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Old 19-04-06, 11:35   #1
tlr online
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Default Exclusive Troels Folmann Interview

1. What previous games have you composed music for and what was your reaction when asked to compose for Tomb Raider?

My journey to Crystal Dynamics began when I was conducting Ph.D. studies in dynamic and adaptive music for video games. I had the privilege of doing the cinematic score for their award-winning FPS, Project: Snowblind. The collaboration on Snowblind was really great and intensive, so I decided to take an abroad semester at Crystal in order to conduct field studies in dynamic music and my micro-scoring techniques. The people at Crystal Dynamics really liked my previous works, so we started talking about the prospects of scoring Tomb Raider Legend and so the story goes.

But I really don’t have any comprehendible form of language to express what joy went through my body as we discussed scoring Tomb Raider Legend. It’s one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had and I still feel honored by the fact they picked me.


2. In this new game, how have you created a piece of music and combined it with each level? How did you relate the music to each level?

All the levels in Tomb Raider Legend are made from small building blocks called units. So you have to imagine that every level consists of many small levels. You don’t notice it when you play the game, since our graphical engine will stream everything in real time. However I basically scored every unit in the game, which ended up being a really challenging and time consuming job, but I wanted the music to change whenever there was a change in the environment. So I ended up micro-scoring all the individual units in the game and believe me there are many. All the micro-scores are connected in a seamless way, so it just feels like one big, fluent experience.

All levels were scored differently. When I began the soundtrack I took a long time investigating the different levels, environments and cultures. I wanted to have a specific musical timbre for every level, so I had to understand the musical influences of each individual part of the game. When you are in Tokyo you will hear roaring Taiko drums and the beautiful Japaneese Shakuhachi flute (which is insanely hard to play btw). When you are in Bolivia you will hear pan flutes. When you are in Africa you will hear a variety of African percussions and so forth. However the real trick was to make the whole thing work as a consistent unity. One of the ways I did that was to score all the cinematics with a symphonic orchestra in a more classical fashion.

If I had to pick out a favourite level it would be Arthurs Grave. Many people never noticed it. But there is actually a choir singing: “Once a king was born – in a kingdom torn” and so forth. The choir is subconsciously providing hints to the player. The score for Arthurs Grave was a journey down the history of music. The music starts by being contemporary in the top part of the level, however as the player progress down the music gets more classical and ancient.


3. What was your favorite song to compose on the Tomb Raider: Legend soundtrack?

I have a few ones. I am proud of the main theme and the end-level theme, since they both incorporate the new and the old Tomb Raider theme. I also enjoy the music from the first vehicle section, the mansion music and the sad voices of Nepal. However the Arthurs Grave level is the stuff I am most proud of. The micro-scores are very fluently connected and I love the way the music gets darker, and darker… and darker… as you dive down.


4. When inspiration is gone and you've got a deadline to make, how do you continue composing your music?

Inspiration is motivation in my world. I am always motivated by deadlines and some of my best tunes are done under pressure. I cannot say it’s a good or valid working practice, but it’s the sad and unfortunate truth. I used to do a lot of contractual work and I have literally done scores in a matter of hours. It’s a part of being professional.

However the best trick for me to stay motivated is reading you guyz. I read the forum every day and I think you would be surprised how much we learn from you.


5. How much does the music from the Tomb Raider Legend soundtrack contribute to the overall feeling and atmosphere of the game?

This is a really good question, but my answer is biased. I believe music is the emotional glue in the game. The music connects the player to the game and makes the game seem more real and present. However music is also a transparent media, which can fulfill many roles. Sometimes you just want the music in the background. Sometimes you want the music to suggest something. Sometimes you want it big, epic and roaring. Sometimes you don’t want it at all.

The best way to test this is to turn off the music in the game. Normally people feel the game experience becomes less interesting and feel some sort of emotional detachment. Music is about creating emotion and emotion is key in any experience.

But also keep in mind that half of the audio is non-musical. I have some great colleagues in the audio group who does the sound design and the scripting and implementation. Mike Peaslee is our sound designer and he skillfully created all the ambiences and background sounds. The borderline between music and ambience is really narrow sometimes. Additionally we have a gifted sound engineer, Karl Gallagher, who does all the implementation and scripting. Lara is a great example of perfect sound design and scripting. There are literally hundreds of sounds on Lara. All the sounds of her cloth, breaths, footsteps, weapons, fingers and feet touching surfaces and so forth. All these sounds were carefully scripted, so the player never experiences any repetitive sounds. This took a long time to do, but is a major accomplishment in terms of creating a believable sound environment on Lara. A really funny example is grenades. Mike Peaslee went out and bought several grenades, so we could get the subtle recording of grenades touching each other when she moves around. The attention to sound detail is quite amazing on Tomb Raider Legend, if I may say so myself.


