- The original Civilization Opening Theme took players from the very beginning of the Earth's formation to the Dawn of Man, and is a suitably epic piece that mixes anticipation with the promise of marvels to come.
- While only a few of the songs from Civilization III have names, many of them still stand out, like the drums-and-trumpets Ancient European theme, and especially the Modern Era songs: Smash, Techno Mix, and Stars Full.
- There's also the "Greco-Roman" Industrial Age theme...better known as the finale of Joseph Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 49 (in the Hoboken catalogue; it's No. 59 in the Landon catalogue) in E-flat major. It's a bit slower and played more legato than most interpretations, but it's not that far off from the way some pianists actually play it; Alfred Brendel's is particularly close.
- And then there's the "East Asian" Medieval theme...a remix of "The Shining Path," one of the most beloved themes from Civilization II.
- Civilization IV's Baba Yetu, which has become a Leitmotif for the entire series. In fact, it has won a Grammy, the first ever piece of computer game music.note It was even played at the New Year's Concert of the sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly.
- The Warlords expansion theme also counts.
- The Brandenburg Concerti played during the Renaissance era also qualify, though they're not original to the series.
- Most of the background music in Civ IV is this way. It's been described as "one of the few games that lets you change the background music, and one of the few games where you don't need to". This is largely because after the Classical Era, the pieces consist entirely of the cream of Western Classical Music (some of the selections, like the Miserere played in the Middle Ages, are considered to be absolute masterpieces), and the pieces chosen are furthermore beautifully tailored to the experience of playing the game.
- Just the fact that every leader got its own piece, which is performed by increasingly more (modern) instruments as the civilization advances. And especially the tunes that are newer versions of old themes, which give an awesome moment of nostalgic realization, and of course, an opportunity to remember how amazing those songs were as well.
- Like Mao Zedong's Theme, which becomes ten times better when you realize it's (another) new arrangement of Civilization II's The Shining Path.
- Montezuma's theme, an brand spanking new arrangement of Tenochtitlan Revealed.
- Hatshepsut's Theme every bit as calmingly amazing as when it was Harvest of the Nile.
- Julius Caesar's Theme, which at its most elaborate evokes both The Glory That Was Rome and the earlier Augustus Rising.
- Civilization V has a number of great pieces as well, full of Genius Bonus for anyone familiar with the music that they're based on.
- From the vanilla game:
- American peace and war ("America, the Beautiful").
- Aztec peace ("Cora Mitote Song from Santa Teresa").
- Greek peace (the Epitaph of Seikilos, the oldest surviving complete musical composition in the world).
- English war and peace ("I Vow to Thee, My Country"—aka "Thaxted", aka the middle section from Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" from The Planets).
- Japanese peace ("Rokudan no Shirabe").
- Indian peace ("Raga Asa").
- Ottoman war ("Ceddin Deden", a Turkish march).
- Persian peace ("Morq-e sahar").
- Russian war ("Montagues and Capulets/Dance of the Knights", from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev). This is one of the few Civilization themes with lyrics, taken from Alexander Pushkin's poem "The Bronze Horseman". The first few lines are about the beauty of Saint Petersburg, but then the lyrics quickly develop into a depiction of a massive flood, and the devastation it brings to the city. It all ends with one sentence, repeated several times: "Все гибнет." And what does it mean? "Everything dies." In the context of the game, Russia is this flood. It is you who will make everything die.
- Songhai peace (Gambian folk music).
- From individual DLCs:
- From the Gods & Kings expansion:
- The title theme (based on the Ambrosian Hymn).
- Byzantine peace ("Phos Hilaron").
- Carthaginian war ("Hymn to Nikkal").
- Celtic peace ("Lord Gregory, The Lass of Aughrim").
- Dutch peace and war ("In Naam van Oranje").
- Ethiopian peace ("Selassie's National Anthem").
- Hunnic war ("Li Ling Si Han").
