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Scorefront:  Stephen Harwood Jr.

 COMPOSER STEPHEN HARWOOD JR.

Composer Stephen Harwood Jr.




Composer Stephen Harwood Jr is best known for his critically acclaimed orchestral score for Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30. Specializing in orchestral and modern orchestral-synth hybrid composition for games and film/tv, he is also an accomplished producer, arranger and performer with experience across a variety of styles including jazz and electronic dance music. Stephen holds a Master of Music in Studio Jazz Writing from the University of Miami (Florida). His clients include Gearbox Software, Large Animal Games, Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and U-Phonic Records.

Official Website

The Interview with Stephen Harwood Jr.

The Quick Eight:

1. What was your first memory of music?


I remember listening to my dad's rock 'n' roll records: Poison Ivy, Chantilly Lace, Great Balls of Fire, Hound Dog, Tutti Frutti, etc. We had
a Mickey Mouse record player. The particular mental-picture that comes to my mind when I read this question was probably "taken" around age 4. Sometimes I am convinced that I remember playing this little Playskool xylophone before I could walk... but I don't think that "memory" ever surfaced until I saw a picture of myself doing that. I'd like to add that the first memory I have of feeling the power of music to draw people together comes from a Christmas season, probably around age 5 or 6. We had this one record with all these great recordings of holiday music - I would put it on and turn it up because I liked the way it made the house (read: the family) feel; the sound of it seemed to bring a warm glow throughout.



2. Who has had the greatest impact on your music?

I have had great teachers, mentors, and wonderful friends and fellow travelers - many, many sources of inspiration and support. But beyond all of them I must say that my dad has had the greatest impact. Though he himself is not an instrumentalist nor vocalist, he is undeniably a musician. There is an electric, child-like joy that comes through him when he's listening to the music that he loves - snapping his fingers, shuffling up and back, singing every word - all with totally happenin'
time!. It makes all those around him smile. Mom can sing - beautiful voice, close harmony on the fly... but man, Dad's got rhythm! Whether writing or playing, for me time is king; I learned time from my dad. And the greatest bit is that he wasn't even trying to teach it.


3. How did you come to work in the film / video game music industry?

My first gig as a video game composer was on Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30. David McGarry (then Audio Producer at Gearbox) and I knew each other from Virginia Tech and had stayed in touch, IM-ing once in a while. One day I saw him online and decided to say, 'hi.' It was one of those things where I might just as easily have chosen to keep to myself, leaving a full Buddy List alone to get into whatever else was on my agenda that day. But boy, am I glad I decided to ask what was up with him! Turns out that what was up was that he was looking for a composer for BIA:RTH30 and was willing to give me a shot. What a break!!!


4. What film or game scores have had the greatest impact on you?

The Thin Red Line (Hans Zimmer, 1998). The cinematography is incredible, but I also "watch" this movie with my ears. Really, the way the story is told with minimal dialogue is phenomenal and this is made possible by the
way the picture and the music work together. It was while watching this film that I first became seriously interested in writing for picture and began daydreaming about an opportunity to be a part of, to bring my
contribution to, such a successful marriage of the many elements (sight, sound, story, et al.) and their respective disciplines.



5. What is your current hardware / software configuration for composing?

I work primarily in Cubase (8-core MacPro), though I choose to use Logic or Digital Performer on certain projects. As a saxophonist I gig mostly on tenor but strongly prefer one horn over the others for a particular
tune or style, e.g. bossa on tenor but salsa on alto. As a composer I relate to my tools in the same way: Cubase is the default but I will turn
to Logic or D.P. when it feels right.

 


6. What other musical genres influence you?

All of them, really. I don't mean to be glib, but I really do believe there are only two types of music: the stuff that rocks and the stuff that
doesn't (understand that as I use the term here, Bach and Debussy both "rock" with much authority!). That said, however, I draw principally from the Baroque and Impressionistic styles, plus Bjork, Tricky, and Radiohead.

 

7. What is your personal motto or favorite quotation?

To thine own self be true.
 

 

(continued at right)

 

The Music of Stephen Harwood Jr.

 Used by Permission

 

Music Review

Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30
Review by Christopher Coleman

Brothers in Arms:  The Road to Hill 30 (Game Soundtrack) by Stephen Harwood Jr.In 2005, the World War II shooter was a somewhat of a crossroads. The franchise that put this sub-genre on the map, MEDAL OF HONOR, had started to wane a bit. After four solid efforts along with their associated expansion packs, the series moved to the Pacific theatre but found gaming-seas much rougher than the terrains of Western Europe. Gamers had migrated over to the CALL OF DUTY franchise, which, by 2004, had established itself as the new king of this brand of first-person-shooter games. Then, just as CALL OF DUTY was beginning its own momentary down-turn, along came a upstart franchise from developers, GEARBOX. Their first entry of the fledgling franchise, BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30, would bring an even higher reality to the World War II gaming experience. Squad based tactics and missions with even greater historical accuracy were the foundations of this new shooter. The BROTHERS IN ARMS series would make its initial landing on the platform-beaches of the PC, Playstation 2, and Xbox, going head to head with the two established powers in the industry and helming the pen and baton for the first wave was composer STEPHEN HARWOOD, JR.

What made the MEDAL OF HONOR and CALL OF DUTY games so successful, at least in part, were their engaging storylines, the attention to detail, and the segments of history that were gleaned while playing through. BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30 also makes the most of these same elements but pushes them to a new level; thereby, making room for itself in a sub-genre of gaming that was well monopolized by the other two franchises. What also separated the game from its competition was its intuitive command system. This was no "run and gun" gameplay. Specific squad based tactics had to be employed to successfully accomplish each mission - giving the player a much different experience than they may have been used to. In the first-game of this franchise, gamers get to play missions of the 502nd Parachute Infantry from the famed 101st Airborne Division in all of its heroically brutal and unsanitized reality. The feel of the game is essentially a game-version of the popular mini-series, BAND OF BROTHERS. Although we follow the victories and defeats of a different regiment, the emotional experience and gritty reality is similar...even down to the musical experience.

Read the full review

 

(The Quick Eight continued)

8. What would be your dream project?

I haven't worked on one yet but I think I'd love to be on an MMORPG... a BIG one with tons of characters and stories and environments - all needing musical interpretation and support - with more content being added and evolving all the time. It would be fantastic to dive deep into a world like that and just give myself over to it completely, indefinitely. I guess that might be no different at first from any other type of project, but I'm focused here on the time factor; MMO games are different in the way they can evolve AFTER they release. It would be so cool to have feedback from and be in dialogue with players who have spent many man-months in-world DURING the development of new and updated content. This scenario I think would provide the closest analog to playing in a jazz combo for a live audience in a small, tightly-packed club, an experience that, when it goes well, can be better than anything! Here is an ongoing, real-time give-and-take between the members of the band and the audience. Not only does the band have the power and intent to effect the audience emotionally, but the audience is there intending to also participate, to become truly involved in the music; via it's emotional response the audience can effect the band in return, sometimes influencing what tune is called next and most certainly how that tune is approached by the players... That's how the magic stuff happens.

 

 

Scorefront Composers:

Penka Kouneva
Assaf Rinde
Stephen Harwood Jr.
Colin O'Malley
Duane Decker
Karl Preusser

Brotherhood of Duty:  The Music of Brothers in Arms and Call of Duty: World at War


 
 

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