Jack Wall’s first contribution to the Myst series is a mixed bag. It’s a fully orchestrated score, but while some of the tunes are definitely memorable, there’s also some more throwaway stuff and some which I don’t find entirely fitting. The “Main Theme”, of which you’ll hear a modified version during the introduction (“Opening Titles”) is grandiose, with its characteristic opening on the duduk, a type of woodwind which Wall uses abundantly throughout the rest of the soundtrack. This “Main Theme” holds the distinction of being the first actual vocal track in a Myst game. The lyrics are in Narayani, alternating between a choir and a child’s voice, supposed to represent a young Saavedro. This melody serves as a musical cue for everything related to Saavedro and is notably present in a ghostly non-vocal form in his theme, which is otherwise a wonderfully destructured piece, conveying his madness with its insistent background beat and the strange, almost metallic noises and pained moans. But its most moving incarnation occurs in “Going Home”. The “Main Theme” also incorporates the original Myst Theme, and veterans of the series will undoubtedly recognise its familiar “tu-tum tu-tum”. This melody has come to be associated with Atrus’ by proxy: reassuring and familiar, but also sounding slightly worried, and it’s no surprise to hear a variation of it playing in his study.
Aside from this, three of the ages (Amateria, Edanna and Voltaic) have their own theme and three secondary tracks each. Amateria would probably win here, with its airy, Asian-sounding melody. The three secondary tracks are also quite lovely, but more loosely structured, which prevents them from being entirely memorable (e.g. “The Wheels of Wonder”). Although “The Spider Spinner” does have an intriguing, surreal side to it. This issue of the secondary tracks lacking structure also occurs in the other ages, and Voltaic would be the greatest offender here. While every tune associated with it has a thematically appropriate buzzing, humming undercurrent, the mournful vocal solo which intervenes in the middle of its main theme just doesn’t fit. And neither of its other tunes is catchy enough. Edanna, on the other hand, features two more successful tracks: “The Forest and the Swamp”, with its bird-like calls and fluttery sounds, and “Deadwood Ridge”, which somehow perfectly evokes the sunlit, windy vista from the top of Edanna (I think it’s something to do with the repeated xylophone-like sounds). However, the main theme has a rather incongruous Middle-Eastern vibe, and “Swing Vines” is decidedly more menacing than anything in the age ever is.
The rest of the music consists of short set pieces which punctuate particularly dramatic storyline moments (i.e. the beginning and each of the endings). Some of these are successful, like the ultimately reassuring “ All Is Well, My Friend” or “Into Oblivion” with its cascading violins. “He Sees Hope” and “The Tide Has Turned”, which segues into “The Dilemma” do a great job of maintaining tension and poignancy. However, others are less successful, like the messy “Let Me Go!” or the redundant “Confrontation”.