- Swedish peace and war ("Du Gamla, Du Fria").
- From the Brave New World expansion:
- Even the ambient music has some brilliant pieces - all culled from some of the best musical pieces from around the world. Here's a small sampling. A SMALL sampling.
- The main theme to Rising Tide, the expansion pack to Beyond Earth, is just awesome.
- Upon the Expanse is another note-worthy track, as is Neptune's Glory.
- From the vanilla game:
- This video gives us a preview of Civ VI's evolving themes.
- Civilization VI: A veritable goldmine of a soundtrack with several hits, aided by the genius of the evolving civ themes.
- The main theme, "Sogno di Volare" ("The Dream of Flight"), is quite amazing. As are the lyrics (courtesy of Leonardo da Vinci).Una volta che avrai,
spiccato il volo, deciderai,
sguardo verso il ciel, saprai,
lì a casa il cuore sentirai!
Once you have taken flight
Gaze towards the sky, you'll know that
that is where your heart will feel at home!
- The themes of each nation continue the style from Civ V with a bigger addition to its Evolving Music.
- The Atomic Era theme ("Lullaby of Itsuki") for Japan. Reminiscent of cyberpunk, a mixture of electronic and traditional sounds for when Japan Takes Over the World.
- The Industrial Era theme and Atomic Era theme for America, which takes the American folk song "Hard Times Come Again No More" and gives it a distinct Aaron Copland vibe, which practically breathes Eagleland Type 1. Pretty reflects America's status from Regional Power to Superpower.
- Every single Australia theme. Possibly the most beautiful renditions of "Waltzing Matilda" ever composed. One Australian comments on how a bush song had become so extremely amazing. Special mention however has to go to the Atomic Era rendition as the combo of Aboriginal and Classical orchestra instrumentals combine to set the stage of Outback Australia at its finest.
- The Atomic Era theme ("Kalinka") for Russia. Unlike the other previous Era version, it shows a strong patriotic yet intimidating feeling that reflects the nation's historic status as the Soviet Union.
- The Medieval Era theme ("Scarborough Fair") for England gives off the country's might and pleasantry on its current time - followed by the imperial magnificence of the Industrial theme. The Atomic theme, however, tells a different story - story of a country ravaged by two destructive World Wars and the loss of its empire and international prestige, hence the more sombre tones.
- The Atomic Era theme for France ("Quand je bois du vin clairet") transforms a classic drinking tune into an epic film score, evoking images of a cyberpunk Paris. Or Jean-Luc Picard.
- The Industrial Era theme for Arabia ("Banat Iskandaria") It really brings the image of say golden age Abbassid Arabia to mind, and the power and grandeur that once defined Arabia.
- The Industrial Era theme for Egypt has an epic, almost biblical feel that really sells the ancient opulence and magnificence of Egypt. "Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!" comes to mind.
- The Atomic Era theme for Rome ("Magna Mater") has this strange somber yet proud feel to it and the kind of sci-fi sound brings this image of a badass space age Roman empire. Pax Romana Galactica. Or the Imperium from Warhammer 40,000, which are essentially Romans In Space anyway.
- The Industrial Era theme for Greece ("Epitaph of Seiklos") has this upbeat daring tune, almost like something a marching band would play that one simply cannot help but love. Also an example of Heartwarming Music: The Epitaph of Seikilos is the oldest known complete musical composition, discovered on a marble stele and believed to be written in memory of a Greek woman named Euterpe, with Seikilos as her husband. It is sweet to know that Euterpe is still honoured and remembered in a small way even thousands of years after her passing.
- The Atomic Era theme for Sumeria ("Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal, no. 6") is a theme straight from Civilisation Beyond Earth or National Treasure. Sumeria is perhaps the oldest civilisation featured in the game (only Egypt might be as old), and this theme really captures the grandeur of the hero king Gilgamesh leading his people into the stars.
