Ghost Story Games

The Extended Songs of Burial at Sea

on March 28 2014


The following is from Jim Bonney, Music Director.

“Little Sisters’ Song”

I was thinking about ways to create depth in daily life in Rapture, and thought that the Little Sisters’ Home could use a little propaganda music… A song that would ease the minds of the citizens that little girls being taken from their families was really just another example of living the Objectivist’s Dream!  So I took on the role of being the music producer who put together this totally phony recording session with a professional singer and a group of child singers, to create an idealistic musical conversation between “Mama Tenenbaum” and a group of fresh-faced, joyful little sisters.

The melody and lyric for the chorus came easily:

“We are free, free to be

Free to be what we want to be

Papa Ryan, Uncle Suchong, my sisters and me.

We can be what we want to be!”

Then I wrote verses that took a common childhood notions like “don’t take candy from strangers…” and turn it on its Objectivist head – so instead of “…because they could be bad people”, in this song it is “…because you don’t need charity.”

I played a rough version of the tune for Ken and he thought it was great.  He created the spoken opening, and suggested I write an extended musical intro, in the traditional structure of a song from a musical of the 40’s or 50’s.

All that was left was to create the final track.  Duncan Watt turned my lead sheet and rough MIDI sketch to a full orchestral arrangement, while producer Marc Lacuesta found a singer named Shelley Jennings to perform the “Mama Tenenbaum” part.  The little sisters were performed by in-house talent: Sarah Rosa, Kayla Belmore, and Ashlee Flagg.  I mixed all the tracks together, making sure that the transition from “spoken voice” to “singing voice” was appropriately mismatched, and antiquing it so it sounded like it had been spinning on repeat for days.

In the game, you only hear the end of this track… Though if you stay in that area long enough, it will start to play again…

“The Pie Song”

Joe Fielder and I were tasked with writing an anti-establishment tune, in the style of a 50’s folk revivalist.  If it was going to be a pseudo-folk song, we knew it needed to be simple, and maybe even… Dare I say it… a little trite. We tried a bunch of different approaches, then decided that we needed a metaphor for the singer’s angst:

Ryan rewards those who are strong and able
While I work hard just putting food on the table
If the good life is dessert, then I gotta ask why
Why can’t I have a slice of that pie?

We tried several different approaches to the performance, but none of them were quite right.  Enter Marc Lacuesta, who called a great singer/songwriter based in Nashville named Korby Lenker, and together we created our Rapture-version of a 50’s folk revivalist.

“Old Man Winter Jingle”

It was great fun making jingles for Burial at Sea – Episode One, and Ken asked if I could do one more for Episode Two.  Jorge Lacera had come up with a slogan for his print ad: “Keep your cool with Old Man Winter” and Ken’s only request was that the tune include that in the lyric.

The concept was that the tune would start by establishing the “need” for the product, all uptempo and uptight:

Always hot and hurried like a rat-in-a-race?

Life can fly by at such a frantic pace!

Need to freeze the moment, put your worries on ice?

We got a plasmid for you that’s just the splice!

and then the product would resolve it with a lazy, easygoing feel, to compliment its character:

Chill out… Relax…

Be cooler than the coolest cats.

When things heat up don’t be a fool,

With Old Man Winter you can keep your cool.

I saved Jorge’s tag line for the very end of the ad.

Marc Lacuesta is not only a great producer but also a great singer and arranger, so he did the vocal arrangement, and hired 3 more singers to make up a jazzy vocal quartet; while I created the jazz quintet instrumental tracks to back them up.  Joe Fielder knocked out a spoken section for us to slot in and Senior Sound Designer Jeff Seamster voiced the announcer.

Posted on March 28 2014 01:28 pm, under Insider
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Comments (14)

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  • epifire | March 28, 2014 2:39 pm

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    Interesting to hear the back story on these songs. Thanks for posting J!

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  • akdm | March 28, 2014 2:53 pm

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    Thanks, Pie Song is a pure diamond 🙂

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  • alphacohen | March 28, 2014 3:17 pm

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    Love it. Those songs were great.

