When I was a kid, Star Wars was one of my essential gateways into fiction, into visual storytelling, into film, and into music. I grew up so immersed in the Star Wars universe that I might have spent more time there in my imagination than I did living in the real world!
At age seven, I designed and built LEGO versions of dozens of vehicles, spanning my entire basement floor. I also constructed a Millennium Falcon out of paper plates and VHS cassette boxes (resulting in a model that has survived over thirty years in the closet at my mom’s house). At eight, I stitched together brown strips of fabric and scrap metal to create a Tusken Raider halloween costume. I also hand-wrote my own novelizations of each film, meticulously describing every edit and line of dialog, filling three spiral notebooks, hundreds of pages pressed with of thousands of scribbled lines. At nine, I made a word-search of alien words and names from the books and films that covered twenty pages of graph paper taped together. At ten, I transcribed for piano nearly every cue John Williams wrote for the entire saga, memorizing hours-long piano performances of the scores. I carried this passion with me into my young adulthood, where I waited in line for hours outside Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, with my newfound college friends, to have our minds collectively blown by The Phantom Menace on the big screen.(more…)
2018 has blasted by in a flash! The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I realize I’ve fallen a bit behind with my blog. With this update, I plan on catching up on a few of the projects I’ve scored that have come out this summer, and I will look ahead at what is over the horizon for the rest of the year.
AURORA – QUEENDOM COME
First up, I was thrilled to collaborate with singer-songwriter AURORA to produce a Celtic-inspired version of her track “Queendom Come.” The single was used by Electronic Arts for the official E3 reveal trailer for Unravel Two.
Last spring, I got a call from my friend Steve Schnur at EA who said that the marketing team really loved this particular AURORA song, but wished it had a more acoustic, even Celtic, sound. Somehow, Steve thought of me as someone who might enjoy doing music in this style! I listened to her song and fell in love with it immediately. The harmonic progression was satisfying, the melody and vocals were haunting, and the lyrics were nostalgic and moving. I knew right away I would have a blast working on the track.(more…)
VERY LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: This blog will discuss only plot points made clear from early reviews and trailers.
CHAPTER 1 – INTO MIDGARD
One rainy November afternoon, over three years ago, I walked into Sony PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio to meet with acclaimed music producers Pete Scaturro and Keith Leary to discuss a new, secret project. Our conversation revolved around folk music, Northern European ethnic instruments, vocal writing, classical thematic development, bombastic percussion and, eventually, Greek and Norse mythology. “Wait a minute.” I said. “Is this… a new God of War?” Their hesitant facial expressions told me everything I needed to know. I realized I was about to tumble headfirst into a daunting and challenging dream project.
For the uninitiated, God of War is massively popular video game series for Sony PlayStation, PSP and mobile platforms that ran for seven games from 2005 to 2013. The games were famous (and somewhat infamous) for their visceral depictions of sex and violence, epitomized by the central revenge-seeking character, Kratos. The franchise had been dormant for years, leaving fans to speculate if we would ever again see a continuation of the character.
In my first meeting at Santa Monica Studio, I realized I was witnessing Kratos’ saga unfold in a surprising new direction, moving away from Greek to Norse mythology. I was brought on board so early that the game had not yet been officially greenlit. There existed only an early build of a prototype level and concept paintings. Yet, these assets showed me that Kratos had matured, that the story would explore deeper themes, and that there was a new central character by his side – his son, Atreus. I was intrigued, and excited to dive in.(more…)
God of War will return for Playstation 4, and I am honored to score it.
In addition to composing all new themes and score for this beloved franchise, I was thrilled to take part in the game’s unveiling, by performing my original theme and gameplay music with a full orchestra at Playstation’s E3 2016 press conference at the Shrine auditorium in front of five thousand people.
