because it is one of the best soundtracks in the world

Dark, intimate, nihilistic, the soundtrack of The last of us it is a jewel of gloomy melancholy, perfect for describing a post-apocalyptic world.

A cult object for PlayStation community players, the diptych The Last of Us changed the video game landscape. The game duo created by Neil Druckman and Bruce Straley for Naughty Dog has left an indelible, even shocked, mark on everyone who slipped into Joel Miller’s skin for the first opus, and that of Ellie and Abby for The Last of Us – Part II.

With 24 million copies sold over the counter (19 million for TU 1 and its remaster, 5 million for TU 2), YOU has won a variety of awards of all kinds, from Game of the Year to Best Screenplay. The two titles were such successes that a new remake of the first opus would be in development for PS5, and that a TV series, soberly baptized The last of us is getting ready.

Take out the tissues

YOU it was widely distinguished by its ultra-cinematic aspect, its violent, brutal, uncompromising and yet completely human subject. It is thanks to this that it has distinguished itself from other post-post productions, which often sink into the bombastic side of the Force. Away from the explosions of a Gears of Waror a deluge of zombies Days gone, The last of us tells a deep and intimate story.

To underline this aspect, Naughty Dog has decided to create an OST that goes against the grain of what zombie or post-apocalyptic competition might offer. Without a symphony orchestra, without too many effusions, the soundtrack of the first YOU it is a masterpiece of emotion, touching and melancholy. But what does it do this soundtrack is one of the best ever created for a video game ?

The Last of Us 2 – Bande-Annonce – VO for large screen

The person responsible for all this

Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla was sixteen when he created Arco Iris, a folk rock group largely imbued with hippie influences and New Age philosophy, which produced some hits in South America. We are in 1957 and Gustavo now knows that he will devote his entire life to music. Ten years later, he left his native Argentina to go to Los Angeles in hopes of finding glory. A rich idea since the musician had success with the Wet Picnic group, and especially with his first solo albums.

Between featuring, commissions and work as a substitute musician in the studio sessions, Santaolalla begins to make a name for himself in the rock and folk scene in the United States. His two albums GAS. in 1995 and Ronroco in 1997 they even attract the ears of Hollywood producers. He makes his first soundtrack as a composer of original soundtracks for The Revelations by Michael Mann in 2000.

The last of us: photosIinsert melancholy music

After that, you go up, Santaolalla becomes unstoppable. His intimate style, his particular way of playing string instruments, from guitar to charango, is instantly recognizable, and his greatest vocation for OST compositions. After his work for Michael Mann, he signs the soundtracks of the films of his friend Alejandro González Iñárritu: females love et 21 grams. The absolute consecration took place in 2006, when he received the Oscar for best film music for The Secret de Brokeback Mountain. He also got a double with the same Oscar in 2007 for Babel.

The composer’s sonic identity, his majestic strings, his melodic sense, this way of thinking about his soundtracks with the minimum of means to arouse the maximum of emotions, and the fact of keeping his Latin origins in his works, make him one of the greatest contemporary musicians. Thus, when Neil Druckmann begins the creation of The last of usthe name of Gustavo Santaolalla imposes itself.

The Last of Us - Part II: photoS.antaolalla also appears in TLOU II

Love, hate and other annoyances

To pour The last of us, Neil Druckmann did not want to do anything like the others. He wanted to create his definitive game, one that would break the boundaries between cinema and video games, with strong, even unforgettable sequences. Anyone who played the first half hour of the game YOU can testify to the emotional power of the title, with its heartbreaking introduction. Accompanied by some guitar notes for the sole sound environment, the sequence traumatized many musicians.

And this is precisely the goal pursued by Druckmann: to produce a unique game, out of the ordinary, overwhelming from start to finish. To do this, the soundtrack had to live up to his ambitions, but it was out of the question to yield to the sirens the effusions of a symphony orchestra, which could have broken the intimate and depressing atmosphere of his work. Passionate about cinema and film music, he tried his luck with Gustavo Santaolalla. He accepted this new challenge.

The last of us: photosA soundtrack from Santaolalla is fire

The direction of the composition of Santaolalla is all indicated to best illustrate the history of YOU. Druckmann’s title is above all the pessimistic odyssey of Joel Miller, a broken man, in mourning, guilty of surviving the loss of his son. To best express this pain, it was necessary a minimalist OST, which would leave room for silence, a paradoxical echo of the hero’s pain. Gustavo Santaolalla had already demonstrated this in the soundtracks of Broken mountain et Babel : knows better than anyone how to use silence as a tool in its own right.

The main theme of the game, soberly titled The last of us is performed on the ronroco, a stringed instrument close to the charango, a guitar from South America. A simple but moving piece, borrowed from melancholy, which returns several times during the adventure in different forms. In its original version, Santaolalla is accompanied by the Nashville Scoring Orchestra, an orchestra without violins, which puts percussion, bass clarinet and double bass first.

The Santaolalla style is also characterized by the fact of using traditional instruments, but in an unconventional way. In particular, it takes advantage of an electric guitar with a resonator tuned to a whole major third, the lowest string becomes a C instead of an E, which gives an unstoppable dark color to his compositions.

The resonator effect, combined with the looser strings than normal, creates an unusual, almost dissonant sound, especially when played with a violin bow, as in the piece Forgotten memories or on the nihilist All finished. The latter could very well have had his place in the OST of Silent Hill 2 a lot flirts with noise music. Songs that dig deep into the listener’s bowels in search of strong, deep and disturbing emotions, as the music of a horror film can do.

Hope is not dead

Despite this very depressing aspect of the soundtrack, the composer saves moments of lightness, even purity. In contrast to the dissonance of a Darkeningor the brutality of a InfectedSantaolalla creates breathing spaces thanks to brighter pieces like the leitmotif Grace gonewhose title refers Incredible grace, the famous English anthem. The two songs also share the same musical intervals, which is far from innocent on Santaolalla’s part.

Type of response to the topic The last of usthat characterizes the terrible course of Joel, Grace gone is Ellie’s musical response. A symbol of hope in the game, the young woman is both the replacement for Joel’s lost daughter, but also the potential response to the infection that has decimated humanity. The track appears in three different iterations, titled Vanishing Grace, VG (Innocence) et VG (Childhood).

Each of these versions evolves towards an ever lighter light, with the progressive addition of tools, symbolizing Ellie’s discovery of the world. Despite the horrors she goes through, the young woman marvels and remains a child, as indicated (Childhood). This version also stands out in the soundtrack as a whole, so much so that it is imbued with appeasement, particularly in its second part, with the arrival of a crystalline guitar line.

The greatest strength of the soundtrack of The last of us it is in his propensity to be able to do it they offer moments of heartbreaking sadness, but also glimmers of hope which means that even in the worst moments, optimism is always allowed. Two contradictory aspects which, however, are reconciled in the penultimate piece of the soundtrack: The path (a new beginning). Combining the plaintive arcs typical of Joel’s depression and the major scale lines that evoke Ellie, this track marks a happy, but painful ending.

Under its minimalist appearance and its apparent simplicity, the music of The last of us hides treasures of rich and complex compositions. Gustavo Santaolalla delivered an original soundtrack that does not depart from his usual style, imbued with fragility and macabre poetry. With an economy of means, he manages to arouse the most basic and profound emotions, and this is the hallmark of the greatest.

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