rest. While a different driver was behind the wheel, the new producers promised a seamless transition from Riven to Myst III. Rand Miller agreed to come back and spend more time in front of a blue screen and many expected Robyn would return as well for scoring duties. A collective "Wha?" came up amongst fans when the "Music By" credit was instead bestowed upon young composer Jack Wall. While a well-known composer and conductor now, curious fans seeking background information for Jack had a tough time in doing so, considering that most of his video game credits were omitted from reference sources. This of course coming from a time when video game soundtracks were considered lesser class works by peers in the industry, even though Michael Giacchino had received much fame for his orchestral scores to the Medal of Honor franchise.
With an official nod of acceptance by Robyn Miller and the promise of the use of a Symphony Orchestra, Jack Wall would win over many doubting fans when his amazing overture piece was first heard in the Myst III E3 Trailer that mislead many into thinking that the game would also use a real time engine. Upon its release, Myst III was praised by fans and gamers alike, leaving many agreeing that the musical torch was successfully passed. The positive response of the score would find Jack Wall being called upon again by producer Genevieve Lord and her team at Ubisoft Montreal who were now in charge of developing Myst IV. Nevertheless, the road to the Myst IV Soundtrack was a bumpy one. Those who purchased the European Collectors Edition for the "soundtrack" extra were probably disappointed to find a DVD containing nine badly ripped MP3s. The November release date of the official soundtrack was missed and it was only in May 2005 that it finally made it. Only the assurance by Jack Wall and Ron Hayters made the wait bearable.
The opening theme for Myst IV might surprise listeners. The opening to Myst III Exile was a powerful combination of chorus and orchestra while the "Main Titles" to Revelation feel as though they are on the opposite side of the same coin. Beginning slow under some light ambience, both the orchestra and the chorus build together before performing at their maximum energy. It's an effective attention-grabbing track. Fortunately, the lovely "Yeesha's Joyride" hearkens back to the modest pieces of earlier soundtracks. It uses simple woodwinds, strings and harp to give the impression of taking flight. "Enter Tomahna" represents one of my favorite cues on the album and marks the first time we step foot into the worlds of Myst IV. This multilayered track features some of the best combinations of group vocals and, during the latter part, a female soloist takes precedence. It is music that is calm, soothing, and enhanced by the plucking of a harp and caressing of some chimes. Very peaceful, just like Tomahna.
Probably due to track duration issues, the short cue of Sirrus detonating his frequency bomb was omitted and instead the soundtrack picks up right after on the "Darkness" cue. Using a more traditional Myst approach, the orchestra is reduced and more ambience takes precedence. Jack Wall even makes connections with the first Myst by reintroducing Sirrus and Achenar's themes from Channelwood. The first part of Darkness was found on the Collector's Edition and was more ambient and disturbing, and thus more effective. In "Achenar's Prelude", Jack Wall brings back Robyn Miller's Achenar theme for the thirteen second long teaser as we the viewer witness one of the brothers escaping through a linking book.
Moving to some of the action music, "Jungle Landing" simply rocks. A full ensemble of lightly playing strings, blaring horns, pounding drums, and the capping of a cymbal clasp results in a perfect underscore to a paragliding decent and rough landing into the depths of Haven. It's a well done performance by the Slovak Radio Orchestra. The track blends with the assorted percussion of drums mixed with the occasional toot of the woodwinds. Gentle plucking of a stringed instrument adds an additional dimension to this track as does the Achenar theme from Myst. "The Swamp" continues the more minimalist style of the latter part of Jungle Landing with gentle woodwinds and percussion, not to mention a xylophone. The liner notes make mention that "The Predator" took inspiration from styles heard in African cultures and I have to agree. Keeping with the theme of Haven, the music is simple with light percussion but really is brought to life with the vocalists, which include Cindy Wall and Violeta Villacorta. To anyone who loved Tanja Tzarovska voice on Gabriel Yared's rejected score to Troy, may find this track equally inspiring.
