Music of the Spheres

From Destinypedia, the Destiny wiki

Music of the Spheres
1 MOTS Cover square.jpg


December 25, 2017 (unofficial)
June 1, 2018


Video game soundtrack


Bungie Music Publishing


Jonty Barnes
Giles Martin


Martin O'Donnell
Michael Salvatori
Paul McCartney


Abbey Road Studios

Total length:



"For untold ages the Traveler sent signals from deep in the galaxy to our solar system, signals interpreted and identified by the subconscious mind of humanity as music. Music that tells a story about worlds yet to be experienced, places that don't yet exist. The message of the Traveler, along with the inner harmony amongst the seven spheres themselves, has inspired what you are about to hear."
— O'Donnell's CD note

Music of the Spheres was the musical foundation for Destiny written by Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, and Paul McCartney, which started production in 2011 and was sent off to an orchestra in November 2012. The full version of its second movement, titled The Union, was performed live at Video Games Live 2013[1], and it was announced that Music of the Spheres would be released as a standalone work. The music was planned to be released in August 2014[2], one month before Destiny's final release date, to be kept with the composers' intention of a "musical prequel" to the full franchise. It consisted of eight movements and a total of forty-eight minutes.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Planet Key Composer(s) Length
1 The Path Moon C Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Paul McCartney 6:20
2 The Union Mercury D Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori 4:28
3 The Ruin Venus E Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori 5:20
4 The Tribulation Sun F# Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Paul McCartney 5:54
5 The Rose Mars G Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Paul McCartney 5:25
6 The Ecstacy Jupiter A Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori 6:39
7 The Prison Saturn Bb Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Paul McCartney 6:28
8 The Hope Traveler/Earth C Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Paul McCartney 7:47

Production history[edit]

The Music of the Spheres postcard, with track names, lengths, and art.

In late 2010, Bungie management came to composer Martin O'Donnell, asking him to write music for Destiny. He came up with a concept he called a "musical prequel," where the music would be released before Destiny to introduce people to the musical themes of the franchise.

O'Donnell began work on the album in early 2011, with some elements of the album having been worked on in 2009.[3] O'Donnell created short drafts for each of the eight movements alone and later recruited his long-time collaborator, Michael Salvatori, to flesh them out. Lev Chapelsky, a manager at a video game talent agency, began speaking with O'Donnell about potential collaborators, and they decided on Paul McCartney. McCartney had previously been at an E3 press conference for The Beatles: Rock Band and appeared immediately after Bungie's showing of Halo 3: ODST. Based on this appearance, Chapelsky believed that McCartney might be interested in gaining a new audience through video games. Chapelsky reached out to McCartney and booked a meeting in Los Angeles between O'Donnell and McCartney. The meeting went well, and McCartney quickly became interested in working on Destiny.[4]

McCartney contributed melodies to the game's soundtrack, such as a melody for Horn that appears in the tracks The Path, The Prison, and The Hope. This melody can also be heard in the Destiny Original Soundtrack in tracks such as Tranquility and The Fallen, and at the beginning of the track The Traveler. McCartney also contributed voice loops to the tracks The Path and The Prison. McCartney directly worked on five of the tracks from Music of the Spheres and his work is reused throughout the in-game soundtrack.[5] McCartney's most well-known contribution is Hope for the Future, a song that appears at the end of Music of the Spheres. McCartney released the song as a standalone single, separate from Music of the Spheres, on December 8, 2014. The standalone song received mixed reviews.[6]

O'Donnell took inspiration from the ancient concept "Musica Universalis"[7], or the idea that the seven celestial spheres moved in relation to music. O'Donnell also used nocturnal geomantic figures as the namesake for the individual tracks.[3] Each track in Music of the Spheres is based on a planet as laid out by ancient astrology. O'Donnell used C.S. Lewis' book on the subject, The Discarded Image, as a basis and general inspiration for his interpretation of the ideas. O'Donnell also drew inspiration from Holst's The Planets, namely for the track The Ecstacy.[3] The track order is based on the "classical" order of the planets, as laid out by ancient philosophers. This order of the planets is Earth's Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The eighth track of the album, The Hope, is based on The Traveler and Earth. Earth's Moon and the Sun are considered planets in this model, as the term "planet" meant, at the time, "wandering star."[3]

Music of the Spheres was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in November 2012, with the final session concluding on November 24, 2012. [8] Music of the Spheres featured a large ensemble, with a 106-piece orchestra, choir, and boys choir. Bungie sought out the best talent they could find for the recording, featuring a celebrity conductor and orchestrator.[5]

Music of the Spheres completed production on December 10, 2012.[9] O'Donnell immediately began searching for a means to publish the album, and Bungie produced 100 promotional CDs of Music of the Spheres. At E3 2013, publisher Activision reworked O'Donnell's audio for a trailer without O'Donnell's permission, replacing his music and hiring a voice actor unrelated to Bungie or Destiny. O'Donnell expressed his frustrations on Twitter, stating the music was not his own.[10] This started internal arguments with O'Donnell and Bungie's management. O'Donnell believed that Activison was damaging Bungie's work culture. Bungie believed that O'Donnell was being disruptive and that he was elevating his interest in publishing his music over the best interest of the company.[11] O'Donnell was fired from Bungie on April 11, 2014. A legal battle between O'Donnell and Bungie's former CEO Harold Ryan began shortly after, which was resolved on September 4th, 2015 in favor of O'Donnell. [12]

