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Say What?

September 22, 2009

When the time came to sit down and work on a main theme for Lucidity, I knew that I wanted to use a lullaby and I knew that I wanted to use a language other than English.  There’s no real dialogue in Lucidity and I didn’t want to suddenly make it feel as though the game takes place in the US just because the theme was in English.

lisaPromoPicI considered French and Italian for a while, as they’re two of my favorite choral languages; but I wanted something less familiar to the general audience.  For a while now, I’d been looking for a project to work with a talented singer named Lisa Eriksson.  Lisa is one half of the electronic music duo Techno Squirrels and has a fantastically ethereal voice.  She also happens to be Swedish.  It was a perfect fit.

I started listening to Swedish lullabies across the internet, trying to find one with the right mood.  I really wanted something that felt ancient, the kind of lullaby that Odin might have sung to himself as he hung from the World Tree.  We have a number of Swedish employees here at LucasArts and, after having solicited recommendations from them, I picked the song “Byssan Lull” from the list that emerged because of its minor key and its lyrics about travelers, stars, and forests.

Unfortunately, even though everyone I spoke to said that it was an “old folk tune” and a classic Swedish lullaby, no one actually knew if it was in the public domain or not.  The internet also didn’t seem to know.  When I contacted Ulrika Gunnarsson at the Center for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research, I found out that even they didn’t know 100%.  According to them, it turns out that the first verse to the song is unquestionably ancient, but that the subsequent verses might actually have been written by a Swedish folk musicologist named Evert Taube.

This posed a problem since I can’t record anything that isn’t in the public domain without having to pay for the rights to it, but I can’t write more verses myself since I don’t speak Swedish.

The solution again came in the form of Lisa.  I explained the situation for Lisa, a bit about the story of the game, and she then wrote a second verse for the song that specifically references Sofi’s relationship with her Grandmother and the journey she goes on to find her.

“Byssan Lull” – traditional, arr. Jesse Harlin

Byssan lull, koka kittelen full

där kommer tre vandringsmän på vägen

byssan lull, koka kittelen full

där kommer tre vandringsmän på vägen

Den ene, e så halt

den andre, e så blind

den tredje har så trasiga kläder

Byssan lull, koka kittelen full

så kyligt på vintern de reser

byssan lull, koka kittelen full

Lucidity (8)tre stärnor som lyser genom skogen

den första är vårt lugn

den andra är vår dröm

i tredje båten sitter vi tillsammans

[English Translation]

Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

so cold in the winter, they are traveling

Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

three stars shine through the forest

the first is our calm the second is our dream

in the third boat, we sit together

Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

all alone in the world you are searching

Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

I will take care of you on the trip

I hold you so close and warm you up lovingly

I promise to always come with you

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    September 22, 2009 1:07 pm

    Just a short comment:

    Seems the first verse of the English translation is the second verse of the Swedish text, while the first verse of the Swedish text isn’t translated. The second verse of the English text isn’t present in the actually song.

    The first verse, if more or less directly translated without taking into account melody, translated to more or less:
    Byssan lull, boil the full pot
    there comes three wanderers on the road
    byssan lull, boil the full pot
    there comes three wanderers on the road
    one of them has a limp
    the other is so blind
    the third has so poor clothes

    This might have been intentional though, you’re the musician, not me 🙂

    Other than that: interesting read, and good work.

    • Jesse permalink
      September 22, 2009 1:45 pm

      No, this is just a botch up on my part. : ) That’s the risk you run when you don’t speak the language.

  2. Diduz permalink
    September 23, 2009 8:00 am

    I always appreciate the work and the passion you put in your work, Jesse.
    I also enjoyed Thrillville’s songs very much.

    I like the way the crew is working on this LucasArts creative renaissance. I grew up with Maniac Mansion and Zak, I’ll be ready to buy Lucidity the second it’s available.

    We may not always be present in blogs and forums, but there’s a huge international crowd (I’m Italian, btw) who really hopes you’ll be able to say something special once again.

    And it seems you’re nailing it right now. 🙂

  3. September 23, 2009 8:34 pm

    I like learning the back story on these projects.
    Thanks.

  4. Andreas permalink
    September 30, 2009 11:09 am

    Hey! I love that you picked this song for the game! Since I’m Swedish myself and this song always had a kind of mysticism to me when I was little and my mother sang it to me. Makes me think of dark winter nights and the crackling campfire.

    Anyways, I see that you had some problems with the translation of the song 😛 So I thought I’d help you out..

    “Byssan Lull” – traditional, arr. Jesse Harlin

    Byssan lull, koka kittelen full

    där kommer tre vandringsmän på vägen

    byssan lull, koka kittelen full

    där kommer tre vandringsmän på vägen

    Den ene, e så halt

    den andre, e så blind

    den tredje har så trasiga kläder

    Byssan lull, koka kittelen full

    så kyligt på vintern de reser

    byssan lull, koka kittelen full

    tre stärnor som lyser genom skogen

    den första är vårt lugn

    den andra är vår dröm

    i tredje båten sitter vi tillsammans

    [English Translation]

    Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

    There come three wanderers on the road

    Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

    There come three wanderers on the road

    One has a limp

    Another is so blind

    The third has rags for clothes

    Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

    So cold in the night they are wandering

    Byssan Lull, boil the full pot

    In the sky wanders three stars

    The first is our calm

    The second is our dream

    In the third boat we sit together

    (There are many different varieties of this song, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong about the lyrics. People have just added and taken away throughout time. All I know is that this lullaby has been around for forever)

  5. Johan permalink
    September 30, 2009 3:25 pm

    Swedish guy here aswell. Got interested in the game through steam. It seemed like the perfect game to just sit back and relax while still enjoying a game arnt to quick phased like most are nowadays. Anyhow the drawings really looked amazing so had to watch the trailer. The music to begin with was fantastic aswell as it fit perfect but when I heard the last part I was like… “woow, is this swedish? In a american videogame? Checked it up and came to this blog. Just got to say thanks for choosing this song. Ive heard it alot as a child and its really something special to hear it now again after all these years. Cant wait for the game!

  6. Simon permalink
    October 7, 2009 4:37 pm

    MP3 please? 🙂

    • Jesse permalink
      October 7, 2009 4:57 pm

      Already posted: https://lucasartsworkshop.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/something-svenskt-this-way-comes/

      🙂

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