Vault’s upcoming Black Stars Above #1 is the latest in the publisher’s new Nightfall imprint, and the cosmic horror tale written by Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs, Marvelous X-Men) and illustrated by debut artist Jenna Cha now has a soundtrack to go along with it.
Created by Los Angeles-based composer Nestor Estrada, the soundtrack is designed to set the tone of the moody tale, which gives reading the comic a more cinematic feel. Here is what Estrada had to say about the process:
My general approach to writing music for Black Stars Above was no different than writing for a film. The only differences are I have more liberty with the length of certain musical ideas and I used sound effects along with the musical elements to add to the aural experience – something that a composer typically does not do for a film. The flow of the whole piece follows the same timeline as the comic; it’s meant to be played as you’re reading the book.
So I first laid out the main beats of the story and wrote two motifs. The first one is a sonic texture that you hear at the very beginning as well as throughout. I wanted it to have an uneasy, otherworldly feeling (cosmic even) that sets the tone of the comic. The second motif is more straightforward and melodic. It’s first heard about two minutes in. I wanted the melody to feel of the time period (the 1800s) as well as be connected to Eulalie. We’re experiencing this world through Eulalie’s eyes and I wanted the melody to reflect that.
In addition to being inspired by the amazing writing, the artwork played a huge role in how I shaped the music. Once I started writing, it was very easy for the music to come out because of the great story and artwork. Lonnie and Jenna both did an amazing job. It’s the type of project I love to be a part of!
While I adore comic books with all my heart, film is my first love. It seeps its way into everything I do. As such, when crafting stories, they tend to present themselves to me through moving images and sound, which is counterintuitive to the comic book medium since it is inherently devoid of both those elements. This is not to say that Black Stars Above was conceived of as a film and then turned into a comic book as a secondary option. Rather, I mean to express I think of narratives cinematically, and I am always looking for ways in which one medium can influence another.
One of the most important aspects of Black Stars Above for me was the mood. The book was always meant to be a dreamy tone poem with an underlying pervasive dread that captured the terrors of the past. This goal, coupled with the idea that the protagonist spends much of her time struggling for survival in the snowy wilderness, made it impossible to imagine her experience without sound. The sounds of nature, the sounds of winter, the sounds of night. This soundscape became so integral that I could not write a scene without having it in mind.
It got to a point that I needed this aural eerie dread to even put myself in the mood to write, which led to creating a work soundtrack for myself that played on repeat almost 24/7. It was largely composed of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis scores alongside a bevy of dark ambient albums from the Oregon based record label, Cryo Chamber. As a result I could not divorce certain scenes from their sounds and I had this desire to hear that realized. I emailed Nestor, who I’ve worked with on two previous film projects, and thankfully he was down for this experiment of making a soundtrack for a silent medium. Nestor knows my tastes by now and he’s a genius, which doesn’t hurt. After only a few back and forths he presented the track, which matched almost exactly what had been brewing in my brain in musical form. It is Black Stars Above presented in another medium.
Since Black Stars Above is first and foremost a period piece, the idea of having a digital score in addition to the primary text feels a bit blasphemous. And yet it’s not. While the soundtrack is not required for an optimal reading experience, I do believe it changes it by guiding the reader through the narrative and unearthing its hidden dread. The soundtrack can also be listened to on its own, seen as one more piece of the Black Stars Above world.
To get the soundtrack, choose your platform and follow the links:
Head over to Vault’s website for more on the series.