Many of us remember our favorite games instantly from a well composed tune. Epic video game soundtracks creates breathtaking images in our mind, tells epic stories and fills adventurous backgrounds. This type of music was born in 8 bit era, but changed significantly over a few decades. With increased technical capabilities, gaming industry has reached a new generation of developers who have created many unforgettable tunes for digital adventures.
Three-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur is one of them. This composer is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic original music scores for film, television and popular video game franchises, such as the “Fallout” series, “Dragon Age” series, “Prince of Persia” series and Disney’s “Fantasia”.
Zur’s best-selling soundtrack for “Fallout 4” was selected as one of the best video game scores of 2015 by the “British Academy of Film and Television Arts” and “Classic FM”. His BAFTA‐nominated score for Disney’s “Fantasia” was also among the honorees of The Best Video Game Music of 2014. His latest projects include Ubisoft’s first virtual reality game, “Eagle Flight”, a breathtaking flight simulation experience set in the skies of Paris and the third installment in the adventure game series “Syberia” developed by Microïds.
Inon Zur’s music has been performed in concerts worldwide by A-list orchestras including the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. This September his musical talent will also enrich the halls of “Litexpo” during “GameOn Live” performance. Excited for the upcoming show we briefly spoke with the composer about his taste in music and video games.
Let’s get back in time for a while, how did you became familiar with music production? What inspired and driven You to become a composer?
Since a very early age I was drawn very strongly to music. I listened to music, especially classical music, since the age of 3 with the encouragement of my parents. Later on I started playing piano and right away wrote simple melodies. I understood more and more that not only playing music but writing music is a very deep part of me, a passion that I carry with me to this day.
You’ve been working in cinema and TV industry before video games. What inspired your transition?
I knew very little about music for video games until 1996 when I was introduced to this world by an agent and I was immediately captivated by how innovative a medium it could be and how much creative freedom there was. I recognized the enthusiasm of the young creators in this field and I wanted to be part of this growing art form. I also recognized the possibilities in recording live orchestras and this made me even more eager to get on board this new media.
Many people turn to their favorite music in times of great sadness, joy or while looking for inspiration or relaxation. What is Inon Zur’s go to composers, albums or songs?
I simply love The Beatles and every time I really want to get excited I just listen to them. I love John Williams; he’s always a source of inspiration, and Thomas Newman. I love jazz and listen to Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. I also like to go back and listen to my favorite classical composers such as Dvořák, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.
What about your personal connection with games? Do you consider yourself a gamer?
I don’t consider myself a gamer although I really love playing the games, especially while I’m actually composing the music. When I’m first exposed to how the music works in the game, that is really exciting for me. Usually I don’t have enough time to play games but every time I do get to play one, especially VR, I really enjoy it.
What was the first game you’ve scored? How do you feel about it now?
“Star Trek: Klingon Academy” – I was very happy with the collaboration with “Interplay” as they really helped me understand the process and were very open to my musical ideas. It was a great start for me in the industry with a company who really valued music in games and knew what to do with it even in those early days. I also got to record the Seattle Symphony and LA choir for this project and that was a great leap in my recording career.
We can only imagine you get many offers to create music for a game. Could you describe how do you choose which games are worth your time?
I don’t think that I choose the projects; I think the projects choose me. Usually people come to me because they like my music so I love to give them back the same appreciation and work on their projects. I’m very grateful to be involved with so many great projects.
You are famous for being an innovator in instruments used for music creation. If we could label your work process with unusual sounds and instruments as experiments, which of those was the most fascinating and why?
There are several categories. I like to play traditional instruments and manipulate the sounds so that you may not recognize their sound but they still carry a lot of character.
Another approach is to take non-musical instruments and play in a traditional way such as bowing objects and making them sound musical. The third option is taking traditional instruments and playing them in non-traditional ways, such as bowing piano strings, hammering on the piano strings, shouting through flutes instead of blowing into them. In essence it’s all about trying to be creative and achieve expressive sounds so that the audience experiences a sound that they’ve never heard before but will work together with the score.
Video games as a medium has no limitations and recently we saw many games focused around music. From fast paced racing games, to dancing simulators. You yourself worked on a very experimental and truly immersive Disney’s “Fantasia” game, what is your take on the topic?
I think that games based on music such as “Guitar Hero”, “Dance Central” and “Fantasia” are loved by the gaming audience. We all know that a lot of gamers are also music fanatics; the average gamer is an avid music lover and very knowledgeable about music. That’s why I’m very optimistic about creating games that are based on music and I think it’s a great idea.
What music in video games means to you?
The video game world has been my creative home for twenty years so I feel very comfortable in this industry. I know many people in the industry and the music, which is a big part of it, became the world around me and I’m very happy where I am.
“GameOn Live” will happen during “GameOn III” convention on September 16th-17th.