How was The Smiler’s iconic ride-music created?

By Michael Mander

‘Ha Ha Ha…Ha Ha Ha…Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha’

On entering X-Sector, guests at Alton Towers are subjected to an ominous and inescapable medley: The Smiler music. For many, this music plays over in their head long after they leave the park.

IMAScore is the German company responsible for the iconic music. As well as creating music for Alton Towers, the park has composed ride-songs for Europa-Park, Movie Park Germany, Chessington World of Adventures, and Heide Park.

Airgates spoke to the CEO, Xaver Willebrand, and lead composer, Andreas Kübler, about how the ideas are formed and made into music.

“Pushed to the Limit”

“The production of the soundtrack of The Smiler was very special! First of all it was all about finding the right musical style. It had to be something unique, something you could instantly connect with the ride and its story.”

“We looked at concept arts for hours and even sat together for a brainstorming session, where every member of our team brought up ideas.”

Concept Art (Image Source: TowersTimes)

“This project was quite a challenge. Not just because of the amount of music we had to produce, but also because of the uniqueness. ”

“The creatives at Merlin Entertainments are always pushing you to the limit – and that’s absolutely a good thing, because they have a great imagination and know very well what they want to hear at the end!”

“A new genre”

“The music of IMAscore is produced on high end PCs by using high quality virtual instruments.”

“We used a lot of strange electronic sounds and layered them with a big, but slow beat – like a factory that is running all the time and producing smiling advocates.”

“In some melody lines, you can hear that it is not a happy place but then the laughing sounds and melodies are coming back and it you’re a part of this happy world again. The result is the sinister music and sound atmosphere you hear at Alton Towers Resort.”

“Visitors have told us that we’ve created a new music genre with the Smiler music.”

“The HaHaHa melody”

“The main element was the HaHaHa melody line. In fact, the final melody was also the first one we wrote for the ride.”

“It was a real bullseye and everybody fell in love with it hearing it the first time”

The IMAScore team become smiling advocates.

“It crawls its way into your brain, but this is exactly what it was supposed to do!”

“Our Own Style”

Andreas Kübler, who was one of the two lead composers for this project, talked about how the initial ideas and inspirations were developed into the fully formed Smiler song.

“Normally we compose the first melodies on a piano, but this does not work when producing a soundtrack like the one for The Smiler, which is full of crazy sounds without natural instruments.”

“There was a Dubstep beat in the first versions but we wanted to create our own style, not the next number one hit. It was a big challenge and took some time to create this atmosphere.”

“We listened to some children’s songs. These are so extremely happy and catchy, so it was the best inspiration for us without copying any existing melody or style.”

“The darker parts of the Smiler music are our speciality. It was great to mix this “fake” happiness with the “real” dark part of the story and it was really crazy to switch the mood from some sort of horror music to a catchy happy tune.”

“Just keep smiling.”

“Some people think they are listening to a 3-minutes loop… But do they actually know that the Smiler contains over 75 minutes of music? While you’re waiting for the ride, you hear the main melody very often. But every time you hear it again, it’s in another tune or played by other instruments.”

Some riders have complained of the music making them feel nauseous; when asked if this was deliberate Andreas added: “The music plays with your mind, like brainwashing. It is trying to make you happy with the catchy melody.  If it makes you feel nauseous, just keep smiling.”

 

 And here’s the finished product….!

About: Michael Mander

I mainly cover Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Adventure Island, Paramount London and other attractions in the south of England. Contact me at: Michael@Airgates.co.uk

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