Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles belongs in a genre of its own right. I give the composer, Kumi Tanioka a vast amount of credit for composing an entire soundtrack with instrumentation based upon what she calls “ancient instruments”, ones that were popular during medieval and renaissance times but have faded out of mainstream listening, you won’t find trumpets, celestas and saxophones on this score- instead you’ll find shawms, recorders, gemshorns, serpents and pan pipes.
Interestingly enough, it suits the score just fine, though to be frank- hearing solely harps, pipes and krumhorns can be a little exhausting after a while- especially when you’re used to the Final Fantasy name bringing a more powerful voice, still the compositions are light-heartedly delightful and are successful in providing imagery of renaissance times.
The counterpoint is a little harder to follow since the pieces are based upon the musical idealisms and practices of the renaissance time frame. Many tracks will begin with percussion, especially on the last two beats of the measure. Generally speaking, the lower instruments will come first setting up the melody, followed by the higher pitched ones providing a harmony, or doubling until the bridge- then back to the beginning. It becomes fairly predictable as you listen to it, but no less diminishing to what Kumi was trying to accomplish- it’s also interesting to hear a decidedly Asian flavor to the pieces.
Of my personal favorites, Track 19 on Disc 1 beats them all- initially set up with some krumhorns, shawms and typical percussion, it evolves into a little flute duet with some surprising chord changes. I also really liked Track 21 as it made excellent use of sound effects with the gentle airy chimes and bells.
Disc 2 features a few new differences (which is good because hearing 20 more tracks with a guitar and ancient woodwinds would get a little tedious). Track 4 especially seems out of place bearing almost no similarity to Kumi’s style- it’s dark and haunting with eerie vocal chords and a steady percussion with almost no discernable melody and an odd sounding shawm. As Disc 2 progresses, the melodies do become increasingly more complex and you can imagine that the story unfolding is becoming more serious- also of note is Track 15 which sounds decidedly avant guarde with its strange piano note placements- if I ever get around to playing the game, it will be interesting to see what was going on during them. The soundtrack has a few vocal tracks which generally follow suit with the instrumentation: pretty, renaissance themed, always over a gentle background.
This soundtrack is a good one, especially if you’re a fan of Enya. The music is fun, extremely well written and interesting to hear as you can listen to the forefathers of our popular instruments today. I’m not sure it it’s intentional or not, but if you listen very closely, two tracks actually boast snippets of the infamous harp arpeggio that goes hand in hand with the Final Fantasy name.