Inon Zur is well known in film, television, and video game industries due to his great soundtracks. He’s an acclaimed composer of music for games like Icewind Dale, Prince of Persia, Dragon Age, Everquest, Fallout 3, and many more. He agreed to do an interview with us especially for you, the readers. We asked him not only about his most famous OSTs, but also about projects which are still in development. If you’re eager to know the answers – read on!
He’s an acclaimed composer of music for games like Icewind Dale, Prince of Persia, Dragon Age, Everquest, Fallout 3.
gamemusic.net: You were working both on the movies, TV series, and video game music. Can you tell us which type of the mentioned is the easiest to compose, and which is the toughest? If you were to choose only one of those genres to which you could compose – what would be your choice?
Inon Zur: I wouldn’t say it’s easier or harder to compose for different media. Each medium brings its own challenges but overall the art of scoring is the same in that it involves creating emotions no matter if it’s for film, TV or games. The challenge in film and TV is to accomplish that while being locked to picture and serving what’s happening on the screen. In games there is sometimes too much freedom and you have to make sure that one piece of music can cover a lot of gameplay without sounding too redundant and the repetition too obvious. For me there’s not one preferable medium because each one of them is about the people behind them and each project presents an amazing opportunity.
While most people can feel music, the composer will be transparent about what he/she feels. – Inon Zur
gamemusic.net: From the trailer to the Disney’s Tinker Bell through the fifth part of Harry Potter to the trailer of The Walking Dead series and Pixar’s Good Dinosaur. Atmosphere and mood of your compositions is as different from each other as it’s basically possible. How do you start with creating your music and try to put in it as much of what you see on the screen?
Inon Zur: With most film trailers the music is edited and adapted to the picture however for game trailers I usually create a custom score. In terms of the writing process itself, when you see a picture or a film it moves some points in your brain and creates some response, whether it be surprise, happiness, being afraid or other emotions. The composer’s strength is to translate these emotions into the language of music. While most people can feel music, the composer will be transparent about what he/she feels and also understand what the creator of the film wants the audience to feel and will take this into consideration. Then comes the technique of turning emotional feelings and dramatic elements into a musical language, and that can be done in many different ways. Overall this is what composers for media do.
gamemusic.net: Which of the following: movie director or lead designer of computer game tends to give more freedom of creation?
Inon Zur: Again for me it’s not about movies or video games. Each have their own way, some directors and producers are more hands-on and control everything whereas some like to have your full input and let you do or your own thing; it really varies and it’s very personal and not necessarily tied to a genre or film. It goes from all spectrums to a very narrow brief to we’re behind you and all the shades in the middle.
gamemusic.net: You like experiments in your soundtracks. It’s surely much easier when it comes to the sci-fi games, but what is the dose of experiments that you can include in the scores to fantasy? Don’t you think that classic RPGs require very strict fields on which the composer is able to move on when it comes to the new things in soundtracks to such games?
Inon Zur: There is definitely a firm set of expectations for a classic RPG that it should sound a certain way and you definitely have to be aware of that. There are ways to keep your originality and be creative while you are writing in this specific language but you still need to work within the style.
gamemusic.net: In the music to Fallout 3 there is a lot of experimental sounds. What was the weirdest and the most interesting of those for you?
Inon Zur: I’ve experimented with voices in non-traditional ways to create non-musical elements and effects. I also used a lot of ‘junkyard’ percussion rather than traditional percussion to company the battles which I enjoyed and I think that worked pretty effectively in Fallout 3.
gamemusic.net: You have created soundtracks for many of MMO games, such as EverQuest, Rift, Tera, Lineage, or Asura. What are the differences between creating game music for those and other, classic RPGs?
Inon Zur: We’re essentially talking the same world but the difference is that with MMOs people from all over the world are playing together so it is not so much about the style as it is with the single player RPG which is more liberal with the music. The MMOs I’ve worked on usually have to take into consideration a more minimalistic approach with more stingers and less long cues. MMOs also present a challenge of how to deliver audio events for everybody in-game at the same time while allowing players to converse with each other.
gamemusic.net: You have written an outstanding soundtrack to Dragon Age: Origins. Your collaboration with Aubrey Ashburn turned out great. What do you remember from working on this soundtrack, did you run into any obstacles during this process? In Dragon Age: Inquisition we may listen to your track I Am the One – and to be honest, personally I miss your music there, in this OST. Can you tell us why you weren’t involved in the working process for this particular soundtrack?
Inon Zur: I felt Aubrey’s voice enhanced a lot of emotion rather than just using the orchestra. I think we delivered something that players could connect to in correlation with the heroes while providing a new experience for players. Voice and songs helped to create a very strong bonding between players and the virtual characters. It was a new team and they were looking for a different flavor for this game and therefore they went for a different composer.
I’m treating each project as a new canvas and unless I’m asked to include previous motifs I don’t approach it any differently. – Inon Zur
gamemusic.net: Soundtrack to the first Baldur’s Gate was composed by Michael Hoeing, and for the first Icewind Dale – by Jeremy Soule. What’s it like to work on sequels? How much of a work in some way naturally arise from the first part, and in what extend it’s your creative freedom?
Inon Zur: I see it as a great opportunity to bring my own voice to something that was before and expand on it with my own ideas. In our composing world it happens many times that a different composer writes the sequel so there’s nothing new about that. I’m treating each project as a new canvas and unless I’m asked to include previous motifs I don’t approach it any differently.
gamemusic.net: Before any score is recorded by the orchestra in a professional recording studio, most of the contemporary composers are working on it using their computers. Could you reveal to us what particular software you are using in the creation process and what virtual instruments you prefer?
Inon Zur: I use Cubase 7.5 with a few slave computers; libraries such as Sample Pro, Quantum Leap, Symphobia, Spitfire, all going through Vienna Ensemble Pro. I also have new instruments and original sounds created to maintain originality and a soundscape that represents my needs specifically.
gamemusic.net: It’s over 10 years since you have composed music to the second part of Syberia. How does it feel to come back to it after so many years?
Inon Zur: It feels great! Syberia was always one of my personal favorites so when they contacted me I was excited to tap into the magical world of Syberia again. I’m already familiar with all the components for the new game and very excited because it’s a whole new adventure.
gamemusic.net: What we may expect from that new soundtrack? Any references to the folk music, a little bit of experiments, or maybe classical, symphonic music?
Inon Zur: Everything! There’s some folk music integrated as well as tribal music and traditional orchestra weaved together to create the very unique Syberia soundscape.
gamemusic.net: 30th of July is the date on which your album “Age of Sirens” was released. Where did you get the idea of creating such a compilation? Are those the tracks you have written for any particular soundtrack, or are those just your independent creations?
Inon Zur: Most of the music was inspired by other tracks I created for specific projects such as Dragon Age, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. So I wrote these cues while I was working on these projects because I felt I had more to say. It’s great to have finally developed these ideas, release them and make them available to the public.
I think the way to think about it is to employ an original idea or motif and try to embed it with the more familiar language. – Inon Zur
gamemusic.net: Sword Coast Legends is the next fantasy position on your list. How do you manage to avoid duplication of ideas and still somehow giving a freshness to each of the games in the ‘magic and sword’ games?
Inon Zur: Yes, it’s a good question and can be very challenging. Indeed it’s the challenge for every composer to create something new every time – since we’re not writing in an empty space and there are many other music pieces that were composed before – so I think the way to think about it is to employ an original idea or motif and try to embed it with the more familiar language. Once you have this combination, the original sound incorporated with a more familiar soundcape sounds original and yet familiar.