Stephan Wells - Harmony of Shinesparkers

Stephan Wells

Hey! I’m Stephan, also known as Step, an avid hobbyist musician and software developer professionally. I’ve been butting my head in these albums almost since the very beginning!

It all started back in 2011 when a friend introduced me, a 16-year-old newbie to music production, to Metroid music. Despite being a relative outsider to the franchise, I was drawn in to the soundtrack from the get go. Inspired by what I heard, I composed my first ever Metroid arrangement, a medley of the Chozo Ruins, Tallon Overworld, and Sanctuary Fortress themes from Metroid Prime & Prime 2. This would eventually serve as an audition track of sorts to land me a spot in Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run.

I remember quite clearly the first track I was tasked to arrange by Darren: Secrets of the Chozo, from Metroid II. This cryptic, perplexing, tonally flexible track had bested three other musicians before me who had tried to arrange it, or so Darren told me, and I, trying my best to make a good first impression, decided to accept the task. This resulted in one of my weirdest but somehow still enjoyable arrangements, Alluring Darkness, and signalled my first ever arrangement for the Harmony albums. It was uphill from there. I introduced musician friends of mine to the album, worked on more tracks, including the opening theme for the album, and even made a good friend out of Darren. While Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run was so many years ago, I look back at it all very fondly.

Due to my heavy involvement in the first album, I took the role of assistant director for our 101-track-strong, Super Smash Bros. arrangement album, Harmony of Heroes, where I and the rest of the team coordinated musicians from all sorts of sources and backgrounds. Harmony of Heroes was an absolutely gigantic undertaking, and we knew from the start we wanted to go big. Smash Bros. is a whole universe of different franchises, and doing justice to all those beloved franchises and their respective soundtracks needed a lot of musicians and a lot of work. Apart from filling the role of assistant director, I also worked on some tracks myself, including one of my first proper forays into jazz music with my Donkey Kong arrangement, Jungle Swing. Harmony of Heroes was a lot of stress, as would’ve been inevitable with a project of that size, but the results were infinitely worth it.

The expansion to Harmony of Heroes, Final Smash, followed shortly thereafter. I remember the conversation among Darren, me, and the rest of the team going something like: “Hey, what if we do something crazy and make an expansion to include all the new franchises from Super Smash Bros. 4?”; “You want to add EVEN MORE stress after what we just went through??”; “Yes.”; “Good. I’m in.”. Final Smash had a tight deadline and really pushed us to our limits, but it also resulted in one of my tracks that I’m most proud of: To the Stars. We weren’t going to manage to fit Super Mario Galaxy into Final Smash, with only days left till the deadline, but in an act of desperation I decided to take it on, and churned out a sweeping, dynamic chiptune-orchestra medley of multiple Mario Galaxy themes that I’m immensely proud of to this day.

Years later, Harmony of a Champion became the next project on our doorstep. I absolutely took a backseat role on this story-driven Pokémon Red & Green album, having only composed one act of a single track in the album (the casino section of Let It Ride), but I had a great time with it nonetheless. It was absolutely refreshing to me to have a clear story direction to follow, as opposed to the “fire-and-forget” nature of the tracks in the previous albums. Knowing how the story goes gave me a clear picture of how the track should be structured from the start, and then the execution flowed naturally.

Finally, as of the time of writing this, we’re right at the doorstep of Harmony of a Hunter: Returns. There really was no better time to go back to our Metroid roots, with all the new Metroid games in the horizon. While I, again, took the backseat role and didn’t contribute as assistant director for this album, I did work on an arrangement of the Phendrana Drifts theme from Metroid Prime that I am delighted with. When it comes to some of my arrangements, I love to take the original source material and reimagine it in a completely new way. In the case of The Inn by the Glacier, it was the result of me asking “What if Phendrana Drifts, except it’s tavern music with 3/4 time signature?” I find that inspiration always works best when you’re throwing yourself into seemingly crazy ideas like this.

My work on the Harmony albums is up there among the music I’ve made that I’m most proud of. Even years after the albums released, I still find new comments that people made praising the album, some even specifically praising my contributions to the albums. I’ve even had a few heart-warming situations where people I’d meet knew of me before they’d actually met me thanks to these albums. And the best part is that it gave me the opportunity to work with and befriend some of the most talented people I know. I hope that you, the reader, enjoyed all the music I contributed to the Harmony albums, and I’ll forever be glad to have been a part of them!

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