The beginning of last year marked the release of Dear Esther, an unusual title which attempts to change the way video game plots are told. The game has garnered a positive response from both critics and gamers, who were given an uniquely presented story coupled with a deeply moving soundtrack.
Produkcja spotkała się z pozytywną reakcją ze strony krytyków i graczy.
In my personal opinion, Jessica Curry, the author of the game’s music, has composed one of the most original soundtracks this decade. I invite you all to read my interview with her, where, in the process of discussing Dear Esther’s music, she has shown herself to be a very open, honest and kind person.
gamemusic.net: Writing the score for Dear Esther must have been an unique experience for you. Could you share with us some of your thoughts regarding the project?
Jessica Curry: Dear Esther was such a joy to work on- Dan and I had been collaborating using various media since 2003 but were somehow searching for the right medium to communicate the stories we wanted to tell. Games provided us with the perfect space and with Dear Esther we were able to achieve that synchronicity of music, narrative and visuals. I still feel moved when I play through Dear Esther as it was such a labour of love. I know I’ve talked a lot about this but I believe that this is one of the reasons that Esther struck a chord with so many people.
We weren’t trying to sell anything- we didn’t even plan for it to be a commercial product. All we wanted to do was make something that we felt passionate about. Writing the score was a unique experience but equally the reaction has also been unique. I’ve never had such a response to my music- either in terms of the number of people or the depth of their response- it’s been incredible. Over 250,000 people have played the Dear Esther OST and thousands have bought it- that feels like a wonderful achievement as a composer. Dan and I have had desperately unstrategic careers but I know that we’ll continue to work on projects that inspire and excite us. We gave a talk the other day and Dan said that making games is such hard work you may as well be working on something that you love. I couldn’t agree more.
gamemusic.net: Every artist has their own unique outlook on the world. How do you perceive it? Did this have any influence on the creative process behind the Dear Esther score?
Jessica Curry: What an interesting question. I read an interview with an author a few years back and she said that she feels as if she has one less layer of skin than other people. I think this sums up a feeling that many artists, including myself, have- a feeling of intense and often painful sensitivity.
I find the world overwhelming, frustrating, bizarre, hilarious, soul-destroying, joyful, ridiculous, wonderful and painful but never, ever dull! It’s the most wonderful, giddy, bizarre rollercoaster ride. I am touched daily by stories of extraordinary acts of kindness, bravery and selflessness but am also regularly dismayed at the ongoing greed, cruelty and pettiness of our species.
All of this contributes to my creative process. Music- both listening to and writing it- provides both solace and a retreat for me. I believe that music is the key to life. Many years ago my mum pointed out that we march to war to music, we bury our dead to it, we protest, we marry, dance and soothe our children with it. To me it’s a fundamental and profound aspect of the human experience; it gives me hope and I would be truly lost without it.
Many years ago my mum pointed out that we march to war to music, we bury our dead to it, we protest, we marry. – Jessica Curry
gamemusic.net: In interviews you have claimed not having written any video game music before. Were you worried you might not be up to the task before starting work on the tracks for Dear Esther?
Jessica Curry: I wrote the score for Dear Esther after a four-year break from composing to raise my son. So, there was no sense of anxiety for me; just this huge outpouring of music that I’d had building within me for a long time. There is no doubt that being a mother has made me a better composer. I think that most great art expresses the unique challenges posed by being human- an awareness of mortality; love and loss; the transience of existence as well as the really big question- why are we here? It was only when I had a child that I truly became aware of what I had to lose and that has given depth to my work. Having a child is the death of ego and there is a strength and beauty in that and a freedom too. In terms of your question about anxiety, as long as my son is okay then everything is good- that’s what I mean in terms of freedom. He has given me the ultimate perspective and that has been a huge release for me.
gamemusic.net: How has the work on this project influenced your future as a composer?
Jessica Curry: It has finally meant I’ve given me permission to call myself a composer. I am not classically trained and as such I’ve often lacked confidence. Both the critical and fan response was so warm and that was very important to me.
I also finally feel like the music I write has found a home. I remember talking to Dan about this a few years ago and asking very frustratedly, “where is the right place for the stuff I write?” And to have found that space is incredibly exciting.
The commercial and critical success of Dear Esther means that we get to carry on making games. As well as being a composer I’m also Co-Director of thechineseroom and that has influenced my daily working life hugely. Right now I’m not writing much music and am more likely to be found working on budget lines, talking to our accountant and filing the seemingly endless paperwork that running a game studio entails. But the fact that I’m Co-Director ensures that music will always be a priority for us creatively so it feels worth it.
gamemusic.net: When listening to the music from Dear Esther one might get the impression you were inspired by the work of Thomas Newman, Johann Sebastian Bach and Radiohead. If that’s the case, please tell us how this selection came to be and why?
Jessica Curry: Yes, I love all of those people. I think what links them is a sense of emotional intensity and a richness of texture and tone. They’re also all masters of melancholy and that if anything is probably the thread that runs through my musical preference. If I could choose any theme that I wish I’d written it would be the main theme of Revolutionary Road by Thomas Newman. It sends shivers down my spine every time I listen to it. He manages to perfectly capture the inner lives of both protagonists; the joy and pain of their relationship; the crushing pain of their predicament. To me the theme is a conversation between man and woman and an expression of the in turns joyous and destructive dance that we perform for one another. And that driving rhythm beautifully describes the juggernaut that is humanity. Ha ha- he was probably just thinking “what a nice tune” when he wrote it. People often write to me with their interpretations of the Dear Esther music and quite a lot of the time I’m quite surprised by their ideas. But isn’t that the truly delightful thing? That we write our own stories on top of the ones that have been provided for us.
I have so many influences but I don’t listen to any music when I’m in the process of composing- for me it’s important to completely immerse myself when I’m writing and I can’t do that when I’ve got other people’s work in my head. Dan now always knows when I’ve started working seriously on a project as the radio, the iPod and the CD player get turned off.
gamemusic.net: Having worked on a video game, are you interested in writing music for similar projects in the future and why?
Jessica Curry: Thechineseroom’s current project takes what I learned on Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and hopefully pushes it to a brand new level. I can hardly sleep at the moment because I’ve got so many musical ideas buzzing around in my head for this project. I feel ready for a larger budget and a bigger challenge and this project is going to provide both in spades. I don’t want to say much more about it as it’s in such an embryonic stage but I think it’s going to be the best thing I’ve written so far and I can’t wait.
It’s something that many fans have written to ask about and I think that Rob Briscoe’s beautiful artwork lends itself so well to a physical release. – Jessica Curry
gamemusic.net: Have you ever considered releasing the music from Dear Esther on CD?
Jessica Curry: I would love to release the Dear Esther music on CD. It’s something that many fans have written to ask about and I think that Rob Briscoe’s beautiful artwork lends itself so well to a physical release. It’s just lack of time that has prevented this from happening so far and I’m hoping that it will in 2013.
gamemusic.net: Are you by any chance working on any musical project, not necessarily video game-related?
Jessica Curry: Not at the moment – video games seem to be my immediate future and I’m really happy with that. It’s such an exciting time to be working within the medium and what we classify as a video game is expanding daily. I think that the next few years are going to be the Renaissance period for music in games and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.
So, “Together in Electric Dreams” by Human League has just come on shuffle; immediately transporting me back to being 11 years old and mucking about with my friends at youth club… that seems to be a nice point to finish this interview and to start the weekend! Many thanks.