Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Narrative Musical Microcosms: How Celeste Uses 18th-Century Counterpoint to Depict Anxiety and Feigned Confidence

Publication Date



Music and Performing Arts, College of


Music, School of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Clare Eng

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Music’s capacity for storytelling gives it immense power and memorability, both as an independent art form and as a supporting element for multimedia genres like film and video games. Countless themes by composers like John Williams can be easily recalled by millions of people, not only for the story the music itself tells and the emotions it evokes—such as mystery, dread, or wonder—but also the music’s connection to the narrative and the characters of a film or video game. Composer Lena Raine channels this in the video game, Celeste (2018), particularly in the song “Spirit of Hospitality.” In less than two minutes of music, Raine depicts the complex emotional state of one of the game characters. Raine uses elements of 18th-century counterpoint, like compound melody and motivic manipulation, to evoke a sound of formality and decorum that masks some of the dissonance lying within many of the intervals found in the vertical harmony of the song. This construction is clearly intentional, as it perfectly mirrors the narrative being told when the song appears in the game with a character who attempts to present a facade of confidence to mask his anxiety and doubts. The music thus serves as a microcosm of the narrative, presenting these themes both before and after the characters themselves present them and helping to strengthen the impact of the story on the player.

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