SourceHello everyone and welcome to the third installment of the Wolfenstein IGN Blog!
Today we are talking with Bill Brown, the composer for the upcoming Wolfenstein game (among many other things). Bill Brown has had a fantastic career in music composition and was also the composer for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which was released in 2001. His music is a perfect fit for the Wolfenstein universe, and we were absolutely thrilled when we got the chance to work with him again.
Thanks for joining us today, Bill.
First, could you please tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I moved to L.A. from New York where I was working on commercials back in 1994. In 1996, I started writing music for games. In seven or eight years I had scored over 50 game titles and also got my feet wet in film and television. In 2004, when a director friend of mine asked me to come meet the producers of CSI:NY - my life changed.. Now I'm on my fifth season composing the music for CSI:NY - having a blast doing it and looking forward to more... This past summer I scored a little indie horror film starring Cuba Gooding Jr., directed by Jason Connery called "The Devil's Tomb". I'm proud of the score for that one too - we recorded with a live orchestra, and I had many opportunities to create both dark textural landscapes, and some thematic, pulsing underscore.. The DVD comes out in May.. plug.. You can read (and hear) more at my site http://www.billbrownmusic.com
What did you enjoy the most from your work on Return to Castle Wolfenstein?
I think the first thing I worked on (back in 1997-199 when RTCW came up was the intro movie.. They really did a fantastic job with that and it was just a pleasure to score.. and then it became kind of iconic for a while in the game industry - everyone was talking about it which was cool, good for the game too. I ended up using my themes from that cinematic as the thread that tied the score together. I've always said that was probably the most fun I've ever had working on a game and it mostly had to do with the people I worked with and the fun we had together working on the project. And just as important for me, the project and the music were really interesting to work on.
What approach do you take when making music for a video game versus other media?
The important thing to remember with scoring games is that the player is steering it, and they might live with the score for longer periods of time as compared to film or television - so you have to create the score accordingly.. Sometimes it's reactive down to the most minute detail, and sometimes you are covering a wide range of events with one piece.. That makes it an interesting challenge musically - and keeps us on our toes. I've always believed the music has to have a soul regardless. It needs to be connected thematically / texturally and then it needs to support the action in whatever shape it takes.
When you were asked to create the music for the latest Wolfenstein game, what resources did you use to decide on the direction you would take with the music?
When we started, there was initially the same amount of minutes set up for the game as the previous one, somewhere between 20-30 minutes total. In RTCW, we broke those minutes up into 20 and 30 second loops and essentially covered the entire gaming experience and I thought it was pretty successful. We made it work within those parameters and the game had a real soul to it musically I felt, which is ideally what we are going for within any audio-visual / story-telling context. With Wolfenstein, we started with similar parameters, and then after I wrote the first twenty or so minutes of music, the producers decided it was worth expanding the budget and the scope of work to create twice as much music for Wolfenstein. I was really pleased to hear they made that decision... (of course) Now with over 60 minutes of music, and an entirely original and fresh score, I think we've matched the incredible new environments and story-lines in Wolfenstein, piece by piece. The game is so cool in that it really feels like you're picking up where RTCW left off, and then it takes a left turn and this incredible narrative opens up.. I guess I can't go into too much detail.. but I read the entire story-line and got to see every new level as I worked and really get inside the game.. and it is thrilling, and still carries that haunting essence of World War II drama - with some killer twists..
Wolfenstein has always been about fast-paced combat and supernatural surprises, do these cornerstones of the franchise make it an easy game to work on?
I have to say absolutely yes, a project like this is a gift for a composer.. You can basically create the biggest, most outrageous, wildly exotic music you can think of - and at the same time, work within that haunting dramatic framework that was World War II.
What can players expect from the music in Wolfenstein?
Big, dark, angular, intense, dense orchestral music that feels sonically like it could have been imagined and created in the 1940's.. You might feel a connection to the music from Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but it has all been taken to the next level.. just like the game.
What were your inspirations for the music we can find in the new game?
With Wolfenstein, my goal from very early in the process was to create some parameters to work within so the score stayed true to the game and true to itself. I even wrote a 8 or 10 point mission statement for the score in the first month of scoring! But essentially, the idea was to create something that really took you back to that era musically - emotionally and sonically.. and as it turned out Bernard Herrmann became a big inspiration for me in the process. I originally was listening to things like Raiders of the Lost Ark for inspiration, but as it turned out - the direction it wanted to go in was more along the lines of Herrmann's scores. Also, that type of angular, dark music is something I gravitate towards naturally anyway - so it was organic that it went in that direction.
Were you shown parts of the new game? If so, what did you think of it compared to previous Wolfenstein titles you have worked on?
Yes, I've experienced most of the game now.. What I love about it is that nothing has been lost. The essence and soul of the previous games lives on in this title.. and then it picks up and explodes into something totally new in an unexpected way. I obviously can't give it away - but it's surprisingly intense and eerie and.. oh heck, just play the game, you'll see what I mean... http://www.billbrownmusic.com
Click here for a sample of the Wolfenstein soundtrack.
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