In Depth: Disasters for Piano

'Disasters for Piano', by David Peacock. Artwork by Nicolas Menard.

'Disasters for Piano', A collection of Disasterpeace works arranged (for piano) by David Peacock.

One day I saw an Instagram video of someone performing a short snippet of 'Forgotten' from FEZ on piano.

I was really taken by David's style, watched all of his clips and reached out to complement him and see if he might want to work on a piano arrangement. What followed was a long and fruitful collaboration - an open invitation to David to explore my catalogue and tackle what he liked, and a whole lot of back and forth as we refined and honed in on an eclectic set of piano arrangements.

The album + sheet music booklet were released on November 1st, 2017.

Alternatively you can download a PDF of the sheet music here.

Win

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This piece was heavily inspired by the music from the game Super Mario RPG. I set out to create a closing track for my album Level, and knew I wanted something that was optimistic, and kind of frenetic in its energy.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
With Win, it was important to capture the gradual build. Also wanted to focus on mixing groups of 2 over groups of 3 in different ways, much like the original did. A couple of times, I would select a piece to arrange based on the original—with no consideration for how it might translate to piano, and because of that this piece may have taken the longest to complete!

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
Because computer generated music is metronomically precise, I wanted to humanize it by breathing more "life" into the piece; taking subtle liberties with time, while always respecting the constant underlying rhythmic pulse.

Spaceman the Vulnerable

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This level music from the game Cat Astro Phi tries to evoke the innocence of its protagonist, who frequently succumbs to kitten mischief, and the increasing danger of his pursuits, exploring derelict space bunkers.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
Spaceman was the first piece I arranged for this project, and I think that helped in conveying Spaceman’s vulnerability. I also played through Cat Astro Phi before I got started. :3

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
I wanted to set the tone of the piece by creating long phrases, while at the same time embracing the silence between. It helped to elicit not only the vastness of space, but also the dark loneliness it can bring.

Somewhere, our limbs lost in the distance.

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
The original score for the film Somewhere used the twinkle effects from the animation to come up with the rhythm of its thematic melody. Working on music and sound simultaneously has a certain cathartic, all-devouring effect on me - there are some nifty integrations of the two - one example is the bedroom clock creating a 5/8 polyrhythm against the music. Musically speaking this has kind of a small, indie vibe to it a la The Postal Service that grows more impressionistic and grandiose as the story unfolds.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This film left a lasting impression on me, and the score is such a prominent part of that. I wanted to cover the entire score chronological to the plot. The approach we took was to preserve much of the original while adding more pianistic tendencies where it felt right.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
One of my favorite pieces written by Rich, and David did a wonderful job with this arrangement. You really get a sense of the story arch from the original film and score. Special attention should be given in the opening 5/8 to not add accents as if playing in compound (3/8+2/8) meter.

:D

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This was going to be the theme for Groggnar, a big lovable monster from the game Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, but I found it worked pretty well for that game’s protagonist and his whole core group of monster friends. The backbeat chords kinda gave the original a quirky quasi-reggae vibe.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This arrangement is what I’d imagine a mixture of Art Tatum, Bill Evans, and a bit of Duke Ellington might have done with it. This was one of the games I enjoyed completing while experiencing the music as “research”.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
As a classically trained pianist, this piece was a lot of fun to play because I rarely get a chance to channel some of history's greatest jazz pianists. It’s important to have a rhythmically solid LH so that the RH can have a natural loose/free melody.

Scent of Betrayal

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This song from Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake originally came out of a jam with my friend Neuman back in the fall of 2011. We briefly formed a band for the sole purpose of playing one show. We practiced for a few weeks, played the show, and then permanently disbanded. It was fun!

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
Continuing with the jazz-influence, this one has a more somber and lethargic feeling to it’s original. Lots of jazz harmony used here.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
The lilting jazz-like feeling throughout the piece made it pleasurable to record. Remember to tune your ear to always be aware of all the inner voices. Thinking like a small chamber ensemble (ie. string quartet) helps.

Prologue

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
You encounter a mysterious force and the journey begins. This piece was initially an attempt to update The Solar Prime Elite (see my album, Deorbit) for inclusion on the album Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar. It proved difficult but ultimately worked out as the prologue for the album, albeit in an abridged format.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
Translating this one was a challenge. Finding a way to interpret arpeggiated synth chords into something one person can play on piano was a great exercise in creatively approaching the material.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
Performing this piece reminded me very much of Impressionistic composers like Debussy or Ravel, especially when playing the "water-like" arpeggiated figures. Well articulated fingers coupled with a refined use of pedal help to create these glossy sounds.

Death

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
I originally came up with this melody on my Aunt's upright piano during a Christmas break. Then I recreated it with basic chord accompaniment using the keys on my laptop, while on a bus, headed from Boston to Hartford. I definitely tried to tap into the 80s horror mystique a little with the arrangement. Subsequently, this piece was used in the temp score for It Follows and ultimately became a big inspiration for that score.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
Death was approached from a modern take on the romantic era. We chose to have the piece start minimally and gradually build to a romantic and drama-filled climactic moment.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
I found it important to remember that there can be drama, even when it's pianissimo; it only makes the climax at the end that much more exciting.

