Grant Kirkhope: Mid Boss Mayhem
Scottish video game composer Grant Kirkhope was exposed to music from a young age. Kirkhope taught himself the guitar and was classically trained as a trumpeter at the Royal Northern College of Music. Kirkhope was involved in many different jazz ensembles, including big bands and smaller groups. Jazz and rock genres have both influenced Kirkhope over the course of his composing career.
Kirkhope is an ASCAP, IFMCA and BAFTA-nominated composer who has created the soundtrack for a range of different video games such as:
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
Cityville 2 (2013)
Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle (2017)
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (2019)
His compositions for Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle have been particularly popular in recent years due to their style, energy and catchiness.
Mid Boss Mayhem is the 13th track off the album, and is one of the most animated tracks in the collection. Kirkhope’s use of brass and percussion is a particular highlight of this piece. Based around chromatic movement, the opening scale leads into an animated off-beat accompaniment from most of the orchestra. The winds enter with a fast-moving semiquaver theme that is then passed around the rest of the orchestra.
The strings take over the theme before the winds quickly snap it back again, but this time they are accompanied by a marimba. The quirky sound of the marimba adds to the comedic effect of this piece, with the oom-pah tuba line still chugging away underneath. Muted trumpets us into the developmental section.
The horns play the next theme, which the winds then shadow soon after. This theme is taken from ‘Klungo’s Theme’ from the game Banjo-Kazooie. The persistent snare drum keep the rhythm and tempo driving along forcefully as the music becomes even more exciting. The heavy brass then take over the theme, with the trombones in particular playing the chief melody line.
The marimba then has its own solo which is based on the opening semiquaver pattern. All the way through Kirkhope bases the themes around chromatic movement, which is what gives it the comedic and accessible vibe. The music comes to a climax near the end before the whole orchestra unite to play a final fanfare before the piece comes to a swift close.
Mid Boss Mayhem is an ideal piece of music for a game such as Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle, due to its adrenaline inducing melodies, orchestration and atmosphere. The work is fun, frivolous and funny, with Kirkhope’s use of brass and percussion in particular making this work dynamic and accessible to all who will hear it.