"Lakeside" brings forth part of the infamous Revelation teaser trailer music. Jumping from Haven to Serenia, this scene was scored for the short video sequence inside the abandoned memory chamber. Very gentle and soft, it combines light strings and woodwind, possibly suggesting something about the Achenar character. Our first chit chat with Achenar in "Achenar Meeting" meets with the gentle plucking of the Achenar theme overlaid with harsh coarse strings performing in a dark manner. Returning back to Haven, The Warsaw Village Band performs unknown, but cool lyrics to the "Welcome" track, though the track is edited in the game.
A combination of very deep strings and ambience enhances the cold dark mood that Spire visually sets. More ambient continues in "Prison Level" where the sound of what appears to be one of those Australian windpipes resonates throughout the track underneath Dave Stringer's fantastic vocals. Jack Wall used the cinematic sequences of Spire and performances of Sirrus himself to compose more thematic material as shown in "Sirrus Defends/Sirrus' Rage". The gentle sway of the strings and the occasional tooting of the brass is a call back to the style of John Barry as he composed music for the James Bond franchise. The second part of the track is really impressive as well and it bothers me that I cannot place it in the game. It builds on the first part of the track, but is louder and harsher before ending in a fantastic fluttery manner with a brief insertion of Saavedro's theme.
The exciting music featured in our rock ship ride over to the floating palace has been omitted but the music of the palace was preserved. "Nearest Island" supplies a mixture of synthesizers and percussion on various surfaces while playings to the sorrow Sirrus feels when he realizes the palace serves no means of escape. Fan favorite "Leaving Spire" is the minute long piece of music heard as you take the elevator ride up from the depths of Spire. The brass instruments join in with the strings but the track is highlighted by the lower keys of a solo piano performance. Again sadly the music heard in the Bomb Factory was omitted but can be heard on the Collectors Edition's DVD.
"Enter Serenia" is a beautiful piece of music with female chorus adding an element of whimsical fantasy to the piece and the orchestrations amazingly bring forth the duties of the strings, brass as well as a lone cello. In the game there was an instrumental version of the Enter Serenia theme, which is sadly not included here. "The Monastery" has its own religious feel to it and, deprived of an orchestra, it's up to the performances of the chorus to carry the track, and it is done very well. "Dream" provides again a more thematic use of chorus and as a stand alone is quite beautiful. As stated in the liner notes, this piece would have followed Peter Gabriel's "Curtains" song. "Hall of Spirits" has an interesting sound in the beginning and thankfully the use of a solo guitar helps add more of a flavor to this particular piece of music leaving only some more beautiful solo chorus to carry the next track, "The Serenians".
The amazing cut scenes towards the end of Revelation once again gave Jack Wall more to work with and "The Revelation/The Sacrifice" shows this. Fast acting strings play to the tension of the scene before being replaced by more dramatic suspenseful music. The music played during "the lever choice" and the numerous bad endings were left out. "End Game" is a very tender scene accompanied by some very tender music. While there is still some darkness into the performance, things do lighten up towards the end and Jack Wall mixes his Achenar theme with Robyn Millers. "Atrus Speech" while very thematically rich and lovely also has a feeling of sadness and to anyone who remembers what Atrus says, you will understand that the music is quite fitting.
Ubisoft presents the Myst IV Soundtrack very well, but there a few shortcomings. For some reason the once talked about Liner Notes that were to contain pictures of the recording sessions and comments from Genevieve Lord and Didier Lord were dropped in favor of a simple folded cover containing a statement from Jack Wall. Peter Gabriel's "Curtains" song was dropped at the last minute due to legal issues thus shortening the album's original 71 minute runtime down to 65. The album features the lovely cover artwork from the boxart of the game and, in the brief liner notes, we find comments on each cue by Jack as well as soundtrack credits. All in all a very nice little package, but I only wish there could have been more music.
In summary, the Myst franchise as a whole is a patchwork of talent. Robyn Miller, Jack Wall, and Tim Larkin have contributed something the same, yet different and wonderful to the franchise. They all have created this atmosphere of music in the "ages" we play in. The music is as much a part of the world as the trees, the water, the rocks, the birds all going back to the original intentions of Robyn Miller as he and Rand developed Myst. Myst IV: Revelation would close Jack Walls career and open him up to others in the ages of Myst, leaving Tim Larkin a pallet to End the franchise with Myst V: The End of Ages.