6. What is the order of creating composition (for example, main theme score)? Do you at first appraise concepts, read game scripts and story itself, or even played some older Alfa demo version to feel the atmosphere?

I did not compose for the first 2 months on Tomb Raider Legend. I read all the conceptual documents, story scripts and played the game. I also looked into all the previous Tomb Raider games in order to understand what they did right- and what they did wrong on a musical level. Additionally I watched the two Tomb Raider movies and virtually listened to hundreds of motion picture soundtracks. All this information was compiled into a rather lengthy “soundscape bible”, which described how I wanted to do the score and my ambition level with it. It was really important for me to get a motion picture feel in the score. There is quite a lot of blip-blobbish game music out there and I wanted to get far away from that. Games are certainly different from motion pictures, but I still believe we have a lot to learn in terms of quality and fidelity – both in audio and visuals.


7. What are the components/characteristics that make a musical theme suitable for a Tomb Raider game, what should it express, and what shouldn't it express in your opinion?

The Tomb Raider theme was absolutely the hardest part to score in the game.

I wanted the theme to be recognizable. I wanted it to be epic. I wanted it to be emotional. I wanted it to be for everybody. I wanted it to be classic. I wanted it to be modern. I wanted it to be sad. I wanted it to be happy and celebrating. I wanted the old Tomb Raider theme. I wanted the new Tomb Raider theme. I pretty much wanted everything.

So… I ended up doing over 30 different versions of it. I kept on rescoring it, since there was always something wrong with it. However in the end I realized I was trying too hard, so I decided to leave it for a while. One day I came back to it and scored it in a day. I knew it was the right theme – because it had all the components I was looking for. It starts out by playing the old Tomb Raider theme on an ancient ethnic flute called Duduk, which is followed up by a middle-eastern violin playing the new main theme. A beautiful Celtic female voice sings about love and the main theme kicks in with full choir and orchestra and a variety of different percussions. The theme ends with the female voice praising life.


8. What music do you listen to? Has it somehow influenced "Tomb Raider: Legend" soundtrack?

I listen to everything, literally anything. Naturally I listened to all the previous Tomb Raider games and the two movies. But I also listened to Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Pat Metheny, Thomas Newman, Gabriel Yared, David Arnold, Herbie Hancock, Boomjinx, BT, Jerry Goldsmith, Gorecki, Hans Gregory Williams, Don Davis, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, John Williams, James Newton Howard, Edward Shearmur, St. Germain, ES Posthumus, Gustav Holst, Bill Brown, James Horner, John Barry, Trever Rabin, John Adams, Bernard Hermann, Alex North, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Sly and Robbie, Ennio Morricone and to a variety of random streaming radio channels on the internet (winamp rules).


9. What was your most difficult challenge when composing the score for Tomb Raider Legend? Are you planning on working on the music for the next Tomb Raider Game? (if possible)

The most difficult thing about the Tomb Raider Legend score was to make it accessible for every type of person playing the game. On one hand you have to make something distinct and unique. On the other side you also need to follow conventions of motion picture and so forth. Tomb Raider is not an art experiment and it was important for me to do music that everybody can relate to. Some people think is kind of trivial, but it’s really the hardest thing to do, which is why very few people got success with it. Naturally you cannot please everybody, but I think the score did a pretty good job on covering a variety of musical styles, while still retaining one, unique feel. Now in terms of the next Tomb Raider project … my lips are sealed … though my eyes are sparkling.


10. From which culture have you been inspired by to write this music?

Japaneese, Bolivian, Peruvian, European (Celtic), Armenian, African (Ghana), Russian, Himalayan and the great culture of Crystal Dynamics!

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Old 19-04-06, 11:37   #2
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I didn't read what you wrote but i'm gonna print it it's too long . I don't about what it's talking about but i'll read it , thanks
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Old 19-04-06, 11:38   #3
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OH yes ! it's interesting i'm gonna read it . Thanks tlr online
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Old 19-04-06, 11:45   #4
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Thanks!
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Old 19-04-06, 11:54   #5
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Thanks tlr!!!
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Old 19-04-06, 12:03   #6
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His lips are sealed but his eyes are sparkling. Oh yesss
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Old 19-04-06, 12:08   #7
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Excellent!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablo.CT
His lips are sealed but his eyes are sparkling. Oh yesss
Oh yeah! I liked that too!

Last edited by Airave; 19-04-06 at 12:09.
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Old 19-04-06, 12:15   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airave
Excellent!



Oh yeah! I liked that too!
Me too! Thanks tlr! Any news about the Toby Gard interview?
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Old 19-04-06, 12:24   #9
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Thanks tlr
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Old 19-04-06, 12:25   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dark_angel_7
Me too! Thanks tlr! Any news about the Toby Gard interview?
Yup. I'm working on that right now
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