OCRemix Interview with Christopher Tin


Oct 25, 2000
OCRemix has published an interview with Christopher Tin, composer of the highly popular Civilization IV theme song "Baba Yetu". In the interview, Christopher Tin talks about why "Baba Yetu" resonated so well with fans, his involvement with the Video Games Live concert series, his experience composing for video games, and his upcoming debut album "Calling All Dawns".

As for why it resonated so well with fans, I think it's because I spent a tremendous amount of time crafting the song around what I believe are the two most important elements of music: melody and form. The melody of "Baba Yetu" is catchy, rhythmic and repetitive; the form is based on a familiar AABA song structure, but is constantly modulating upwards. There are moments of unexpected key changes, moments of tremendous harmonic buildup, big moments that drop off to small moments...and at the end of the day I bring it back to the original key and tag on a coda with an extended plagal (IV-I) cadence, AKA the 'Amen' cadence...in fact, literally on the Swahili word for Amen: 'Amina'.

But the thing about "Baba Yetu" is, compositionally I didn't do anything out-of-the-ordinary on that song; I just focused on the principals that I believe make good music, and was true to my own voice. And because it wasn't something that I had to stretch myself to do, I feel pretty confident that if another game company wanted to give me the opportunity, space, AND setting to write a hit theme for their game, I could do it.

But therein lies the problem: very rarely are you given genuinely amazing 'scoring moments,' so to speak. Civ IV gave me an endless menu screen with a beautiful shot of the earth as seen from space—I was basically handed a visual that was so cosmically beautiful that the opening notes practically sang themselves in my head. There were no sound effects to get in the way of the music; nothing but the earth, the sun, and my music. It was as idyllic a moment as you'll ever get in video games. You don't often get settings like that to write music to.

Firaxis gave me time and space to write the song, and gave me a beautiful scene to write to. I'm a very reactive composer; if you put something beautiful in front of me, I will write beautiful music. And that's what the Civ guys did; they created a thing of beauty. I simply responded to it.

>> Christopher Tin's Homepage
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Jun 30, 2007
Helsinki, Finland
I think that Baba Yetu is an amazing piece of music, and Christopher Tin is the best person Firaxis could ask to compose the theme music for Civilization V (if and when it's coming).
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