Destiny 2

Savathun’s viral chant and the “Darkness motif” share some interesting similarities. Bungie’s music is so much better than you realize.

destiny2 10 - Savathun's viral chant and the "Darkness motif" share some interesting similarities. Bungie's music is so much better than you realize.
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TL;DR at the end.

Bungie's music is pretty much universally loved by anyone who plays their games, and Destiny/Destiny 2 are no exception. They craft soundtracks that to this day fill us with emotion just by hearing them (looking at you, The Great Unknown). However, their genius goes beyond just sounding incredible. Bungie's music has narrative themes and ideas baked into its very structure. I could write an entire post about how the music in the Stasis reveal trailer is absolutely perfect (I know bungie didn't write it, but they did pick it). Today I want to write about something I noticed about Savathun's viral chant and the something I'll call the Darkness motif.

Background

I'll do my best to explain all music terminology in a way that anyone, regardless of musical literacy, can understand. I'll be happy to answer questions though.

Savathun's viral chant is now decently well-known by the community. Every single player has heard it. It's in the title screen music, it's all over the Shadowkeep soundtrack (including in the Consecrated Mind boss fight) and yes, it's the "I'm on the moon" song Shaxx sings in the Devil's Ruin mission.

The "Darkness motif" is the name I've given to the short melody that plays during 31:37 of the Beyond Light reveal stream. It's the music that plays during the Witch Queen teaser. You can also hear it in the final cutscene of Destiny 2 vanilla when the Traveler's pulse of light reveals the Pyramid ships. (A motif is just a fancy term for "musical idea".)

The Evidence

So what do these two melodies have in common besides sounding kinda similar? These two melodies are identical in 2 key ways. The first is structure and the second is the half-step at the end of both lines. I'll explain that second part in detail later.

The two lines share a basic structure in 2 ways. The first is time signature, or the "beat". Both lines are in 2, meaning if you tap your foot to the beat of the lines starting on the first pitch that plays, you'll find there are 2 taps (beats) before the next part of the line. Despite having this beat in common, the Darkness motif sounds slower than the viral chant. This is likely because the tempo (speed) of the notes is slower, but also, more importantly, because the viral chant has more notes. This is where things get interesting.

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The Darkness motif is, essentially, a simplified version of the viral chant. I'll explain. The darkness motif has just six notes. It starts on a note, goes up 3 half steps, then returns to the starting note. Think of half steps as fractions of pitches. I'll use the pitch C as an example. If we start on C, the next pitch up in the scale is D. To put it in numbers, its like going from 1 to 2. However, there is a note in between C and D- C sharp. This would be like 1.5 in between 1 and 2. That 0.5 is the half step.

In the first 2 notes of the darkness motif, the pitch goes up 3 half steps, like going from 1 to 2.5. The cool thing is that this exact same thing happens in the viral chant.

Both lines have 2 sections. The first section of the viral chant would be the notes that accompany the lyrics "I'm on the moon" in Shaxx's song. Here's the kicker: the last note being a half step below the first note of the second section is ALSO true for both the chant and the motif. In layman's terms, let's assume the chant and motif start on pitch 1. Both of them will end their first half on pitch 1, and both of them will end their second half on pitch 0.5.

All of that, and sounding incredible at the same time. That is the magic of Bungie's music.

Implications

So what does all that actually mean in terms of the Destiny universe? You may have guessed it, but it implies that Savathun and the Darkness are closely linked, perhaps closer than people suspect. Savathun has been trying (and failing) to thwart our communications with the darkness all season, yet the music suggests there is more to the relationship between Savathun and the Darkness than may be immediately apparent. My interpretation would be that the common 3 half-step leap and half step descent ending shared by the lines implies that the Darkness and Savathun possibly have similar goals. However, the extra notes in the viral chant to me suggest that Savathun has different means to achieve that goal.

TL;DR: Narrative themes and ideas are communicated in the musical structure of the viral chant and the darkness motif that suggest Savathun and the Darkness have different means to the same end.

I could be extrapolating. I am aware of that. The more I think about it however, the more it makes sense. I guess only time will tell.

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