Unlike most press conferences, the first sound heard was an orchestra tuning up. Then, I emerged from behind the red curtain and walked to the front of the group. I took a bow, turned to my musicians, and raised my hands. The crowd hushed. Clearly this show would not start with speeches or visuals, but would begin with music. With my arms raised in anticipation, I took a deep, long breath. I reminded myself to enjoy every second of what was about to unfold: scoring a live playing of a video game in real time with a full orchestra. (more…)
I have been a fan of Ubisoft’s acclaimed Assassin’s Creed series since its inception. I was always drawn to the franchise’s unique combination of historical fantasy, science fiction, groundbreaking graphics, detailed world-building, and immaculate soundscapes. Of course, I was thrilled at the opportunity to compose the original score for the Jack the Ripper downloadable content for the new Assassin’s Creed game. Collaborating with the team at Ubisoft was every bit as rewarding and exciting as I had imagined, and the end result yielded one of the most intense, mysterious, and vicious scores I’ve ever composed. I was so excited about it, I partnered with Ubisoft to release the soundtrack album, coming to your favorite digital retailers on December 15th, and already available for pre-order from iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify. (more…)
This month brings us the long-awaited rollout of the groundbreaking multimedia science fiction epic “Defiance.” Developed from the beginning as both a SyFy television series and an immersive videogame from Trion Worlds, “Defiance” marks the first attempt to debut a franchise of this scale in two unique formats.
The game and the series take place in a future Earth, terraformed by invading alien races known as the Votan. Themes of exploration, racial tension and frontier life have been transplanted from the western genre and fit perfectly in this strange new vision of our world. The game and series share principal characters, visual effects, production design and story arcs. They also have one other important characteristic in common: the original score. (more…)
I love spaceships.
There’s little that ignites my imagination more than the swashbuckling outer space dogfights of yesteryear. So, I was excited to write a bombastic, retro-infused soundtrack for “Moon Breakers” — a multi-player online combat game from Imba Entertainment / Uber Entertainment that is now available to play for free on Steam.
To celebrate the game’s launch on this popular platform, we are releasing my complete score on iTunes and Amazon mp3. You get 20 minutes of pulse-pounding space battle music for less than $4! Click the images below to download the “Moon Breakers” album from your favorite online retailer:
SOCOM 4 is the most exotic score I’ve composed, one that represents a striking step away from the usual tone of the shooter videogame genre. Though I was attracted to the idea of scoring a big military game with a unique sound, I wanted to ensure that fans of the classic SOCOM series would recognize the musical identity of the franchise. But, I also wanted them to experience new music for this new adventure. SOCOM 4 has a distinct tone that sets it apart from the other games, so its score had to stand apart as well.
As with all the other projects I’ve ever tackled, my first task was to figure out the style, instrumentation and language I would be writing in. There are three primary factions in SOCOM 4 so I decided to represent each with a different type of music: Traditional Eastern instruments represent the local insurgents, Western Symphonic writing represents the heroic main character while Electronic Music signified the private military company Clawhammer. (more…)
After several years working on SOCOM 4, I recently had the chance to play through the game and hear my score in action. The developers and I had lofty goals when we started this process, so I was curious to see how it all came together. Would the music integrate into the gameplay as seamlessly as we’d hoped?
As I played through SOCOM 4, I realized the functionality of videogame music is something I’ve thought about for nearly my entire life. I first started playing games when I was a kid. At that time, in the mid-1980’s, videogame music had basically just been born. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, game sound effects and music were a virtually indistinguishable glob of beeps and chirps. Music had no emotional impact on the gaming experience.
However, in the early 80’s, the ever-forward march of technology gave birth to the Nintendo Entertainment System. This glorious piece of hardware allowed for five discreet sound channels, played off an on-board synthesizer. The combination of triangle waves, sine waves and white noise allowed for disparate timbres and tones. The differentiation of tone colors is one of the key aspects of orchestration, so the NES actually paved the way for the first “orchestrated” videogame music.
Game consoles now had the ingredients necessary to create real music. The capacity for polyphony, dynamics and timbre led to the inclusion of counterpoint, harmony, accompaniment and melody. Videogame composers in the 1980’s took these limited tools, and sculpted truly memorable music. (more…)