Music of the Spheres remained unpublished for several years after, being made available on Bungie's own webstore on June 1, 2018, as part of The Music of Destiny, Volume 1 vinyl soundtrack collection. [13]


When the struggles between O'Donnell and Bungie went public, two Destiny fans began a project to reconstruct Music of the Spheres from publicly available material. In March 2017, a 40-minute speculative cut of the album was released, utilizing audio from promotional material and music that appears in the first Destiny game.[14] O'Donnell stated that while it was "not quite definitive," it was still close to the real work.[15]

In late 2017, O'Donnell posted to Twitter encouraging anyone with a promotional copy of Music of the Spheres to share it. [16] On December 25, 2017, Music of the Spheres was posted online, first appearing on the Destiny subreddit.[17] Many fans feared the legal ramifications this would lead to, but for four months, the leak remained online. In April 2018, the leaks began to be taken down, which led to a fan outcry for the music. Bungie's community manager Cozmo23 responded to the backlash on Reddit by stating that Bungie was taking down the leaks in anticipation of an official release of Music of the Spheres. [18]


During a trip to England, O'Donnell met a poet named Malcolm Guite at a festival on the Isle of Wight, where they had their first conversation about pre-Copernican astrophysics and C.S. Lewis. Quickly realizing they shared a passion for these ideas, O'Donnell asked Guite to write a collection of poems for Music of the Spheres.[3] Guite wrote a collection of fourteen poems which he called Seven Heavens, Seven Hells; A Sequence for the Spheres[19] and gave them to Bungie to read over. O'Donnell loved the poems and Bungie purchased the rights to them. Guite had his name in the first Destiny game's credits for his poetry.

As years passed and Music of the Spheres was seemingly not going to release, Guite considered putting Seven Heavens, Seven Hells into a number of his books, but an author whom Guite had admired, Michael Ward, said the poems didn't fit thematically into any of the collections he proposed. Seven Heavens, Seven Hells remained unpublished.

Shortly after Music of the Spheres was leaked, Guite decided to start working to release Seven Heavens, Seven Hells to the public. Guite sent a copy of the poems to two Destiny fans, who worked with Guite to create a series of videos incorporating the poems with Music of the Spheres. The video series was uploaded on February 22, 2019.[20] Additionally, Seven Heavens, Seven Hells was self-published by Guite in his poetry anthology After Prayer later that year.

In terms of the layout of the poetry, there are fourteen poems arranged in seven pairs. Each poem draws influences from Ward's book Planet Narnia, and the poems are arranged in a format called a roundel, where each poem has a main phrase that is repeated throughout (for instance, The Moon's phrase is "The Moon is Full").

Every two poems are 'opposing pairs'. According to Guite, "Each of the seven spheres has a certain cluster of associations and influences, Venus with love, Mars with war and martial valor, the Sun with gold, but also poetry and inspiration, etc. But equally, it is possible for each of these celestial influences to become corrupted and malign, for, as St. Augustine says, good is primal and evil is always a corruption of some original good. [sic]"[20] As such, the first poem of the opposing pair is diurnal, or the 'heavenly' sphere, and the second in the pair is the nocturnal, or the 'hellish' sphere.

Poet Malcolm Guite in a Bungie Office

To help Guite better understand the world of Destiny, O'Donnell gave Guite a list of phrases that summarized what Destiny was about. Guite was inspired by these phrases and wrote a fifteenth poem he called Earth's Enigmas. Guite wrote it without Bungie asking for it, so it was never used in the game. Earth's Enigmas was released in a video on December 23, 2018. [21]


  • The musical keys of the pieces go in the order of the overtone or Lydian dominant scale (C, D, E, F#, G, A, Bb).[3] This is used in-game during the Vault of Glass raid: each of the seven Oracles plays one note of the above scale determined by its position.
  • In an interview with Music Respawn, O'Donnell stated that an alternate mix of Hope for the Future by Paul McCartney with a boys choir is part of Music of the Spheres.[3] Curiously, this is not on the promotional CD or the official vinyl release of the album. However, this additional boys choir did appear in O'Donnell's own YouTube upload of Music of the Spheres, which has since been taken down.
  • Track 6, The Ecstacy, has been spelled as both "ecstasy" and "ecstacy" in official releases. In the Destiny Original Soundtrack, it is spelled as "The Ecstasy," whereas in The Music of Destiny, Volume 1, it appears as "The Ecstacy," using an archaic spelling of the word. In O'Donnell's YouTube upload of Music of the Spheres, one could see that the sheet music for the track also used the archaic spelling. The Music of the Spheres promotional artwork and CD use the modern spelling.
  • The leaked version of Music of the Spheres included subtitles for each track so that listeners would know which track corresponds with each planet. This release erroneously lists The Hope's subtitle as "Arrival." The Hope represents The Traveler on Earth, and the intention of the subtitle "Arrival" is to represent "The Traveler arriving to Earth." "Arrival" is not an official title or subtitle for the track. Additionally, the planetary subtitles present in the leak are not part of the official, intended track titles.