Lena Raine Interview: Saying Farewell to Celeste
Celeste’s final piece of DLC, appropriately titled Farewell, released this past Monday. As with the original game, the music was composed by Lena Raine. Being an enormous fan of the original OST, I wanted to know her perspective on the legacy of Celeste and the challenges of composing new music for such an iconic game.
Did ever plan to return to the world of Celeste?
Not really! The story we told with the original game was always a self-contained thing. It's a very literal journey for Madeline and her struggles, and the story, as it resolves in Chapter 7, is a complete arc from start to finish, with Chapter 8 as a bit of an epilogue. There were rumblings when we released the game that it'd be neat to do some super mega challenging levels as DLC, but certainly nothing to the extent that Chapter 9 became.
Did you have any fears/reservations about creating the soundtrack for Celeste: Farewell?
Plenty of fears, yeah. They were mostly about living up to expectations after the huge reception we received for the original release. I hadn't really sat down to write anything new until after we had been at a number of awards ceremonies, and it was such an exhausting and climactic series of feelings that I wasn't sure how I could even approach anything new.
How much direction did Matt and the team give you for Farewell?
About the same as the original game so, very little (which I've always loved about our collaborations). We'll talk about about the overall themes and arc for the levels, but then I generally get left to my own devices. I brought a lot of personal experience into Farewell, much like I did in the original game, with my own interpretations of how Madeline's mindset leads her to the places she goes.
As a huge fan of the original OST, I'm happy to say that Farewell isn't just more of the same. What drove the decision to include more live instrumentation?
Mostly, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just doing more of the same! I felt like I had produced a cohesive body of work with the original Celeste soundtrack, and the worst possible reaction I could get for Farewell was to have people listen and go "yep, that's Celeste". I really wanted to change things up, make people go "oh, that's what Celeste can sound like too". By the same token, I'm always challenging myself to write more and more new things and to experiment with new combinations of sounds and instruments.
it's so inspiring to see the things people do with my music and themes.
What do you think of Celeste's musical legacy?
I mean, it's been around for about a year and a half, so in the grand scheme of things, I'm glad that people have given it so much love in such a relatively short period of time! I hope that it sticks around and helps people explore things about themselves and how they relate to the world. I'd love to see more and more covers and orchestrations of the music, but I'm also okay if it just sort of fades away and lets the next thing I do take over.
It's a fear I have, sometimes, that maybe Celeste is the one thing I've written that will have a lasting impact, and I'll never live up to it. So, I'm okay if, however many years down the line, whatever I release next overshadows what I did with Celeste. Or maybe it won't! You can never tell with these things.
Have you watched many Celeste covers on YouTube and other platforms? If so, what are your thoughts?
Oh yeah, basically every one that I've come across or had linked to me. I love it—it's so inspiring to see the things people do with my music and themes. I don't often get the chance to play music with other people, but any time someone covers something I've done, it feels like I'm there in some way, getting to collaborate with all these amazing, diverse instrumentalists and arrangers.
Do you have any musical ideas for a Celeste sequel should one be announced?
Not really. As a team, we're not super interested in doing a Celeste 2 or spin-off or anything. Like honestly, even Celeste itself was technically a spin-off of the original Pico-8 game. I think everyone involved is so excited about doing something brand new that we're so enthusiastic about figuring out a new world and characters and musical aesthetics. And I have LOTS of ideas for new things.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you want to share?
The only one that's been announced is Chicory: A Colorful Tale, which I'm working on with a bunch of friends (Editor’s note: You can support Chicory on Kickstarter here). It's even more instrumental than Farewell and should be a fun palette cleanser after all the big emotions of Celeste. That isn't to say there aren't a lot of big emotions in Chicory either, but it's a different exploration of them for sure.
Other than that, I'm working on two unannounced games, and I'm kinda excited about just settling in and working on things for a while. Being publicly visible and stuff can be fun, but I'm always more at home in the studio working on things, so I'll be doing that for a while, and then everyone will get to see what I've been busy at.