It’s Halo day! Halo: Reach hits store shelves today, and what better time to sit down with composer Marty O’Donnell to get a better idea of exactly what we’ll be hearing in the game. We really dug what we heard at E3, so we ask Marty if the rock style we heard in the demo will dominate the score. We also ask about his ability to create the “Halo sound” across a multitude of musical genres and mention the 2-disc soundtrack from Sumthing Else Music Works.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a huge Halo fan, and am looking forward to some multiplayer action. Hope to see you guys on there, so be sure to pick up the game and the soundtrack this week, and do as Marty O’Donnell says: enjoy it in surround sound!
OSV: Hello Marty. It’s a pleasure to get to speak with you about your work on Halo: Reach. We were really excited by what we saw and heard at E3 this year. Can you start by telling us what your general approach was for the Halo: Reach soundtrack, and how it differs from previous Halo titles?
O’Donnell: The story of Reach is different from all previous Halo titles. It’s more somber because the planet Reach will fall. It’s more heroic because the Spartans will sacrifice themselves and perhaps not survive. It’s also more tragic because we get to know these heroes.
OSV: The first thing that we noticed during the E3 demo was the heavy rock sounds we were hearing on Reach. Should we expect to hear a lot of rock music given the squad-based combat in the game, and did you enjoy returning to the rock roots of the series that we heard a lot of in Halo 2?
O’Donnell: The E3 demo was a demo. The music scored for the section of the game that we showed the public was for that moment. Hopefully you’ll hear music for the final campaign experience that fits the game and your own emotional journey.
OSV: We’ve also been told that you’ve written some Middle East-inspired pieces for the game. Tell us about your experience tackling this unique style of music.
O’Donnell: I wouldn’t say Middle East, but more accurately slightly ethnic. I used a mode (Phrygian) that emphasizes some intervals and harmonies that sound just a bit non-Western to my ears. Reach is a planet that was colonized by humans primarily from eastern Europe and several of the Spartans have accents that make you believe that English is not their first language. I felt that the music needed to reflect that without being too specific to a region on today’s Earth.
OSV: We also really enjoyed the minimalistic piece we heard during the ship battle in outer space. Despite the fact that it only featured bongos, hi-hats, and a bass drum, it was still quite intense. What can you tell us about this piece and how the setting of outer space factored into it?
O’Donnell: It was one of the many pieces that I wrote and produced that fell into the “spacey” category. I like having sparser more ambient music for accompanying space combat and that piece worked just fine.
OSV: Given the history of the franchise, we can only assume that there will indeed be a soundtrack release. Can you confirm this at this time, and will it contain all of the game’s music? How many minutes of music were written for the game?
O’Donnell: Yes. The Halo: Reach Original Soundtrack will be available for digital download on Sumthing Digital and iTunes® to coincide with the game’s release on September 14th. The 2-disc CD set will be released on September 28th to retail outlets through Sumthing Else Music Works. It contains all the major themes from the game but not all the music used in the game. I had over 5 hours worth of music files in Reach but for a nice listening experience I distilled it down to under 2 hours.
OSV: You’ve written all kinds of music for the Halo franchise, from orchestral to rock, from jazz to now Middle Eastern. Is it difficult to maintain that consistent “Halo sound” while writing across so many different styles and genres?
O’Donnell: I think part of the reason there is a consistent “Halo sound” is that I’ve been able to be the main visionary for the music in the Halo series up until now. I think I have a good handle on the basic elements that need to be re-visited and how far I can venture away and still be in the neighborhood. There’s also a certain amount of personal style that sneaks in without my intention.
OSV: Any final comments for fans before they dig into Halo: Reach and hear the music that you’ve written for the game?
O’Donnell: I hope everyone who plays Reach takes their time. If you’ve already played a Halo game, then play through the campaign on heroic difficulty. Take the time to explore your surroundings and look at the huge battle going on around you. Running through the game as fast as possible makes as much sense as watching a movie with the fast forward button pushed down the whole time. Also, make sure you have nice surround sound speakers set up and you’ve set up your 360 the right way. Never skip a cinematic moment!
OSV: Thank you for your time, and congratulations on completing the score for Halo: Reach!
O’Donnell: You’re welcome and thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about music in Reach.Tags: Bungie, Halo, Halo: Reach, Interviews, Marty O'Donnell, Microsoft, Videogame