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  • icegrove | March 28, 2014 3:21 pm

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    So great songs more to the list now still only need to get the devils kiss song.

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  • pauolo | March 28, 2014 3:27 pm

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    Jim Bonney and Duncan Watt really did a great job on those additional songs and music for both Infinite the the Burial at Sea episodes. The Plasmid jingles were just perfect.

    However, I hope that the additional score Garry Schyman composed just for the DLC will be officially released. It added such depth to both episodes, while keeping a distance with his previous work on each episodes of the series.

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  • justincase | March 29, 2014 6:48 am

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    Please, please, please, please, add La Vie En Rose (that version is so much better than Louis Armstrong). After only playing the first Paris sequence I knew that this was my favorite video game and series(I already knew before, but that was an excellent reminder).
    Thank you Irrational for allowing me to explore the deepest depths of Rapture, and the the highest points of Columbia. You allowed me to experience the ending in a way described how Atlas said he would give Sally to Elizabeth. You “wrapped the” DLC “in a silk ribbon.” I wish I had the money currently to buy everything in your store, because that might just begin to show my appreciation.
    I’m deeply saddened that this is the end for the series(by Irrational), because the narrative in these games are so good that the reward for replaying them is priceless. Regardless of your departure from Bioshock, Elizabeth taught us a lesson that we must remember. No matter what, “there’s always a man. There’s always a city. There’s always a lighthouse.”

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    • thebeardedbear | March 29, 2014 8:03 pm

      Dude. I cant say how perfect that fits for me. Everything you said is perfect. Thats just what i think to. Every single word is prefect. Theres nothing more or less that i could tell .you my friend have a great taste. ;).

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    • marokazam | March 29, 2014 11:22 pm

      Yes I want to hear that song that Courtnee Drape sings during the credits!

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  • alexadavidoff | March 29, 2014 12:56 pm


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  • thebeardedbear | March 29, 2014 8:16 pm

    I just ended up burial at sea ep 2 and now im kindda depresed. Because my favorite game developers are now gone, and my favorite game franchise is done. For me bioshock was and will ever be my favorite game , its just so amazing. The story is outstanding, the gameplay ,the soundtrack,the character, everything was perfect. It just fit so well for me that it cant be replaced in my heart. So thank you guys from irrationalgames and all the the other people who help it be what it was, thank you for all the good moments that i had , the feelings that i felt, thank you so much. I wish i had the money to buy everything in your store but i just cant do it right now, but you can count on me for the continue support . Hope you can keep doing this fantastic job elsewhere . IRRATIONALGAMES JUST THE BEST.

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    • natesiregar | March 30, 2014 2:18 pm

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      I’m with you on this man 🙁 Bioshock has been the best franchise I’ve ever played and I’m so sad that they are stopping with Burial at Sea episode 2. I loved every bit of the adventures that Ken Levine and his team have created. Bioshock was probably one of the first games I’ve played on PS3. I’ve played every other since and enjoyed every single moment. Thank you Irrational games!

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  • thebeardedbear | March 29, 2014 8:37 pm

    I still cant believe that irrational is going to close doors. I cant take. What heppened. Do you guys need money. Is that it. Well we can help you. We can raise some money.We Your fans are here to support you as you guys is there to support us. If you are having some trouble we can help. Just tell us how!!! Im going to do whatever is in my reach. WE,THE FANS, ARE GOING TO DO WHATEVER IS IN OUR REACH!!!!

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  • davrilor | March 30, 2014 12:01 am

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    I love the Pie song, but I REALLY want to download “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “You Belong to Me” as sung by Courtnee Draper. If anyone knows where I can go to download them, please let me know.

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  • noemiohare | July 2, 2014 1:51 pm

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    big question WHO produced coutnee singing her HEART out to “you BELONG to me” to me it feels like an extended love letter to booker, and any chance of a toorch song project with courtnee?

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