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Jeremy Soule interview- on games, OCR, and more


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I don't usually like to plug my own stuff, but thought the OCR community at large might be interested in this interview I did with Jeremy Soule last week. He talks about his career, what drives him in his work, submitting to OCR, and many other things (including games he's worked/working on).

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

http://www.g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/684326/Jeremy_Soule_Talks_Music_And_Games_With_XPlay.html#readmore

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It definitely was a great interview and I appreciate a lot of what he was saying but I was a little upset about a bit of classical "elitism" that seemed to come thru in some of his passages.

Granted, he's one of the most talented musicians in the industry, and his work is among the most beautiful you could hope to find in any game soundtracks, period. And I definitely agree wholeheartedly with his whole stance on prefab music being overused in the industry.

But at the same time, the notion that classical composition is one of the pinnacles of musical achievement to me is a bit narrow-minded, especially as far as the work on this site is concerned. He even seemed to look down on sound design which I suppose makes sense because if you're conducting an orchestra you're basically working with preset sounds (instruments that haven't changed for hundreds of years sometimes).

But a lot of great work is based on sound design - on the discovery and creation of entirely new sounds and textures which cannot possibly be performed by any orchestral instrments. Drum loops and samples may be overused, but people can also use them in creative, interesting ways to make songs which are simply impossible to perform.

Trust me I'm not crapping on Jeremy's considerable talent. In fact, sometime in my life I'd like to study enough orchestration to be able to compose something that sounds as good as just ONE of his better works. But for all his merits, I wish he would've also emmbraced some of the newer, more modern forms and creation methods of music, instead of simply seeming to dismiss it in defense of orchestral music. There's other music out there that doesn't take 60 performers to play 15 different parts, and it's not fair to say that the experimental stuff is completely without its own musical merits as well.

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It read to me more that he wasn't knocking sound design so much as he was knocking prefab loops. The only thing I thought that sounded arrogant was the statement that classical music will outlive everything, and I definitely don't agree with it. Sure, your average top-40 song has very little melodic and harmonic creativity, but there's plenty out there that does. Some jazz arrangements are significantly more complex than a lot of classical music, for that matter, simply because when compared to the baroque and classical periods, jazz uses far more advanced tone colors and voicings.

There's also the fact that some of the earliest users of synthesizers did a lot to push the musical envelope while still using more arranged techniques: the big 3 jazz keyboard players (Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock) come to mind.

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It definitely was a great interview and I appreciate a lot of what he was saying but I was a little upset about a bit of classical "elitism" that seemed to come thru in some of his passages.

It's not elitism, it's conservatism. Soule is definitely a traditionalist. That's just his style.

I think it's awesome how a question on his career origins (a rather dull question that he probably gets asked daily) turned into a rant about academia vs. technology. You can tell he cares a great deal about composing game music and how terrible it'd be if the industry were overrun by tool-dependent sound designers (the bad kind, not the good kind.) I like the quote about the History and Discovery channels, because stock music is a cheap solution that edges out a lot of real talent. Luckily games have avoided this for the most part.

He's also right about market oversaturation for composers. It's probably one of the most hellish job markets in the world because technology makes it so easy. Aren't most indie directors scoring their own films these days?

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Good to see a good interview out of him. Seems like most interviewers don't seem to care and don't bother doing their homework to ask good questions. Good job!

Thanks :)

Yeah, I had many other questions for him, but the entire interview was getting on by the time I ended it, so I figured I could save them for some other time. There are also a few snippets I left out because they didn't really have much to do with anything. He's very passionate about what he does, and I probably could have let him talk for a couple hours with only three or four questions. It was also a real privilege for me to talk to him; Secret of Evermore is one of my favorite soundtracks ever, and I've been planning this interview in my head for a long time.

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It's not elitism, it's conservatism. Soule is definitely a traditionalist. That's just his style.

