Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has reached a new milestone on the road to its November 17 release date: The second soundtrack EP, composed by Assassin’s Creed veterans Sarah Schachner and Jesper Kyd and Norwegian musician Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, is out now, and it includes the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla main theme. A collaborative effort, the main theme is the product of seasoned Assassin’s Creed composers, and fresh Nordic stylings. To learn more about the meaning of the song and how it was created, we spoke with Schachner, Kyd, and Selvik.
What feelings were you trying to inspire and evoke with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Main Theme?
Sarah Schachner: We wanted the atmosphere of the theme to instantly transport the listener to another time and place, filled with mystery and uncertainty. There are Norse instruments, but they are used in a more modern way. The theme represents Eivor’s journey, as well as the Vikings’ hope for a better life as they move further south into the Anglo-Saxon regions [of England].
Jesper Kyd: We wanted to evoke Eivor's journey, what drives her, and the bond she has with her family. Eivor is searching for something, and this longing to find it and resolve it is a key element reflected in the melody and mood ideas I contributed to the theme.
Einar Selvik: The hope was to make something that reflected or created an overall arc of the theme of the game. The game is set in such dramatic times, and so the emotional aspect of it is something I wanted to elevate with my contributions. Generally, I think it made a lot of sense to bring all the game´s composers together for such a central piece, allowing the song to further reflect the different expressions the players will encounter throughout the game.
Some previous Assassin’s Creed scores have tried to reflect the sound (or imagined sound) of the eras and places in which they’re set. Did you draw on any instruments or compositions from the ninth century and/or Scandinavia when creating the theme?
Sarah S.: I really love the sound of Norse music, so this was a great opportunity to dive in and get inspired by all sorts of music, and explore different instruments. I not only wanted to reflect the Viking sound, but also the Anglo-Saxon sound and the merging of those cultures. The main string melody is played by a group of tagelharpa, a bowed string lyre from Scandinavia.
I wanted the theme to very much feel like a modern composition, while utilizing ancient instruments and textures to evoke the Viking atmosphere – but I never limit myself to only instruments of the time. There is an ancient Celtic war horn called the carnyx that you will hear subtly in the theme, and all over the score. I recorded it with John Kenny in Scotland, who is one of the few people in the world who has one reconstructed and can actually play it. We were also thrilled to have Einar lend his powerful vocals to this theme.
Jesper K.: When coming up with an initial idea for the theme, I used mainly string instruments, such as a processed acoustic cello and metallic drums to play the melody. Others featured on the game’s score include Scandinavian instruments used by the Vikings such as tagelharpa, tagelharpa cello, harps, fiddles, Viking horns, wind instruments such as bass flutes, and lots of drums and percussion instruments. I always process these recordings to update them into a more contemporary sound. I also mix these instruments together with modern and classic analog synths and mixing hardware.
Einar S.: Nordic historical instruments, and Nordic ethnomusicology in general, is something I have been working with now for almost 20 years, and is perhaps the main reason I was brought into working on the music for this game. The music team at Ubisoft wanted the music to reflect the era and the various cultures one meets in the game – not only through the instruments themselves, but also the traditional tonalities, rhythms, and even lyrical compositions. Music is such a powerful art form for transmitting specific emotions and atmospheres, and so presenting musical creations that have their foundation from something authentic will necessarily have a huge potential to bring the player closer to the theme and era of the game.
For further insight into how the Assassin's Creed Valhalla main theme was created, visit the full interview on our news site: https://news.ubisoft.com/en-us/article/6YhFPGYjNKgOBr3SnFVBfP/assassins-creed-valhalla-composers-reveal-how-they-created-the-main-theme