|Jeremy Soule - Music in Games 1 (engl. Version) (interview von yak)|
Hi Jeremy, thank you very much that you are at our disposal for an interview,
and with this we hope to sharpen the sense of the people to pay attention
to the music in computer games a little bit. Therefore we addressed a
master of this field in order to get to know a few things concerning the
development towards orchestral music in computer games.
First I would like to ask you some biographical questions. How did you
get towards "music" itself ?
I loved music from the day I was born. My father, a very disciplined
music teacher, and mother, a talented graphic artist, recognized that and supported
me all the way through. I'm told I used to come home from preschool with scribbled
Has your vocational training been orientated in a classical way ? Yes,
I began studying counterpoint and composition at a very young age at the
My education came primarily from private study with some of the
best instructors and musicians in the country - Dr. Paul Paccione and Dr. Michael
Campbell from Western Illinois University and Dr. William Smith, head of composition
at the University of Washington.
Who are your favorite musicians in the classical field or in the field
of film composers ?
Haydn and Mozart are two of my favorite classical composers. These
days, I find myself listening to a lot of Baroque Era music. I don't much listen
to music that is bombastic as I write a lot of that sort of thing in my days composing.
How did you get into the world of computer games?
I had a couple of early game consoles such as the Atari 2600.
Even then, I thought games had the potential to create virtual environments. Later
on, I became more of a PC game enthusiast and enjoyed playing Ultima Underworld
along with adventure games from Lucas Arts. I never really thought about making
a living in games. It just sort of happened to be the way I found an outlet for
Do you play computer games yourself ? If yes, which are your favorites?
I'm spending a lot of time with beta software these days and have
really enjoyed Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls from Bethesda. It's a beautiful game.
I also can't get enough of Dungeon Siege. That game is simply amazing.
Which is the primary/fundamental difference between compositions of soundtracks
for computer games, soundtracks for movies, or concert works?
Games are just about the hardest medium to score as they are often
3-D, nonlinear and fairly unpredictable. Movies are easy by comparison. In fact,
I write about twice as fast when I'm writing for a movie as I do for ingame music.
Concert works are a luxury for most composers to produce. I personally love the
idea of creating music for music's sake. However, I find it difficult to find the
time to produce works for orchestra halls. So many other composers, including John
Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, have this dilemma as well.
Your list of top-class game soundtracks is just impressive: Giants, Icewind
Dale and currently the music of the Harry Potter game are amongst others
the best one in orchestral computer soundtracks. How do you select your
In general, I want to make sure that any project I'm involved
with has a number of good attributes including great people, a first-rate design
and scheduling serendipity.
How do you get your musical "mood" for the game, when do you get your
inspiration, do you get a kind of script before? Is there some sort of
prescription concerning the style of the soundtrack, be it a complete
orchestra, electronics or choirs?
I compose from visuals. Other things are important too, but for
me, what the game looks like influences how it sounds. How I arrive at the music
differs for each project, but I greatly enjoy seeing the marriage of music and
Do you get prescriptions by the producers or do you have a free choice?
Is the working method concerning computer games similar to those of the
movie industries, regarding the usage of temp-tracks?
Some of my games have temp music. However, it's usually there
just to give a ballpark figure to the feel of the music. I often will create sketches
for the producers to hear in advance. This is a way for me to hone in on exactly
what the producers and game require before going into a full production.
How much time do you have at your disposal for the development? Is the
soundtrack not being created until the game is practically finished?
The timeline of composition for film and software is relatively
similar. However, games are usually not finished until the last second. So, I don't
necessarily have a "locked" picture to work with. This can be frustrating at times.
I often tell game makers that music is "post-production" in every medium other
than software--and for good reason! Music should always be the LAST thing that
is done for a game. Why? Because music is a language that reflects the game. And
if the game isn't close to being finished when the music is composed, the music
itself will always sound unfinished. This is because a composer generally composes
what's visually in front of him or her.
Are there restrictions on budget or is there for instance a possibility
to let the soundtrack be played by a full orchestra, as it has already
been the case with "Heart of Darkness" (Bruce Broughton) or "Outcast"?
Oh sure, game makers that hire orchestras are very brave indeed!
This is why I put so much emphasis on being able to produce fine scores electronically.
I love the orchestra, but for a lot of companies, it's just not economically feasible.
Which sort of technical equipment are used?
I use a myriad of Macs and PCs loaded with all sorts of software
these days. My studio looks more like a networking room than a musician's space.
Which game would you have liked most to compose music for?
