Composing : Sounds of Space Engineers Competition by James Dower

James Dower

Sounds of Space Engineers Competition

Hey everyone,

I wanted to share this competition with you. As a lover and creator of film and video game music I entered this amazing competition. A diverse selection of 15 entries won and I wanted to share both my entry and the wining entries with you all. Please see the links below:

Conquering A Hostile Environment
Conquering A Hostile Environment
published on I'm so happy to finally share this with you all. A couple of months ago a good friend of mine shared with me the "Sounds of Space Engineers Competition". I had great fun creating this piece.
Karen "Kay" Ross

Ooo, "The Sounds of Space" - what a great topic! How did you approach the design for it? What kind of things did you research?

James Dower

Great question Kay. I have a very lengthy answer so apologies in advance. XD

So the first thing I did was research the game itself because I still haven't played Space Engineers (sorry guys XD). I did this to get an idea of the sorts of things people do in the game and what it meant to me. This is what gave me the title because I've always thought of space as "A Hostile Environment", and the idea of the game is to build and repair ships etc to navigate or "Conquer" it.

The next thing I did was have a look at the music of Space Engineers. I discovered some great music here. It was a really diverse mix of orchestral and electronic sounds which is a sound combination I've worked very well with on other projects. I also had a look at other music science fiction works, from John Williams score for Star Wars which uses a very traditional orchestral score to Hanz Zimmers score for Interstellar which was a beautiful mix of surreal electronic sounds and some orchestral instruments with an intense church organ thrown into the mix. I discovered lots of very different approaches to create emotional pieces of music, all of which were very effective.

Then it was time for me to create something. I started experimenting with a vast range of electronic sounds first of all. The key was to find a sound, manipulate it in all sorts of different ways to see if I can get the right sound for the project, before layering these sounds together. This developed an initial section (which I eventually cut because it didn't fit with the rest of my ideas).

I wasn't sure where to take it next so I had a listen through some of my less successful projects (basically music I haven't finished or published because it was awful) and found a piece with the perfect melody. The piece itself didn't work well so I decided to take this melody and include it and started orchestrating it. I kept the orchestral theme because I felt this was the right way to get the intensity in the piece. The melody was perfect because it allowed me to incorporate a variety of major and minor chords to give it the "hostile" feel, but also the triumphant "conquering" feel. The piece grew from there and I managed to create one of my best pieces of music with a mix of highs and lows, calm and fast-paced action, and orchestral and electronic sounds.

As I mentioned in my post, I didn't, but this is still one of the best pieces of music I have created and I am extremely proud of it. :)

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