Author: Chris Wickham
Townlong Steppes stands on the northwest coast of Pandaria, isolated by the Great Wall. This beautiful region is ravaged by conflict, as the native Shadow-Pan Clan pre-emptively strike against the lumbering yaungol and the insidious mantid who threaten to breach the wall. Rolling grassland is populated with autumnal trees, whilst the outlying islands to the west are populated with the threats from the mantid, mogu and the elemental Sha. One of these landmasses hosts the beleaguered Niuzao Temple.
A gong resonates and segues into a textural woodwind, voice and string homogeny. The atmosphere is mournful, and intermittently interrupted by turbulent low strings rising and falling rapidly, while an overblown flute screams over the top. The tone slowly becomes deadlier and the tonality makes a definitive shift into a brooding minor key, compared to the ambiguous extended tonality of the first cue. The music is almost a weary shadow of Pandaria's iconic eastern-western hybrid scores, highlighting the continuing conflict that plagues this secluded region.
The second set of cues retain the brooding tone of the first, but the atmosphere is more hopeful. Lush high string pedals soar over rising melodic lines from the low to mid register. There is certainly a sense of healing in the music, and the harmony fluidly shifts between major and minor, despite a brief malevolent interlude in the middle.
As day turns to night, the dynamics grow slightly softer and the strings find themselves venturing into ambiguous augmented harmonies more frequently. This creates a feeling of dread and uncertainty, and composer Jeremy Soule plays to the strengths of the string family's expressiveness. The result is a textural string tapestry, woven by many delicate and morose threads, which capture the tragedy of the conflict that affects this region.