I think it's awesome how a question on his career origins (a rather dull question that he probably gets asked daily) turned into a rant about academia vs. technology. You can tell he cares a great deal about composing game music and how terrible it'd be if the industry were overrun by tool-dependent sound designers (the bad kind, not the good kind.) I like the quote about the History and Discovery channels, because stock music is a cheap solution that edges out a lot of real talent. Luckily games have avoided this for the most part.

He's also right about market oversaturation for composers. It's probably one of the most hellish job markets in the world because technology makes it so easy. Aren't most indie directors scoring their own films these days?

I suppose you're right about that one, he is definitely a traditionalist in that sense and his style and ideals certainly have their place. But the flipside would be - if everyone approached music like him - then soundtracks like the ones to Katamari Damacy or Loco Roco would never exist. And as much as I love orchestral arrangements, not having the Katamari soundtrack would make me a very, very sad little man.

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It definitely was a great interview and I appreciate a lot of what he was saying but I was a little upset about a bit of classical "elitism" that seemed to come thru in some of his passages.

Granted, he's one of the most talented musicians in the industry, and his work is among the most beautiful you could hope to find in any game soundtracks, period. And I definitely agree wholeheartedly with his whole stance on prefab music being overused in the industry.

But at the same time, the notion that classical composition is one of the pinnacles of musical achievement to me is a bit narrow-minded, especially as far as the work on this site is concerned. He even seemed to look down on sound design which I suppose makes sense because if you're conducting an orchestra you're basically working with preset sounds (instruments that haven't changed for hundreds of years sometimes).

But a lot of great work is based on sound design - on the discovery and creation of entirely new sounds and textures which cannot possibly be performed by any orchestral instrments. Drum loops and samples may be overused, but people can also use them in creative, interesting ways to make songs which are simply impossible to perform.

Trust me I'm not crapping on Jeremy's considerable talent. In fact, sometime in my life I'd like to study enough orchestration to be able to compose something that sounds as good as just ONE of his better works. But for all his merits, I wish he would've also emmbraced some of the newer, more modern forms and creation methods of music, instead of simply seeming to dismiss it in defense of orchestral music. There's other music out there that doesn't take 60 performers to play 15 different parts, and it's not fair to say that the experimental stuff is completely without its own musical merits as well.

Amen. Trance is the complete opposite of his style because its ALL about sound design. But the balance is a good melody as well. So many producers give the genre a bad name. If you can create an atmosphere, no matter the pallette, with a hummable melody, then you have accomplished something that has substance and sentiment IMO

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Interesting interview, but I think he definitely seems to look down on "working" composers. I write a lot of production music myself, and I don't think that means I'm not a "man", to use his words. Yes, I use Stylus, but I use it creatively. Some people don't have the time or luxury to do exquisitely crafted orchestral scores, and sometimes spending that much time is not worth the paltry sum you'll receive for your work.

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Interesting interview, but I think he definitely seems to look down on "working" composers. I write a lot of production music myself, and I don't think that means I'm not a "man", to use his words. Yes, I use Stylus, but I use it creatively. Some people don't have the time or luxury to do exquisitely crafted orchestral scores, and sometimes spending that much time is not worth the paltry sum you'll receive for your work.

totally agree with that. and what's more... net every situation calls for a gorgeous, sweeping score. A lot of commercials/ movies/ games/ sites lend themselves perfectly to much more simplistic, repetitious music. It may not be ambitious or emotionally resonant, but if it's appropriate, it works.

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I suppose you're right about that one, he is definitely a traditionalist in that sense and his style and ideals certainly have their place. But the flipside would be - if everyone approached music like him - then soundtracks like the ones to Katamari Damacy or Loco Roco would never exist. And as much as I love orchestral arrangements, not having the Katamari soundtrack would make me a very, very sad little man.

I don't think it's so much a problem that he feels everyone should be like him, rather that there aren't enough people like him. He obviously can't be against everything non-orchestral, but I'm sure when approached by aspiring composers who want to be like him he's going to be a huge proponent of classical music, because that's what got him where he is today. Admittedly a rarity in that business.

