Introduction

We were beyond thrilled to sit down and talk shop with two-time BAFTA winning composer Jason Graves, whose previous titles include Until Dawn, The Order: 1886, Evolve, Tomb Raider and the Dead Space Series.  We ask Jason a wide range of questions from his childhood music experiences to his award winning video game scores.  He graciously gave us over an hour and a half of his time for this podcast, keeping us by turns engaged, laughing and fascinated by his stories and lightning quick answers.  Jason’s musical genius is well known, but we were impressed as much by his breadth of knowledge about  video game music as his down to earth and humble attitude about his life as a composer. Jason will be giving two talks at the upcoming Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco next week, so if you are going to be at GDC, be sure to check those out! 

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As a classically-trained composer and world percussionist, Graves created an entirely live organic score for Far Cry® Primal, blending a diverse array of sounds from the natural environment and incorporating many animal effects into the score. The evocative soundtrack features a unique set of textures representing each of the tribes that players will encounter, including a ram’s horn and solo flute (Wenja); Aztec death whistles, female vocals, ritualistic percussion (Izilia); raw sounds from Far Cry’s Stone Age natural environment including bushes, bones, antlers, clay pots, wooden artifacts and male vocals (Udam). Crafted together the sounds bring the rich and primal gameplay alive to players challenged to survive in a hostile environment and rise to become the apex predator.

Music Designer of Ubisoft Montreal: “Jason manages to convey the beauty and the roughness of the land of Oros with his music,” said Jerome Angelot, Music Designer – Ubisoft Montreal Studio. “Far Cry Primal’s score is a fresh mix of savant sound design, epic percussions and attention to detail. It will surprise the players; each time I hear the screams and the chants in the Izila tracks, I get chills.”  – From the recent press release about Far Cry Primal

The Podcast

The podcast was roughly divided into five sections, with time stamps listed here:

  1. Introduction and preview: 0:00
  2. Hot Topics – Jason’s background and Questions about current video game music trends such as using sound design in scores:  3:17
  3. Free Association Lightning Round – Jason talks about his previous work- quickly as our favorite tracks play: 36:00
  4. Far Cry Primal – We go deep and geeky into the music and motivations behind the music of Far Cry Primal, including the adaptive music system used to generate over 9 hours of music for the game: 51:50
  5. Advice for Up and Coming Composers: 74:00

Here is a link to the Podcast on Mixcloud:

And you can download the podcast directly here:

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The Instruments

Jason Kindly sent us some images of the instruments he used in the making of this epic soundtrack:

 

Free Association Lightning Round

We tried a new feature for this special podcast.  We played some of our favorite songs from Jason’s previous work and gave him 30 seconds to talk about each one.  His answers may surprise you!  This starts around the 36th minute of the podcast.

We talk about the following tracks in the podcast Breach & Clear: Deadline: “Welcome to Harbor City”,  Until Dawn: “The Shadow of the Mountain (Main Theme)”, The Order: 1886: “The Knighthood”, Tomb Raider: “A Survivor Is Born”, Dead Space 2: “Welcome to the Sprawl”, Dead Space: “Welcome Aboard the U.S.G. Ishimura”

Questions and Topics

We asked Jason a wide variety of questions, not in any particular order.  Here are some of the topics we covered in the podcast:

General Questions

  1. What is your earliest memory of music?
  2. What is your musical training – Jazz, Orchestral percussion?  Did you ever play in a rock band? What about other instruments?
  3. What is the difference between games and film scoring?
  4. Trace your career path – how did you get into video games and what was your big break?
  5. Tell us your philosophy of using music and sound design to tell stories
  6. Looking back at your carrier, is there anything you would have done differently?
  7. Any advice for young composers?

Far Cry Specific Questions

  1. Far Cry uses a diverse array of sounds from the natural environment and incorporating many animal effects into the score. The soundtrack features a unique set of textures representing each of the tribes, including a ram’s horn and solo flute (Wenja); Aztec death whistles, female vocals, ritualistic percussion (Izilia); raw sounds from Far Cry’s Stone Age natural environment including bushes, bones, antlers, clay pots, wooden artifacts and male vocals (Udam). Tell us more about this process…
  2. What does the notation of a Ram’s horn look like? And a bush?
  3. Was the music performance based, or written?  If performance, did you do the performing?
  4. Love the flute (Neanderthal Flute an inspiration?) and the horns (describe the ones you used.)
  5. Influences? Does not sound African as the setting was in Europe…so what did you use for inspiration on the percussion? 
  6. Nice reverb in the mix – was this recorded live or added in post? What reverb did you use?
  7. This music is full of raw emotion – aggression, fear, darkness, in a word, primal – tell us more about your process.
  8. What type of adaptive music system was used in the game? Compare it to your work on Dead Space or Tomb Raider.
  9. Not a sentimental game – did you compose with any themes in mind?  I noticed rhythmic themes, but do you consider the instrumentation choices for each tribe’s “themes”?

