Let’s Talk About: How Portal 2’s Music Sums Up The Creative Process

Portal 2 SoundtrackVideo game music, or what my girlfriend lovingly describes as “bleep” music, is a larger part of my iTunes Library than anything else. I listen to it constantly, that means every day, and for many years. This has led to some awkward moments in high school when my friends and I, who were all sitting around a table in the cafeteria, would talk about music, and one person who eventually ask, “So Joe, what kind of music do you listen to?” to which I would have to give the blanket statement of “Anything that sounds good.” Sometimes they’d ask to see my music library on my iPod, so I would (begrudgingly) and wait for their confusion and then to ask me why I listen to Japanese guys and Mario.

Anyway, repressed high school memories aside, I never see myself listening to any less of the music from the games I love. They seem to always inspire me in some way, whether it is creatively or not. And lately I’ve been noticing how I connect to the Portal 2’s soundtrack whilst I work on whatever it is I have to do. I’m not talking about the entire soundtrack, or what the game is even about here, but three songs in general, found on volume 2. You’re probably familiar with them, though nobody really likes to bring them up from what I’ve noticed.

They may not be the “best” songs in the soundtrack (though I would call the 3rd one here one of my favorites) they serve the purpose for what the post’s title said: they sum up the creative process. What the hell do I mean? I’ll explain:

First, there’s You Are Not Part of the Control Group: 

Also, let me preface what’s to come with the fact that I am not a music major. I have my own way of describing sound and it may not make any damn resemblance of sense (like how I usually talk) but that’s just how it is.

This track may be quiet and repetitive, but it’s gentle hypnotic pop-like melody makes it easy on the ears to me. Also, it represents the first part in the creative process for me, which is brainstorming! IMAGINE THIS! We’re sitting at a desk, thinking of ideas, and it’s starting off painfully slow. We have no idea where we’re going to go with this. The creative juices are starting to flow, but it’s going to take some effort and research, so we absorb some inspiring work from our favorite artists and designers, and then (listen to 1:10…and try to keep up with me) a little creativity/motivation happens, but only for a fleeting moment.

You aren’t discouraged though, and you dive back in, all the while testing ideas and getting closer to what you want. You start to gain momentum with a couple of some more developed ideas, so you decide to pursue them further. This stage is all about establishing a foundation of a strong idea.

And that’s when this happens! Bam! Forwarding the Cause of Science!

INSPIRATION! Now you’ve got a solid idea down, so now it’s time for refinement. Now you get to refine until it starts looking like a winner. And don’t stop, because your momentum is going strong and you don’t want to let yourself down. Nobody remembers quitters, especially not your parents. Do you hear the stronger beat and the beginning of a soaring electronic melody yet? Well, that represents this entire stage, which is the construction process. It is literally built off the foundation of the last stage, only it’s a bit more open, like your creative flow.

And then out of nowhere, it’s THE REUNION! 

The last stage is where you really hit your stride, and polish the hell out of your design. You roll up your sleeves and put the final touches on it in order to make it a real force to be reckoned with. As this song is concerned, it has the most impact on my work mood since for whatever reason it really pushes me to produce results. The main reason these three songs summarize the creative process to me is simply because the first song starts out slow, builds on top of itself and then becomes this deep, glorious romp of electronic wonder. I cannot think of these songs any other way now, and for most of my projects I enjoy listening to them while in the beginning stages. I highly recommend anyone doing the same.

Leave a comment


  1. Sam

     /  02/03/2012

    Hey! I don’t think all of it is “bleep” music! Bitch! I like video game music, just some songs are too bleepy.

    • Joe

       /  02/04/2012

      Oh yeah, you were. XD Yeah, I’m fully aware of all the awesome game music you have on your iPod (some thanks to me)!


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