- The Industrial Era theme for the Kongo ("Banaha") is so upbeat and optimistic and seamlessly mixes traditional African instruments such as the drums and xylophone, and a classy orchestral score, fitting for an empire so often overlooked in the grander scale.
- The Industrial Era theme for Brazil ("Brejeiro") is another upbeat tune that has an almost Disney Musical feel to it with its bombastic elegant score, and the Medieval Era theme brings this warm fuzzy feeling to heart, with its laid back and almost romantic tune.
- The Industrial Era theme for China ("Mo li Hua") is one of the most magnificent scores the game has to offer, evoking images of magnificent golden palaces, blissful peach orchards, and the sweeping misty mountain valleys of the Middle Kingdom. The Atomic theme takes all that and gives it a magnified, sweeping epic flair.
- The Atomic Era theme for Macedon (Tino Mori) masterfully exemplifies the duality of this civilization as it switches from a bright upbeat almost marching band like tune to a deep epic stirring war tune, showing off both the bright optimistic intellectualism of Alexander's world, and the grim reality of the conquests he waged.
- All versions of Spain's theme (Recuerdos de la Alhambra). Special mention goes to the Atomic era version, which turns the guitar piece into a romantic and intensely patriotic orchestral track that perfectly captures the strength of the Spanish Armada and the might of the Spanish Empire at its peak.
- All versions of India's theme (Vaishnava janato tene), which is played on classical Indian instruments throughout. It goes from an incredibly serene and soothing flute piece in the Ancient Era to a grand, upbeat piece in the Atomic Era, reflecting India's journey through her ancient glory, through subjugation as a colony, and back to being an independent nation and then rising to become a world power - all while retaining an emphasis on peace and spirituality. Doubles as a case of Shown Their Work - the medieval hymn it was based off was Mahatma Gandhi's favorite hymn in real life, and sung around the world on his 150th birth anniversary as a tribute to him.
- All versions of Indonesia's theme (Bapang Selisir & Rejang Dewa), but especially the Atomic Era theme. It feels even more epic than the Indonesian theme from Civilization V, and that's saying something. It starts with a simple flute and ends up like you're watching a fleet of Jongs embarks from their harbor.
- From the Rise and Fall expansion:
- Even during the First Look video, the Ancient Era theme for the Cree drew attention for its vocals from the Poundmaker Singers, a drum group that comprises Cree tribe members and even descendants of Poundmaker, the Cree's leader in VI. All of the Cree themes feature the Poundmaker Singers, starting with a cave-like acapella (Ancient), to a string-strapped drum beat (Medieval), before blooming into full orchestra for the Industrial and Atomic themes.
- The powerful polyphonic chant that represents Georgia (based off of the hymns "Shen Khar Venakhi" and "Tsaiqvanes Tamar Kali") sounds epic enough in its Ancient form, and each subsequent version only grows in scope and emotion.
- Mongolia's Atomic era theme does an incredible job of both blending ancient traditions and modern musical styles, and giving the sensation of summarizing their history. Starting with the traditional throat-singing and horse hair fiddle playing backed with subtle strings showing their rather humble and disconnected origins, it smoothly transitions into a brief orchestral which symbolizes the beginnings of their unification. Then there's a gradual increase in beat and pacing, indicating their campaigns across the known world, before quietly returning to the traditional throat-singing as a closer, reflecting the end of their part in the world stage and a return to a humbler life.
- Scotland gets the much-beloved "Scotland the Brave", starting with a traditional pipe-and-drum in the Ancient era, which will sound familiar to anyone that has heard bagpipes. While other instrumentation is used for the other eras (the fiddle in the Medieval version pays homage to Scotland's Celtic roots, for instance), the Atomic version brings back the drum line at the end, combined with the full orchestral arrangement used in other countries' atomic eras, with the low brass and strings emulating the long droning of the pipes.