Sovereign was one of the most exhilarating projects for me as
it gave me the chance to work with the largest orchestra ensemble of my career
so far. Being in the orchestra hall brought about a very unique feeling. Although,
I will say that every game I've worked on has brought special feelings and experiences.
Is there a consideration of techniques like EAX tone and MP3 during the
creation of the soundtrack? Are there advantages, disadvantages of the
use of MP3?
I rarely have to think about audio formats anymore. They all sound
fairly good. Audio streams are here to stay. I don't anticipate seeing games going
back to onboard synthesizers.
What about the future and capability of development concerning interactive
I'm keeping very abreast of the latest music technology for games
and I can say the future is exciting.
How is it possible to change the soundtrack according to the present
situation within the game without disturbing the fluency of the soundtrack
or the composition, unless using the fade in/out method?
Game music will never work exactly like a movie. I often use crossfades
and transition music. However, the good ole' crash edit works well even though
the scene needs to change rapidly to make it work. A lot of people don't realize
how abruptly the music changes in films! Listen to "the sixth sense" and you'll
hear some very surprising turns. I don't think game soundtracks need to be a continuous
symphony with no bumps or surprises. I think a lot of programmers would like to
see music be controlled to the level that everything else in the game is. This
is simply not necessary and really, at the end of the day the only thing that matters
is how well the music is composed and how reasonably it is placed in the game.
How do you approach your composition? Are there games which are literally
screaming for a take over of a certain "leitmotiv" (for instance the theme
of Star Wars / Darth Vader or Indiana Jones) in order to imply a recognition
of certain characters, or respectively to create tension, or is it still
technological impossible to implement such issues, to integrate them interactively?
All games are different. Yet, I can say that with the proper design,
what you're describing is possible and has been done in quite a few games to some
degree. The more interactive a score is, however, the more demand it places on
programming staff to pay attention to what the composer's intentions are. On short
deadlines, this is very difficult to achieve.
In Japan games soundtracks gain a much higher value than in Europe (…or
America?) which is visible at the publications of these soundtracks which
partly are even played once more with a complete orchestra (Final Fantasy).
Do you vision the future of game soundtracks to be a new way to bring
modern, classical orientated music in public, or does it seem to remain
a marginal appearance?
Game soundtracks will always be something for hobbyist to collect.
It really isn't any different for many film soundtracks. However, if the record
industry starts to work more cooperatively with the game industry, some day there
will be a #1 hit song that was composed for a game--just as in films.
Did you receive prescriptions with regard to the composition of the harry
potter game to orientate yourself by John William's original movie soundtrack
? The game ought to be completely identical with the movie, also concerning
the graphics and scenarios in order to not produce any stylistic break.
Was it the same with the kind/sort of music?
For Harry Potter, I simply had to guess what John Williams was
going to do. I composed my score before he recorded his so naturally, I did my
best to create some continuity to the film through anticipation.
Do you compose in a traditional manner? On the piano or the computer?
Both. I have a concert grand piano that I spend a lot of time
playing and I often hand notate melodies and such. The computer is really comes
into use in later stages.
You are put in charge to set blockbusters into music, like Dungeon Siege
and Unreal 2.Is it possible to say anything about the musical direction/style
of the games?
I can just say that I'm really happy with the work I've done on
these games! Stay tuned...
An amount of people already call you the John Williams of computer soundtracks.
Are you proud of this or does it rather restrict you in your work?
Well, what John Williams did for film scores is that he brought
respectability back to orchestral methods of scoring movies. A lot of movies during
the early Star Wars era were using cheesy 70's pop tunes for their scores. People
have mostly forgotten these movies. The orchestra, however is a timeless medium.
It's NEVER out of style. If anything, I hope my orchestral works in software survive
the tests of time. Would you rather like to continue to set games into music or
are movie soundtracks and concerts works more demanding to you? Movies are easier
for me to score and provide a different creative experience. Yet, I plan to continue
my game career for years. It's just too much fun!
Are there similar problems with mixing the soundtracks of the games with
the sound effects as it is the case with movies and the sound effects
there, or does the composer of game soundtracks get much more into contact
with the section which is responsible for the effects, respectively is
he literally involved in this process as well?
Yes. Anytime you have multiple elements of sound, there needs
to be some coordination between them. I often serve as an audio director in games.
I have experience in sound design and engineering issues. Music just happens to
be my focus.
Can music pluck your heartstrings emotionally?
I've learned to separate my music from my own personal feelings.
Otherwise, I'd go crazy writing this stuff all day.
Which of your work in the field of computer games are you most proud
I'm proud of every game I've worked on that has helped to make
a difference in the overall entertainiment experience.
Thank you for your efforts and your time that you have been at our disposal
and thank you very much for the interview.