Sega Total War Blog Interview

The following interview has been reproduced from an article posted Sega Total War Blog. The full article discusses the 2011 Ivor Novello Award nomination for the Napoleon: Total War Soundtrack.


Q: When did the composing for Napoleon: Total War start?

The initial composing started in the summer 2009 and picked up pace towards the end of the summer period. The score and orchestration were completed towards the end of November ready for our recording sessions at the start of December.

Q: Were there any challenges in giving the soundtrack its own identity, as Napoleon is set in a similar time period to Empire: Total War?

This was perhaps the most challenging yet rewarding part of the music production. For those who may not have heard the score to Empire: due to the size of the game the music is very broad, featuring music tailored to European, American, Indian, Ottoman and Native American factions throughout the battles, campaign and movies.

Napoleon differs from Empire in many ways but one of the most significant is that it is set almost entirely in Europe, so we could focus the score to reflect this. Since Empire featured a lot of music that still also occurred in Europe and America and had music flavoured to suit this we wanted to differentiate the sound of Napoleon from Empire so I decided to focus the music direction heavily on the classical style of the period. It was a nice challenge to see how we had to shape and tailor music of a classical nature to fit the dramatic needs of the game.

Q: During the composing process do you write to in-game footage, FMV or storyboards?

The process for composing for me personally hasn’t changed much between Empire and Napoleon, that is that for the battles I’d get visual captures of the game as a movie file which will then be loaded in to my composition package Digital Performer and then I would compose while watching it like a movie, but not tailoring it to match events as you never know when these will happen in the game. You have to play it a little safer and less thematic to avoid repetition problems. For the campaign section of the game I studied lots of Mozart and Beethoven for the styles that I wanted and then produced relaxed, slow paced tracks in that vein – this was also the direction I gave to the other composers on the project. Finally, for the in-game cinematic sequences, these were provided to us as storyboards but with the timing exactly mapped out where we needed ‘sync’ musical highlights to.

Q: As the game is based around Napoleon, did you establish any unique musical themes for the character?

Absolutely. Since the game was about a legendary historical figure I wanted to give him a unique theme which suggested his passion and his military status but was also in keeping with the period. His theme and the flavour it sets with it’s tone is then used throughout the game tying it all together.

In terms of music direction I wanted we looked heavily at classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and some of their contemporaries to absorb these flavours so we could convey the period flavor in the music.

Q: With the game largely set in Europe, did it still give you much scope for variety?

Sure, this wasn’t a problem for a number of reasons. The game features (as did Empire) 3 specific areas that are Land battles, Ocean battles and Campaign strategy. Each of these sounds different. Land battles focus on quicker and slightly more intricate writing with an emphasis more on conveying a ‘military’ sound, through trumpets and snares. Ocean battles tend to be slower to work better with the pace that the naval engagements occur and help emphasise the size and might of the ships. There the emphasis is more on horns/brass and percussion to convey power. The campaign features some lovely pure classical style tracks, designed to ebb and flow gracefully without becoming intrusive while you plan and make your strategic decisions. Lots of string quintet, gently sung choir, harp and piano based compositions play here. Finally, lots of variety and interest is offered in the scoring of the in-game cinematic sequence, which are also much stronger in their use of the classical language.

Also, a first for a Total War project was that we used a live choir. Not only did we decide to flavour some of the orchestral tracks with choir but I decided to feature a handful solo choir tracks also, which really added a lot to the campaign listening experience and gave us some interesting challenges in creating the Latin phrases for them to sing.

Q: Where and when was the score recorded?

The score was recorded over the 3rd-4th December 2009, as with Empire by The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra at the Slovak Radio Concert Hall, Bratislava. The choral parts were performed by Lucnica – The Slovak National Chamber Choir. We recorded a small sized orchestra for the Theme, Credits and most of the in-game cinematics that would have been the same size used in the 18th Century by composers such as Beethoven. For the battle and deployment tracks the orchestra was huge, 84 players in total to convey the weight and power we required for this music. The campaign and loading screen music was recorded in separate strings and choir sessions. The game then randomisies between these as you play the game.

Q: How many musicians were in the orchestra and choir?

The soundtrack features the biggest musical line up we have ever had in a Total War project. It featured an 84 piece full symphonic orchestra and a 44 member SATB choir.

Q: How did you source the sound effects in the game?

A game like Napoleon features a balanced mix of realistic and hyped Hollywood style (big and bold) sound effects to help create an interesting mix and listening experience. When we first get the specs for the game and I have my initial meetings with the designers, artists and animators I will begin to draw up our assets lists and start making decisions on which effects we want need to record, which effects we may already have recorded previously , and which we can create out of combining our in-house custom recorded and commercial libraries.

If we are custom recording effects this will be either recorded at our in-house facility live room or it will be recorded on location.

Q: What is your favourite track from the album and why?

My favourite track would probably be track 1, Napoleon’s theme – simply because it sums up for me what the game is about emotionally. Passion and power.

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