BioShock Infinite takes place in 1912, in an American city in the sky.
Yes, in the sky.
Quite a change from the previous two BioShock games, which were in the underwater city named "Rapture." The city of Columbia, however, has sunshine. And clearly, the sky.
Composer Garry Schyman and Creative Director of Irrational Games, Ken Levine, knew the score needed to sound different.
Garry accomplished the changes by using a much smaller ensemble — basically, a small string section and some percussion.
The year 1912 was an interesting time in American classical music, most notably because there wasn't much yet. Many American composers of the time still sounded quite European, although Charles Ives certainly stood out.
Garry considered Ives's influence, but rather turned to other American icons in Stephen Foster, and American folk music in general.
He asked the string players to keep a "fiddle" sound in mind (fiddlers tend to play with less vibrato than traditional classical violinists), and to occasionally play aggressively.
There are so many incredible pieces on this soundtrack, I'm having a hard time deciding which to include here. Let's start with "Elizabeth's Theme":
And, I might as well throw in Booker's theme too, which is called "AD".
Stop me before I give away the entire soundtrack.
Which is difficult, since there is always quite a bit of licensed music in BioShock games. One of my favorite occurrences came during the credits:
Other licensed music includes Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 9 No. 2, Scott Joplin's Solace (which is what plays each time the game is loading a new scene) and Mozart's Requiem. Full music list here.
You can hear Garry talk about scoring a 1912 American city in the clouds on the new episode of Top Score from Classical MPR. Episodes are also available on iTunes.