Since its beginnings, the Prince of Persia franchise was deeply rooted in Middle-Eastern culture. The creator of Prince’s adventures, Jordan Mechner, is open about having been inspired by „One Thousand and One Nights” and Shahnameh, persian epic poem. It may be that the literary background wasn’t noticeable for us players but it’s still there on multiple layers. Mechner’s experience with mentioned works allowed him to create a multi-dimensional character of the Prince, a light-hearted warrior yet a monarch responsible for his heritage. Both the internal conflict of the hero and cultural mix of West and East did make their way into Stuart Chatwood’s interesting score.
Chatwood is a Canadian multi-intrumentalist from a band called The Party, which is known for experimenting with Middle-Eastern sounds. He began scoring in 1998 when he did music for Road Rash 3D. It seems as though his knack for playing videogames and scoring them paired up nicely — he soon found himself at UbiSoft, composing music for Sands of Time, firstly doing some music research about Farsi music. His rock experience, however, could get some folks thinking about how fun the music will actually be. And in the end, it really was. It still is, even after 10 years.
It’s an interesting merge of styles, an opportunity to hear exotic instruments used in a fun way and timelessly atmospheric journey to magical Persia.
The music for Sands of Time lacks anything but identity. Chatwood created a kaleidoscope of different aesthetics that moves through different orchestrations, be it rock, ethnic, symphonic, merging them in different ways with great effects. The simplicity of several themes allowed for some cool arrangements that don’t get too loud or messy, showing Chatwood’s prowess in making fun music. Prelude Fight is a stellar mix of strings, ethnic elements and electric guitar. Excellent mix and good placement of all the accents allows each part to sound right and organically bound with the rest. Simultaneously, we hear the grace of Prince’s movement, his attitude and the place where the action takes place. Musical fusions such as this are also heard in Library (percussion and vocalizations) and Discover the Royal Chambers (guitar and eastern percussions). This is some really fun action, videogame music.
Chatwood’s musical vision of Prince is timeless and his use of seemingly contradicting aesthetics is impressive.
As the Sands of Time are a fable, there is some typical tropes there. The brave Prince, the bad Vizier, pretty (and dangerous) Princess, magical artefacts, wonderful land are all there along with with toned down violence. And Chatwood goes along this road, and even though the character he composes for is a ferocious warrior, he gives some time for more moody, enchanting music such as sitar-led Welcome to Persia (which is, in my opinion, one of the most recognizable themes in the videogame world). Behold the Sands of Time and Reverse the Sands of Time are equally well-done „symphonic pieces” you’d hear in an exotic fairytale, but I’d argue it’s not the best nor the most inspired part of Chatwood’s score (most likely due to the directional demand being there for this type of music). What’s more there? A song for the credits. Time Only Knows that is stylized to sound like a Middle-Eastern song and the presence of vocals further shows how well-balanced Western and Eastern elements are in this soundtrack.
As a marriage of videogames and Middle-Eastern tale, Sands of Time, as a videogame, is a fun adventure to experience. As an album — a good and well-though out soundtrack. I don’t want to use big words here, because despite the many charms this music possesses, it may seem a bit dated now, but not in a „wrong” way. It’s sort of a time capsule — a window to the past where Sands of Time was a fresh thing and videogames were far videogamey than they are today. Nevertheless, Chatwood’s musical vision of Prince is timeless and his use of seemingly contradicting aesthetics is impressive to me. This album teases his next albums for Prince of Persia games where he will go balls to the wall metal for Warrior Within and ethnic again for the Two Thrones (along Inon Zur,of course). I think neither of those were as good of a style mixture as Sands of Time though, and here I think lies the main strength of SoT. It’s an interesting merge of styles, an opportunity to hear exotic instruments used in a fun way and timelessly atmospheric journey to magical Persia.