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Riding the Wings of Liberty With Russell Brower and Glenn Stafford

July 27, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Riding the Wings of Liberty With Russell Brower and Glenn Staffordon Twitter

The wait is finally over. StarCraft II hits store shelves today, and to celebrate, we’ve got a special interview with Blizzard Entertainment Audio Director, Russell Brower, as well as composer Glenn Stafford.  We get a run down of all the composers and session artists that are featured, talk about the soundtrack album that comes with the Collector’s Edition of the game, and discuss the music contained within the in-game jukebox  We talk about the possibility of distributing new music along with other content on Battle.net, and jump into what Derek Duke has in store for fans in the Heart of the Swarm expansion pack that will be released in the future.

There’s a lot going on with this game and its lengthy soundtrack, so check out our interview after the jump.

OSV: Hello Russell and Glenn! There are exciting times ahead of us as more and more information about StarCraft II becoming available. With Wings of Liberty focusing on the Terran campaign, I imagine we’re going to be hearing a lot of your music, Glenn, but I know Russell’s main theme should appear in a big way, and perhaps we’ll be hearing some cutscene music from Neal Acree as well? Give us the run down on who’s doing what for this episode in the StarCraft II trilogy.

Brower: Greetings, Jayson! With Wings of Liberty, we have re-visited several familiar themes and timbres from the original StarCraft, as well as establishing some new ones. Glenn indeed created the new Terran music, while Derek Duke reprised his previous role on the Zerg elements. I handled the Protoss-inspired underscore, along with new themes for Jim Raynor and “Wings of Liberty” overall. Along with Neal Acree, the four of us composed the scores for 21 new cinematics– some pre-rendered, and some using our new real-time cinematic technology. There were also new musical contributions from Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, and Laurence Juber.

Stafford: Hi Jayson! Yes, with more composers than ever, as you can tell from Russell’s comments the StarCraft II music is very diverse and well rounded, while staying connected to the roots of the original game. Writing music for the Terrans again was truly a blast, and I was also able to contribute to the cinematics music and a large portion of the story mode-specific music. We had the honor of working with some amazingly talented musicians in the process.

OSV: We’ve already reported that a soundtrack album will be included in the Collector’s Edition of the game. Awesome news. I was surprised that it only contains 14 tracks, however. What can you tell us about the track count? Will this be all the music from the game?

Brower: Many of the tracks are fairly long, with some being concept-oriented, rather than simply representing a slice out of the story’s timeline. For instance, “Public Enemy” explores the various sides of Jim Raynor, while “I, Mengsk” takes a sinister walk through the lives of the infamous father and son. There is more music in the game than represented on the soundtrack, however we have put together a listening experience designed to be fully enjoyable outside of the game.

OSV: Any chance this music will make its way on to iTunes for those who don’t purchase the Collector’s Edition?

Brower: Thanks for asking, however at this time, we haven’t announced any plans for the soundtrack to appear in any online stores.

[UPDATE: The soundtrack for Starcraft II is now available for download on iTunes]

OSV: Now I was hoping we could get into the gritty details of the game’s music. You mentioned at BlizzCon last year that you’d just completed some recordings at the Skywalker Ranch. How much progress has been made since then, and should we expect a lot of orchestral themes or the more rock-oriented approach we heard in-game at BlizzCon?

Brower: Even with its focus on the Terran campaign, Wings of Liberty is still as varied in musical styles as the original StarCraft. After recording the large orchestral score at Skywalker, followed by choir in Seattle, we tracked the Terran music in Woodstock, New York with some noted session players, and still managed to record a whole lot more music here in Southern California before the project was completed.

OSV: Glenn, I have a question for you. Russell gave us details about the multitude of artists that were recorded for the new Terran themes, but given the fact that you had single-handedly crafted all of the Terran themes for the original StarCraft, do you feel having so many incredibly talented musical minds involved takes away from your own musical voice?

Stafford: Not at all; in fact it is quite the opposite. It turns out I actually wrote far more music for StarCraft II than for the original game. I still was able to compose all the in-game music for the Terran race, even more tracks than before, and we also had the advantage of hiring some wonderful live musicians. The original Terran music was done with almost exclusively samplers/synthesizers, so this time it was very refreshing and inspiring to have some truly gifted players involved. It gives the music so much more expression and emotional impact– which just isn’t possible with samples/synths alone. Of course, for sounds that simply can’t be re-created by acoustic or electric instruments, and also for sweetening and doubling live parts, the sampled and synthesized sounds still play a vital role and are present on every Terran track.

OSV: How are you going about writing these tracks? Are you creating MIDI mockups, and working with an arranger to get it prepped for the live performances?