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Interesting interview. I love most of Soule's work, but what he said about sound sequencing is especially interesting for me. Let us speak of the Morrowind theme. Obviously an epic, great piece of music, I think most of us who've heard it can agree with that. But I always felt like he could have done a lot more with it. I felt like that theme was too subdued, like there was an amazing melody there just wanting to bust loose and have fun. It fit in the somewhat quiet, subdued context of the game, but still... something was missing.

So then, a couple months after I first heard that song, Fray's song Fear Not got posted here on OC ReMix. A pulsating electronica track, and I feel like it expanded on the Morrowind theme musically and sonically, and gave it a power and presence that it richly deserved. That's what I love most about remixing.

Jeremy had a great idea with the Morrowind theme, but in my opinion he didn't push it to the wall and take it as far as it could go. NOT because he was wrong, but because in his mind, the theme was finished. Fray took it and ran with it in a direction I doubt Jeremy even considered. He gave it a sweeping majesty, a great beat, and a raw power that were kind of hiding in the original, and it was completely electronic. Other people have remixed it other ways, using sequencing, composing, sound design... it's amazing to me to see people take that starting point of the original and explore all the different tangents it can musically take. The Final Stage was another take on the same theme, and it sounds like it could be the credits theme for Braveheart. Completely different from both Fray and Jeremy.

The point is, what Jeremy's talking about is, in one sense, true. The classical 'components' of music, if you will, forms and structures, those are ageless, and I think composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, all of them will indeed be foundational to music as a whole probably ad infinitum. But it's closed minded to say that little to no good can come from composing outside of that mold. My favorite bands in the world are the rule-breakers, people that ignore certain parts of the musical bedrock in favor of pure sound. Bands like Rush, Tool, Imogen Heap, Blue man Group and others come to mind. It's not necessarily a bad thing to give the finger to some of the rules. Know them and respect them, yes, but feel free to cut new path too.

EDIT: Mr. Robson, since you're here and most everything I've heard from you is jaw-droppingly awesome, I'll ask you. I know you're highly trained, but it's my understanding that you compose almost exclusively with samples. Provided my information is correct, what's your opinion as far as sound sequencing and editing being 'second rate' if you will?

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It's funny that he's touting the orchestral scheme to such an extent because I still think his Secret of Evermore soundtrack is his best work, as well as one of my favorite soundtracks. While I myself do orchestration and love it, I've always wished he'd return to the less conventional or smaller ensembles he made use of back in SoE.

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It's funny that he's touting the orchestral scheme to such an extent because I still think his Secret of Evermore soundtrack is his best work, as well as one of my favorite soundtracks. While I myself do orchestration and love it, I've always wished he'd return to the less conventional or smaller ensembles he made use of back in SoE.

I totally agree with that, I LOVE that soundtrack. Like I said its all about atmosphere and melody where appropriate.

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EDIT: Mr. Robson, since you're here and most everything I've heard from you is jaw-droppingly awesome, I'll ask you. I know you're highly trained, but it's my understanding that you compose almost exclusively with samples. Provided my information is correct, what's your opinion as far as sound sequencing and editing being 'second rate' if you will?

You do realize that much of Jeremy Soule's work is rendered with his extensive library of orchestral samples? It's not the real or synthetic nature of music he's railing against. After all, he's composed a fair bit of beats in his games, see Prey for example. It's the pre-fab composing, the looping of presets, just relying on stringing together patterns that sound cool without actually getting involved directly with the notes and rhythm.

While I adore Mr. Soule's work, especially in The Elder Scrolls series, he does seem a tad style-biased and I'm not sure I see the need for the hate. Sure, people can compose games lazily, but if they do it'll show. Why worry about it?

Awesome interview, by the way. And it's great to hear that he'd love to submit more to OCR. Wouldn't it be sweet if this site had the constant involvement of composers, much like the C64 scene?

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It's funny that he's touting the orchestral scheme to such an extent because I still think his Secret of Evermore soundtrack is his best work, as well as one of my favorite soundtracks. While I myself do orchestration and love it, I've always wished he'd return to the less conventional or smaller ensembles he made use of back in SoE.

Quoting in complete agreeance.

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