When we look at
music in games these days it becomes quite clear just how much it has
changed over the last 10 years or so. Gone are the two channel
ditties of Mario and Bubble Bobble, today's games see everything from
popular radio acts, to huge, sweeping orchestral scores. When it
comes to these sweeping orchestral scores in gaming one of the most
accomplished composers out there has to be Jeremy Soule whose past works
include Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Icewind Dale, and Total Annihilation.
Recently we had the opportunity to ask him about writing music for
games, what he's working on now, and the industry in general, so let's
get down to the interview, shall we?
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Interview With Jeremy
1. So, what was your first gig?
My first real gig in the games business came about in 1994 when I was
hired as an in house composer for SquareSoft. I landed this opportunity
as the result of a demo I created to showcase what I believed music for
games should sound like. I had played a lot of computer games and felt
the existing music lacked drama and intensity. So, I went out on a bit
of a limb, rented some state of the art equipment and made a demo.
Shortly after SquareSoft reviewed it, they offered me a job. Secret of
Evermore was the first title I composed for.
2. Many musicians seem to be drawn towards neat gadgets, like
effects pedals, modules, and such, like moths to a flame, especially in
the music shop with all those lovely dials, faders, and LCD displays
singing their siren song. Do you ever find yourself in "Gadget
Freak" mode when it comes to gear?
A few years ago, I was more of a "gadget freak" than I am now.
In fact, it's my brother Julian who pays more attention to the technical
end of things than I do. Overall, we believe it's much better to invest
in the best quality, high end equipment that does the job for years to
come, than to keep replacing one gadget for another. The gear we use in
our studio is all special order merchandise that is not available in
music stores. We do replace our PCs more often as faster processors and
more sophisticated mother boards are introduced. But, I'm basically
composing so much music that I don't have time to keep up with the
latest gizmos and gadgets.
3. Do you play many games in your spare time?
You bet - that is, if I have any spare time these days. Right now, I'm
spending a lot of time with two games I'm currently working on -
Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance and Dungeon Seige. Both of these outstanding
titles are scheduled for release this Fall. Of course, there's my old
favorite - The Seventh Guest - which I always go back to.
4. In your bio on your site it mentions that your brother and
yourself are working on making the most realistic synthesized orchestra
possible. What can you tell us about this? Has any of your game
soundtracks featured these samples?
For Julian and I, arriving at this goal will always be a work in
progress. We continually discover new ways to enhance the quality and
realism of our orchestral soundtracks. For example, during a recent
recording session with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, we became
inspired to work on emulating realistic surround environments in our own
studio. Some of our best work, so far, is evident in titles like Icewind
Dale, Heart of Winter and Giants:Citizen Kabuto but there is a
substantial leap in quality yet to come with Dungeon Siege and Dark
5. Does the interactive nature of games make composing music for a
title easier or harder?
It is much harder to compose music for entertainment that's interactive.
The variety of elements and options that constitute today's computer and
video games require a myriad of different musical arrangements and
compositions. From one scene to the next, I often compose the same piece
of music about a dozen times, dropping one instrument for another,
switching tunes back and forth, adding new sounds, etc. It's a
tremendous amount of work but for me, it is very gratifying to create
music that stirs the player's emotions and draws him further into the
6. In early games the melodies had a very noticeable presence,
allowing them to stand out but nowadays more and more game soundtracks
are following the route of film scores, using more subtle pieces. Do you
see game music continuing down this path, or is music for this
entertainment medium still experimenting in what direction it could go?
Just as in film, all of a game's components - the graphics, music, sound
effects, movements, characters, etc. - must work together to appeal to
all of a player's senses. The job of the musical score is to reflect and
enhance the various emotions experienced by the player. It's exactly
like the soundtrack for a film - when you combine it with the story,
characters and events portrayed on screen, it has a very powerful
effect. Game music must continue to evolve in this direction in order
for this entertainment medium to have lasting value.
7. How do you go about mentally preparing yourself for a project?
I try to take a little time off between projects, maybe four or five
days, to reset myself. During this time, I'll digest what I learned from
the previous project and formulate ideas to go forward with.
8. Is there a type of game that you haven't written music for that
you would especially like to in the future?
I would love to write music for any game created by Donkey Kong, Yoshi
and Zelda designer Shigeru Miyamoto. In my view, his games have exactly
the right balance of everything - button presses, exploratory story
elements, atmosphere - all the variables needed to really entice the
player. I'd love to work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra to
score the music for one of his titles. Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of
Final Fantasy, is another designer I would be thrilled to work with.
9. What would you say are the pros and cons of working with an
orchestra for a soundtrack?
You know, there really are no negatives about working with an orchestra.
Incorporating this live element into my music adds recognition and value
to the final product and ultimately gives it more staying power. An
orchestra adds a layer of magic not possible with computers.
10. Is there a particular piece you've written that you're
especially proud of?
I was very pleased with the music I created for the Icewind Dale titles.
Story-driven RPGs like these lend themselves well to capturing the
different moods of their adventures in the musical score. This is the
style of composing I enjoy most.
11. With PCs and consoles sporting near-photo realistic images do
game developers put too much emphasis on visuals and not enough on the
aural side of a project?
This was more the case a couple of years ago than it is today. Game
developers are becoming aware of what film producers have known for a
long time - that music is a very powerful part of the overall
entertainment experience. And, as the quality of game music continues to
rise, so to will the expectations and demands of the publishers and
12. What projects do you have on the go right now? Anything new we
should know about?
We just finished a large recording for Azurik: Rise of Perathia, an XBOX
game for Microsoft. This utilized the musicians of the Prague
Philharmonic comprised in a massive 88 musician orchestra. I'm very
excited about this title. At the moment, I'm working on Baldur's Gate
Dark Alliance for Interplay, Dungeon Siege for Gas Powered Games and
SOCOM for Sony. In a different arena, I'm also involved in an exciting
digital orchestra project for Adidas that will be shown around the world
in the coming months. This epic 2 minute commercial has a large, Olympic
sound that used the Soule Media digital orchestra.
Once again we'd
like to thank Jeremy for taking sometime out of his very busy schedule
to answer our questions. For more information about him be sure to
check out his website at: