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October 6, 2008

 

Composer/ Music Super Jesse Harlin
Supervising The Shake Up

 


 

Biography


Graduated from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts with a BA in Performing Arts.

Graduated from USC's graduate program: Scoring for Motion Picture and Television.

Joined LucasArts in 2003

Contributing Editor for Game Developer Magazine.

Official Web Site



Composition Credits
(Game)


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Star Wars "Holonet News"
Thrillville: Off The Rails
Thrillville
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Incoming Forces
Space Debris

Music Supervisor Credits


Star Wars: The Old Republic
Fracture
Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
Jedi Alliance
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
LEGO Indiana Jones:
The Original Adventures
LEGO Star Wars:
The Complete Saga
LEGO Star Wars II
Thrillville: Off The Rails
Thrillville
Star Wars: Empire At War
Star Wars: Battlefront II
Star Wars: Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Galaxies



Music Editor Credits

Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
Jedi Alliance
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
LEGO Star Wars:
The Complete Saga
LEGO Star Wars II
Thrillville: Off The Rails
Thrillville
Star Wars: Battlefront II
Star Wars: Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Galaxies
Secret Weapons Over Normandy




 

 

 

 

Jesse Harlin

" I know I did my job well when fans and critics alike comment on how great a particular track was at a given moment of the game, or if they praise the composer for having written such an appropriately dynamic score that always seems to perfectly fit the mood of the gameplay. "

Jesse Harlin


Tracksounds catches up with JESSE HARLIN, music supervisor of not only THE FORCE UNLEASHED but the newly released video game, FRACTURE.  Jesse, a staff-composer at LucasArts himself, shares about some of the special challenges that FRACTURE brought to himself and the composing team of Michael Giacchino, Chris Tilton, and Chad Seiter.  He also comments on the unsung praise of the musical supervisor and the role this specific score plays in this unique shooter.  Also, proudly presented are 30 second clips of 22 audio tracks from the FRACTURE soundtrack.

  22 Sound Clips  from Fracture (Video Game)
 

Fracture (Video Game)

   
 

Fracture (Video Game Soundtrack) by Michael Giacchino, Chris Tilton, and Chad Seiter

Composing trio:  Chad Seiter, Michael Giacchino, and Chris Tilton


Screenshot from Fracture (Video Game)

Not your average third-person-shooter, Fracture features an engaging score as well as "terrain deformation" capabilities.

   


CC: Similarly to THE FORCE UNLEASHED, you all spent a lot of time developing a solid storyline for FRACTURE. How does an emphasis on story factor into your musical choices?

Jesse Harlin: Music can service games in so many different ways, from simply background music to gameplay-specific necessity and a bit of everything else in between. With FRACTURE, the role of music is much more akin to that of a typical cinematic experience. It serves as a means of emotional and dramatic resonance, aids in the storytelling, and helps establish tone, setting, and dramatic pacing.

When we have such a rigidly defined set of guideposts as a full story arc, the music choices for a game like FRACTURE become entirely subservient to the question "are we helping to tell the right story at this point?" As such, the story will help to dictate choices in musical genre, orchestration, as well as implementation questions such as which cue is used where and for how long.
 

CC: What's your theory on how to handle the challenge of listener-fatigue in shooter-games like FRACTURE?

Jesse Harlin:  Listener fatigue is always the big challenge in game music. Part of combating it comes down to what the audio engine you’re using is capable of from a technological stand-point. The other part of it then comes down to music choice and implementation. The mistake to make is to think that, since the gameplay of a shooter involves almost constant combat, the music should be a similarly amped-up, high intensity underscore that constantly scores the gunfire. This is a perfect plan for listener fatigue. Instead, I look at not whether the player is involved in combat or not, but rather what is the actual threat-level of that combat. Once the player has already been playing a game for three hours and runs into a little pocket of three enemies, the player knows that the enemies don’t pose a threat and it doesn’t make any sense to switch dramatically into a high intensity combat track simply because guns are being fired.

So, when looking to understand the dramatic impact of threat level, I look at what the gameplay challenges are. Are you simply moving from one area to the next? Or are you being commanded to dig in and defend an outpost from an onslaught of enemies? Both involve combat and might include the exact same enemy types, but one is a much greater threat level than the other. Once I understand not only the dramatic scope of the story, the dramatic arc of the gameplay, and the ebb and flow of the threats to the players’ safety, then I can begin figuring out which pieces of music go where. Sometimes that means no music at all, choosing instead to let the ambient sound design carry the weight of the gameplay. Sometimes that means suspense cues in areas with low threat levels. It’s all a balancing act.



CC: How was your experience as music supervisor on FRACTURE different than on THE FORCE UNLEASHED? or how was it similar?

Jesse Harlin: There’s always a bit of a different experience when it comes to working with an external developer like Day 1 versus an internal development team, such as with THE FORCE UNLEASHED. For FRACTURE, music editor Wilbert Roget, II and I worked closely with Day 1’s Audio Director, Zack Quarles. When working internally, we have direct hands-on control over implementation of every piece of music in the game. When we work with an external team, however, there’s an added layer of abstraction simply because we’re not in the same building as the dev team. As such, we create what I call a “music map.” It’s essentially a break-down of each piece of music in the game and where I want it to be implemented. It walks the implementation team through how long to let files play, how often to trigger files, how to deal with branching gameplay moments (when applicable) and therefore serves as a map to illustrate all of my thoughts regarding how the score should appear throughout the course of gameplay. We create music maps when working on internal projects as well, but then they tend to be primarily for QA to play through the game and ensure that everything is playing back correctly.
 

CC: Upon completion of a game, do you experience the same sort of satisfaction as a music supervisor for a given title as you do as a composer?

Jesse Harlin: Yes and no. There’s nothing like scoring a game and having your music then be heard and appreciated by a given audience. There’s just no comparison from a creative standpoint and it’s a great feeling. That said, with games, writing and recording the score is only half the job. Once written and recorded, the music cues simply exist as raw assets. It’s then up to me as Music Supervisor to shape the score via implementation. It becomes almost sculptural at that point. I know I did my job well when fans and critics alike comment on how great a particular track was at a given moment of the game, or if they praise the composer for having written such an appropriately dynamic score that always seems to perfectly fit the mood of the gameplay. They don’t realize it, of course, but what they’re actually commenting on is the implementation and music supervision that went into those moments. No one ever says “this game has great music supervision,” but they frequently hint at it anyway without knowing it.


CC: There are quite a few good composers out there, yourself included, how was it decided to sign Michael Giacchino, Chris Tilton and Chad Seiter to this project?

Jesse Harlin: LucasArts has a long history of having worked with Michael Giacchino in the past on games like SECRET WEAPONS OVER NORMANDY and MERCENARIES. As such, we jumped at the opportunity to work him again. Both Chris and Chad work with Michael as part of his production company Edgewater Park Music, so it was a great get the opportunity to work with them as well.
 

CC: The headline innovation for this game has been the "terrain deformation" technology employed. Did that have any bearing on the music (ie. Is there any change in music content when a player chooses to employ this in the game?)

Jesse Harlin: No. In FRACTURE, literally all of your weapons are imbued with terrain deformation capabilities at all times. As such, hooking an interactive music system into terrain deformation would have resulted in music cues that constantly are shifting and changing in a way that would sound completely unmusical. Like I said, for FRACTURE, it was all about serving the story and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that. It’s easy to hook music up into “gamey” feedback states, but the emotional reaction it causes the player to have can be confusing and misleading. I wanted the music to telegraph at all times what the drama of the scene was trying to portray.
 

CC: Are the locations in the game reflected in the music at all? SF, DC?

Jesse Harlin: Yes, but not in the way you might initially think. The score’s primary focus thematically is on broad strokes and big themes. This isn’t a Star Wars-type score in that has individual themes for each of the main characters. Nor is it an Indiana Jones-style score that has textural motifs mostly for specific locations. Instead, FRACTURE’s score has themes for the main character – Jet Brody – as well as themes for the Atlantic Alliance army, the Pacifican army, and then a handful of smaller themes related to the story. What we decided to do in terms of implementation was to use a lot of Atlantic Alliance material in San Francisco to help establish your character as heroic and part of the larger army. When the story moves to the Southwest and Jet’s infiltration of a Pacifican base, we use more Pacifican material since Jet is on the Pacificans’ home turf. Washington, DC is then an even mixture of the two as the both armies battle for supremacy.
 

CC: Were your goals for the music of FRACTURE unusual in any way? Were there any other unique musical challenges presented by this game?

Jesse Harlin: FRACTURE takes place during a second American civil war set a hundred and fifty years in the future. As such, one of the goals was to make sure that the score reflected the military nature of the conflict, but also to do so with an American sensibility. Additionally, the war is fought over a basic ideological difference between the two armies. The Atlantic Alliance is committed to the dominance of mechanical technology while the Pacificans have embraced radical ideas regarding biotechnology and genetic engineering. As such, there was a need to make sure that each army had a different musical approach, ensuring that there was a discernable separation between the two. The Pacificans, therefore, have a much more “organic” musical palette. There’s something about the blending of science and military might within the score that reminds me of the darker side of the 1950s – from the neurotic string ostinato at the heart of the Atlantic Alliance theme that makes me envision rolling assembly lines to the floating beginning of the Pacifican theme that makes me think of bubbling test tubes. The Atlantic Alliance tends to rely more heavily on brass statements while the Pacificans have more of a reliance on woodwinds. I think Michael, Chad, and Chris did a great job defining the various factions.
 

CC: Will there be an official soundtrack release?

Jesse Harlin: It’s in the works. We’re working right now on establishing a means of digital distribution for the soundtrack, but nothing has been finalized yet. I’m trying to do everything I can to ensure that it gets out there, though. Michael, Chad, and Chris have written a great score and I want the fans to be able to hear it and enjoy it.
 

CC: There has been a lot of talk about significant changes at LucasArts, from where you sit, what direction is the company headed? Can gamers and game-music fans look forward to more titles from the worlds of FRACTURE, THE FORCE UNLEASHED, and KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC?

Jesse Harlin: While I’d love to talk about what’s next for LucasArts, I’m sure you can understand that I’m not at liberty to discuss anything as of yet. Let’s just say that I have a lot on my plate right now.


*Special thanks to Jesse Harlin and LucasArts PR Dept.

More Interviews

   

Jeff Russo (2014)
Neil S. Bulk (2014)
Sean Callery (2014)
Trevor Morris (2014)
Oscar Araujo (2014)
Tom Salta (2013)

Jesper Kyd (2012)
Kim Planert (2012)
Robert Duncan (2012)
Sam Hulick (2011)
Alan Menken (2010)

Mark Griskey (2010)
Tom Hajdu (Tomandandy) (2010)
Doug Adams (2010)
Sean Williams(2010)

Jamie Christopherson (2010)
Tomoya Kishi & Marika Suzuki (2010)

Clinton Shorter (2009)
Brian Tyler (2009)
Ed Lima and Duncan Watt (2009)
Sean Murray (2008)

John Ottman (2008)
Inon Zur/ Stuart Chatwood (2008)
Jesse Harlin (2008)
Jeff Beal (2008)


 

Miho Nomura (2008)
Mark Griskey (2008)
Harry Gregson-Williams (2008)
Jeff Rona (2008)
Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (2008)
Ramin Djawadi (2008)
E.S. Posthumus (2008)
Tyler Bates(2008)
David Buckley (2008)
Christopher Lennertz (2006)
Harry Gregson-Williams (2005)
Kaveh Cohen & Michael Nielsen (2008)
Christopher Lennertz (2008)
Sascha Dikiciyan & Cris Velasco (2007)
James Dooley (2007)
Jesper Kyd (2007)
Garry Schyman (2007)
David Robidoux (2007)
Scott Glasgow (2007)
Tyler Bates (2007)
Jamie Christopherson (2007)
Mychael Danna (2007)
 
Howard Shore (2006)
Trevor Rabin  (2006)
John Debney
Greg Edmonson
Christopher Lennertz (2003)
Erik Lundborg
Ron Jones
Edward Shearmur
Christopher Lennertz (2002)
Thad Spencer
Don Davis (2001)
Hans Zimmer
Conrad Pope
Michael Giacchino
Don Davis (1999)
Jeff Rona (1999)

 

   


   

 

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