The Best in the Business: Dragon Age II Composer Inon Zur
Inon Zur is an immensely talented man. Recipient of a number of awards, including a Hollywood Music in Media Award in 2009 for Best Original Video Game Song (Dragon Age: Origins – "I Am the One"), Zur is one of the best composers in the video game industry. His sweeping scores have graced dozens of games, including Dragon Age: Origins, Crysis, Fallout 3, Prince of Persia and many more. With his latest project (Dragon Age II) hitting store shelves today, I checked in with Zur to gain some insight into his composition process. You can see our entire conversation transcribed below. As you read, be sure to listen to the music embedded throughout the piece.
Eric Blattberg: Tell me a bit about yourself. How did your interest in music composition begin, and how did you arrive where you are today?
Inon Zur: I was born in Israel, and since a very early age I showed everybody how much I loved music. My parents got it, and put me through a lot of music [training]. I’ve been studying piano and French horn from an early age, and I attended a lot of classical music classes. By the time that I was 18, I was very informed about everything that had to do with (mainly classical) music. And then I had to be recruited to the Israeli army, and I served four years, so I got disconnected from the whole field.
After I was released, I really wanted to continue my music adventure. After taking some courses at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, I realized, “I’m not sure this is for me,” and decided to move to the United States. I studied here at a very, very good school called the Grove School of Music. It doesn’t exist anymore, but in the 90s it was extremely strong. It was really was of the stronger building blocks of my career. I attended for one year, then I studied more at UCLA, and damn, here I am.
Dragon Age II - Main Theme
So, now that you’re here, tell me what you do on a day-to-day basis. What’s a day in the life of Inon Zur like?
It’s a fair amount of picking up the older kid, and the middle kid, then helping my wife with the smaller kid — and then I can start working. Work is a lot of composition. I’m engaged usually with at least three to four projects on a regular basis, so it’s a lot of delegating. Every day I’m targeting how many minutes I’m going to compose today, and I have to meet this challenge, otherwise I’ll fall behind and I don’t want to. It’s also a lot of studio work, sometimes it’s traveling, but mainly it’s me and myself here.
Dragon Age: Origins - I Am The One
After composing Dragon Age: Origins’ award-winning score, did you feel pressured to produce an even more brilliant soundtrack for the sequel? How did you approach that challenge?
The challenge is always there whether it’s award-winning or not. The pressure is always on to produce something… well, I always want to produce something better, but I realize this is not always totally up to me. I mean, it sort of is, but I don’t have much control of this, it depends how it comes out. I do my best.
But every new project presents a huge amount of challenge. You know, when people see my name they have certain expectations, and I’m trying to live up to them and it’s not easy.
Dragon Age II - Qunari On The Rise
Did you work with the Northwest Sinfonia orchestra for Dragon ... (continued on next page)