- From the Gathering Storm expansion:
- Canada gets not just one, not just two, but three songs for its theme, which is a combo of "Vive la Canadienne" (representing the French-Canadians aka the Quebecois), "The Crooked Stovepipe" (representing the Anglo-Celtic Canadians) and "O Canada" (representing Confederated Canada). Starting out with just a simple string guitar and a fiddle in the Ancient era to a more French Canadian influenced style in the Medieval era to the glorious sweeping epic orchestra march of the Atomic era, commentators admitted they couldn't help standing for the anthem at the end in the Atomic era theme.
- Hungary's folk music theme starts out fairly simple, with the Ancient era one sounding more like a spontaneous rehearsal between two musicians, but then slowly building up in the Medieval era in tempo and variety of instruments, reflecting the growing population and the need for entertainment. Once you reach the Industrial era, it sounds like a cross between a formal gala and a country town dance party, and by the time the player hears the Atomic era theme (complete with Eurobeat!), it really sinks in that Hungary has been refining their ability to party for hundreds if not thousands of years.
- The Maori have two incredibly powerful and quite famous songs combined into great themes - "Ka Mate" and "Pōkarekare Ana" - but what's awesome about them is the order in which they are presented. In the Ancient Era "Ka Mate" plays first, warning others that they are not to be trifled with but then it flows into "Pōkarekare Ana", letting people know that they can be as friendly as anyone else, if you get to know them. But then in Medieval era and the successive eras, "Pōkarekare Ana" plays first, giving the impression that they're no longer reacting with aggression first as their civilization expanded, but "Ka Mate" cuts in towards the middle, reminding you that they are, first and foremost, a proud people who will fight for what they believe in. Really heartwarming in its own way.
- Sweden's theme combines three songs into one. "Helan går" is a drinking song, while "Polska efter Pelle Fors" and "Slängpolska efter Byss-Calle" are folk songs. The result is a very optimistic song that sounds almost whimsical in the Medieval era, but reaches a triumphant crescendo in the Atomic era. Fitting for a civilization that, by that point, is likely a cultural and diplomatic powerhouse.
- From the "New Frontier" expansion, Gran Colombia's theme is a mixture of popular folk songs from the countries that were part of it. It begins with "Velo que Bonito", a Colombian religious lullaby also repurposed as a Christmas carol, then continues with "Reir Llorando", an Ecuatorian pasillo and in the Medieval age, it has "Pajarillo", a joropo of Venezuela. The rearragement of this local music (especially the Atomic version) has an aura of courage and power, perfect for the powerhouse of Gran Colombia.
- The main theme, "Sogno di Volare" ("The Dream of Flight"), is quite amazing. As are the lyrics (courtesy of Leonardo da Vinci).
- Fan Songs of Civilization are few and far between, but the one and only Dan Bull made the Civilization Epic Rap. As the title implies, this song covers the length of civilization from the stone age to the space age, using the intro movies from Civilization V as its music video. However, what makes this stand out is where it places itself on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. The intro movies of Civ V cast themselves as The Idealist, with humanity becoming more advanced and civilized over time, in spite of the violent conflicts that occur between them, with uplifting music emphasizing civilization's upwards progress, even over scenes of samurai slicing each other up with katanas, or tanks crushing machine gunners under their treads. But Dan Bull's rap paints him as The Cynic, who shows that humanity's development has always been violent, with the rise of new civilizations coming from the destruction and conquest of old ones, and that even technological progress has brought as many nightmares to reality as it has dreams, with the downbeat tone emphasizing the nightmarish scenes of battle and showing how even the "heroic" parts of the intro movies often needed the enslavement or extermination of other peoples so that their conquerors could reap the rewards. But even though Dan rails against the evils of mankind (including the potential evil committed by the player and rival Civilizations in the game) throughout nearly all of the song, he still points out the good that came from the Renaissance, democracy, and the information age and implores the audience that they should do all in their power to break humanity's cycle of violence, to ensure human civilization can "stand the test of time forever."
Awesome Music / Civilization