Stafford: For the Terran music I created full MIDI versions which contain every part, even if the part will ultimately be doubled or replaced by live instruments. I was very hands on with the scoring and arrangements, with very little outside arrangement work being done – but we’re talking about a 5-piece band, plus some horns and string added afterwards, not a full orchestra. For the orchestral music I did full mockups as well. I tend to be very thorough and hands on with the large orchestral arrangements too, but we did work with an orchestrator, Bill Liston, who added some wonderful enhancements to the arrangements and voicings. This ensures all the parts look clean and professional for the recording sessions. For large orchestral sessions of this scope and magnitude, it really pays to be well prepared.

OSV: How many minutes of music is being written specifically for Wings of Liberty? I imagine we’re going to be hearing recurring themes in the chapters that follow?

Brower: Not counting the jukebox in Joeyray’s bar on Mar Sara, Wings of Liberty clocks in at just over four hours of music.

OSV: Aside from the lengthy list of performers you mentioned last time, Russell, have you brought anyone else into the mix that we should be excited about? After Ozzy’s performance at BlizzCon, perhaps Ozzy’s band and Ozzy himself wanted to lay down a few tracks for the game?

Brower: That’s a great idea and we love collaborating with all artists but we haven’t announced any plans working with Ozzy. The musicians I mentioned previously gave us more wonderful music than we could dare have hoped for—you might recognize previous BlizzCon perfomers: drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney) and guitarist Laurence Juber (Wings), plus legendary bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, John Lennon and others), guitarists Jesse Gress (Todd Rundgren) and Ben Butler (Dar Williams, Erasure) and keyboardist Daniel Weiss (Joan Osborne, “Rent” the musical), who all lent their talents to Glenn’s Terran music.

Stafford: These players are absolutely fantastic! I can’t say enough about how much of a pleasure and honor it was to record with these folks, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

OSV: I also asked about the game’s jukebox at BlizzCon, and you noted it was a work-in-progress with many tracks from team members’ bands and their friends. How has the jukebox shaped up? Will we be hearing any licensed music, or will it be all original? Are either of you two writing any music for it?

Brower: You will hear both licensed and original songs, all performed especially for StarCraft II by a variety of artists, all in the “Freedom Rock” style preferred by the space-truckin’-cowboys and marines who frequent Joeyray’s. Matt Samia, Blizzard’s Vice President of Cinematics and Media as well guitarist for Big Tuna, produced these tracks.

OSV: Given that this will be the first chapter in a series of StarCraft II games, has it been particularly challenging to create music that will define the series and draw players in?

Brower: While this may be the first chapter for StarCraft II, the sonic groundwork has all been in place since the original StarCraft, so I’ll defer to Glenn…

Stafford: It certainly was a big challenge to revisit the StarCraft universe, but also a welcome change from the fantasy genre. There is definitely a fine line between being too much the same as the original, and not enough. I believe we have struck an effective middle ground, by having at least some of the original composers on board, as well as having several other talented composers involved. Once we established who would be working on the project, the rest seemed to happen rather naturally. The music had to be much more diverse than the original game, simply due to the enormous variety and different types of visual content. StarCraft II isn’t a project that we believed could be scored nearly as effectively by one composer, and the same will likely apply to future expansions.

OSV: World of Warcraft has seen a large number of content updates that have fallen in between major releases, each of which contains new music that maintains the same high quality that we’ve seen for the major release material. I know you can’t comment on similar plans that the team may have for StarCraft II, but hypothetically, if these sort of updates were to hit StarCraft II (maybe even through new multiplayer maps), would you be supportive of writing new music for these updates?

Brower: What does “hypothetically” mean? Just kidding. We love to create music for all of our games but can’t comment on any future plans at this time.

OSV: I realize that Wings of Liberty focuses on the Terran campaign, but for the multiplayer mode, will Zerg and Protoss music be included in the game’s data for players who select these other races?

Brower: Absolutely, and there is more music than ever before for each of the three races.

OSV: On that topic, how is Derek Duke making progress on the Zerg music? Is he working behind the scenes on the next chapter, and is he excited for fans to get the chance to hear what he’s been working on as well?

Brower: The new Zerg music is fantastic, and it is too soon to comment on the next expansion set. Except to say that we are currently working on music of cataclysmic proportions!

Stafford: Agreed, the new Zerg tracks are great! I also think the Protoss music which Russell wrote is wonderful and definitely hearkens back to the original. Having each of us focus on one race has further enhanced the uniqueness of the music for each race, while still somehow fitting together in the same universe.

OSV: The big focus over there right now is obviously Wings of Liberty, but do you have anything to tease us with as far as the music is concerned for future episodes?

Brower: Don’t make me say “Soon™” or “When it’s ready™”! —Meanwhile, we can’t wait for players to dive into the Wings of Liberty single-player campaign and experience the characters, the story and, of course, the music of StarCraft II! Be sure and get your Collector’s Edition on July 27th!

OSV: Thank you both for your time. Best of luck completing your work on StarCraft II.

Stafford: Thank you, Jayson!

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