Game Developer’s Conference 2016

Jason will be giving two talks at GDC this year, if you are going be sure to check them out:

The Music of Evolve: Composing For Multi-Player

Jason Graves  |  Composer, Jason Graves Music, Inc.

Location:  Room 3002, West Hall
Date:  Thursday, March 17
Time:  11:30am – 12:30pm

Description: Composer Jason Graves will detail his work on Evolve – a unique multiplayer shooter with an equally unique, independent score heard by each of the five players simultaneously. Jason will provide a step-by-step presentation of his creative process, including detailed music examples, instrument choices, recording session pictures, gameplay demonstrations and sound experiments. He will also be sharing valuable production techniques and implementation strategies learned while working on such a unique title.

Storytelling Tools: Using Music & Sound Creatively

Jason Graves  |  Composer, Independent, Spencer Hooks  |  Director, Games, Dolby Labs, Russell Brower  |  Audio Director, Blizzard Entertainment, Lazar Levine  |  Sr. Sound Designer, Telltale Games, Phillip Kovats  |  Audio Lead, Naughty Dog, Scott Gershin  |  Sound Designer/Director of Audio, Technicolor
Location:  Room 3001, West Hall
Date:  Friday, March 18
Time:  10:00am – 11:00am
Description: Sound and music are a critical part of the storytelling process, but most game creators don’t have a deep knowledge of how to use these tools creatively to tell a story. Join story writer Susan O’Conner, composer Jason Graves, and sound designers Russell Brower, Lazar Levine, and Phillip Kovats for an in-depth conversation about using sound and music to create believable game worlds, direct players’ attention, and make an immersive experience for game play. This session will showcase clips from games that use these tools in distinctive and interesting ways, and cover topics including writing your game with sound in mind, how to use sound and music with impact, how these tools can help you tell your story, and how you can meaningfully collaborate and manage your sound and music teams.

Other Podcasts with Jason About Far Cry Primal

Soundworks Collective Interview

Here is an excellent (short) video interview with Jason about Far Cry Primal from Soundworks Collective:

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Jason Graves Far Cry Primal Interview on Soundworks Collective

Level with Emily Reese Ep. 12 Jason Graves Far Cry Primal, Over Achievers (starts around 8:30)

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Links Referenced in the Podcast – Jason’s Previous Talks GDC Vault

DEAD SPACE 2 Musical Postmortem

The Art of Noise: Incorporating Aleatoric Techniques in Your Scores   (This one with Garry Schyman is a must listen if you are interested in Aleotoric Music)

About Jason Graves

Partial Biography

Jason Graves Headshot 1080 675Jason Graves is an Academy Award-winning (BAFTA) composer who has brought his passion for music to projects such as FAR CRY PRIMAL (UBISOFT), UNTIL DAWN (SONY), TOMB RAIDER (SQUARE ENIX) and DEAD SPACE (EA). He is particularly enthusiastic about illustrating a project’s story and character arcs through the power of music. His sophisticated composition style has made his work synonymous with unique musical textures and cinematic orchestral writing.

As a classically-trained composer and world percussionist, Jason created an entirely live organic score for FAR CRY PRIMAL, blending a diverse array of sounds from the natural environment and incorporating many animal effects into the score. The evocative soundtrack includes a ram’s horn and solo flute, Aztec death whistles, female vocals, and ritualistic percussion, plus raw sounds from Far Cry’s Stone Age natural environment including bushes, bones, antlers, clay pots, wooden artifacts.

Game Informer hailed Jason’s original score for SONY’S supernatural hit UNTIL DAWN as a “superb dynamic orchestral score” and GameSpot called it “a chilling soundtrack…which crescendos and subsides to highlight panic, terror, and anguish.” Jason recorded live orchestra at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and combined it with many of his signature sounds – found percussion, experimental instruments and haunting soloists come together to form a unique and ever-changing adaptive score that is “part of what makes the game so memorable.” (Venture Beat)

Jason composed an experimental, non-orchestral score for 2k’s highly anticipated co-op shooter EVOLVE, enlisting his myriad of percussion instruments, guitar effects and found sound recordings to produce an atmospheric, edgy score that reflects team choice and gameplay states through music.

To read more about Jason, head over to his Official Website.

 

 

 

 

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