The Outlaw

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
Part of a split electronic EP called West, this piece started with a Spaghetti-Western inspired guitar lick, which became the central motif of the song. Hearing it translated to piano was a bit odd at first, but I think it projects a fresh perspective on a similar idea.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
Instead of a guitarist loosely playing through this theme, we have a pianist. The arpeggiated harp-like runs are came about when I was enjoying the chord progression, and became a recurring motif in the arrangement.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
The opening was quite a challenge because it was originally written for an improvised guitar. It was not about trying to recreate the sound of the original instrumentation, but to make it sound like it was meant to be written for solo piano.

Title

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
The Title track from It Follows, this was directly inspired by Death from FEZ, and Ennio Morricone. Morricone scored many Westerns and Horror films - what if he scored a Horror Western ?

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This piece was an exciting addition that existed only after I’d see the film It Follows. It was exciting to be arranging a piece that was relatively new to everyone at the time.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
Knowing this is from a thriller, I couldn't take a straightforward approach to interpreting this piece. The challenge was to create multiple "false climaxes" and immediately release the tension to give the listener relief — just like watching any scary movie.

Ninety

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This song was written to match the 90-second gameplay loop of the mobile game ZONR, has an accelerating tempo and lots of harmonic twists and turns to make it feel adventurous and increasingly frenetic. Fun Fact: ZONR’s developer went on to help develop Crossy Road.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This one is short and simple, and ends up being ninety seconds long like the original. I had this one sort of mirror the original by gradually slowing down and getting softer instead of speeding up and getting more stressful.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
This was a fun one to record because the performance had to last 90 seconds. It almost felt like playing the game during the recording session. I wish I had a secret to how we achieved this. My only suggestions is try it out a couple times with a stop watch and learn where you need to either speed up or take time. Most of all, have fun with it!

Forgotten

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
In the game FEZ, the musical elements from this track take on a different form depending on where you are and what time of day it is. The original soundtrack version is edited down to incorporate portions of each - a lower register for the day, and a higher register for the night. Certain scale notes are altered slightly to give each time of a day a subtly different vibe.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This arrangement goes between sparse sections and brief moments of motion. I wanted some sections to really mimic the original with the long pads; allowing the piano strings to reverberate a bit. There is a shorter 15-second version of this floating around social media from before this project existed.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
Much like the other pieces from FEZ, this is about creating space and tones that sound organic and otherworldly. When playing slowly, the challenge of a pianist is that we are limited to the length of which a note/chord can be sustained. Always listen and think about where a chord is coming from or going to and match the tone accordingly.

The Thief

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
I wanted to take the typical Thief archetype from games and change it a little, by portraying the character as more of a romantic, who longs for a loved one and has a greater purpose beyond the dungeon walls of the game FAMAZE.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This arrangement proved to be a challenge to retain the romantic sadness The Thief carries, and needed multiple revisions to uncover the right feeling. I think we landed on it, in the end, it just took a while to get there.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
You really get the sense of loneliness and sadness in this piece. I wanted to respect that, while not coming across as overly sentimental. It’s helpful to think of this piece in longer phrases so it can maintain its “flow” throughout.

Nature

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
This song was written using a single synth sound, so it proved to be a nice piece for translation to the piano. Because the game FEZ leans heavily on its night cycle, this piece features two distinct sections. During the day, critters scurry here and there, going about their business. But come nightfall, they come out to dance. The first section is a bunch of overdubbed improvisations, a tempo.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
The introduction to this arrangement was created by mimicking and improvising over the original improvised opening. I played around with using the fibonacci series to guide the length of sections. This arrangement formed in the shortest amount of time, with the fewest revisions, I think. I really enjoy Augustine’s performance of the ‘musical bug’ ornamental phrases at the end.

Augustine Gonzales, on the Performance
If I had to pick a favorite of the album, this would be it. The overall effect of this piece always leaves me calm and relaxed. Remember to keep your hands soft and let the melody “play itself”.

The Last General

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
I originally wrote something else for the West region’s boss fight in Hyper Light Drifter, but it wasn't working. The creative director guided me a bit with this, showing me a boss fight from Dark Souls with a giant wolf that had a large, melancholy quality to it. I used that as inspiration to write something that attempted to evoke a 'fallen hero' quality.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
This arrangement came about because I was playing Hyper Light Drifter and could not get past the West boss. I nearly ruined my controller in frustration, so I decided pause the game and channel that energy into playing the boss' theme on piano. I did eventually beat him.

Panacea

Rich Vreeland, on the Composition
I came up with a sequence of ideas at the piano and recorded them in a somewhat lo-fi manner, with a field recorder. The general structure and ideas were there, but the specifics were always a bit blurry, and that allowed me to tinker with the form and the details of the performance over the course of a 10 - 15-minute jam. Afterward, I edited this down into a more listenable form, a six-minute track and the closer for Hyper Light Drifter.

David Peacock, on the Arrangement
We worked back and forth to make this transcription the most accurate, without becoming too distracting or complicated. The choice to remove bar lines was to help facilitate the free-flowing performance style. Because of the expressive nature of the performance, I wrote this out by hand entirely before being engraved digitally.