Author: Chris Wickham
The northern reaches of Pandaria house the Temple of the Tiger, high atop the frozen peaks of Kun-Lai Summit. The mountain range is home to the White Tiger Clan and the Shadow-Pan clan, both of who now work tireless to defend against the deadly Sha that have seized control of the eponymous monastery. Much of the verdant farmland of the region has been razed by the native Yaungol seeking a new home; the presence of the Sha of Anger only acts to incite their anger further. The landscape boasts rolling hills of tundra, largely rocky terrain and small pockets of trees. However, the north coast demonstrates a more diverse ecosystem of abundant grassland and refreshing pools.
Much like the rest of Pandaria, the summit boasts a wealth of original music, which continues to draw influence from traditional Chinese harmony and instrumentation. The mournful erhu and the distinctive dizi are as abundant here as they are in the rest of the Pandaren homeland. The soundscape opens with the sounds of taiko drums and gongs, seguing into a homogenous string and choir pairing which explores a pentatonic scale. The melodic content is soon passed from the choir to the erhu, a sorrowful instrument in its own right. The music increases in intensity and texture, emphasising the vastness of the landscape and the conflict which is still rampant in the region.
At 2:53, a foreboding choir pedal emphasised by gongs and tubular bells is decorated by a yearnful erhu solo, whilst an array of assorted percussion trembles in the background. The music takes a more subdued turn from 4.34, where a traditional flute takes over the melodic duty. Strings and brass soon take the lead, and their wide unison arrangement produce an immense impression of scale. This is a harmony that is heard throughout the majority of Kun-Lai Summit and is an effective orchestration that is truly epic. The brass is noble and skilfully interweaves the pentatonic scales that are usually handled by the string family. It is a simple arrangement but is important for portraying the heritage, loyalty and dedication of the Pandaren people.
8.09 onwards takes a more delicate approach to proceedings. Veteran players and keen music buffs may draw parallels with the dawn-esque arrangement of Elywnn Forest. The oboe is the common instrument here, which is beautiful in its expressiveness. This musical idea is explored in subsequent variations, all of which are tinged with sorrow. What begins as a beautiful flourish develops into an array ethereal synthesiser pads and choral arrangements which are hauntingly beautiful. Quirky plucked strings and act as light comedic relief from 11:00, and are accented by the bassoon; an instrument always trusted to add a humorous touch to proceedings. However, the sonic landscape shifts shortly back to a lamenting brass melody and lush melancholy strings. The music broods between the low and mid-register, reminding the players of threats that populate not only Kun-Lai Summit but the whole of Pandaria.