The release of the highly anticipated crime-solving game is just around the corner, and soon you'll be able to walk the streets of a 1940s Los Angeles as Cole Phelps, an LAPD officer looking to move up the ranks. Many of you are likely excited to see how Team Bondi and Rockstar have teamed up to re-create the postwar city, where beneath all the fame and glamour is a town that is struggling with crime and corruption. L.A. Noire draws heavily from film noir classics during the 1940s and 1950s, and you'll see that not only in the narrative and the visuals, but also in the music. In an e-mail interview, we spoke to Ivan Pavlovich, the soundtrack supervisor at Rockstar games, to get more details about the soundtrack and how the music fits in the game. Rockstar has announced that the official soundtrack will be available on iTunes on May 17, as well as an album that features a collection of six jazz tracks remixed by today's modern DJs. We have an exclusive track to share with you below, so take a listen and let us know what you think!
GameSpot: Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your role on L.A. Noire's soundtrack?
Ivan Pavlovich: I'm Rockstar Games' soundtrack supervisor. I work with the studios to ensure each game has the ideal score and soundtrack, whether by tracking down and licensing existing songs, or working with artists to create original new music.
GS: What can you tell us about the score for L.A. Noire?
IP: L.A. Noire's score was composed by Andrew Hale (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Getaway, and the band Sade) and recorded at Abbey Road studios in London, made famous by the Beatles. You will also hear jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Jordan on the radio as you drive around the city. In addition, we brought in Woody Jackson, who had done such great work for us on the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack, to create extra incidental music and sounds.
GS: What were the inspirations for the soundtrack?
IP: Brendan McNamara, head of Team Bondi, wanted to create something powerful and evocative that could comfortably live alongside the scores to great films--more specifically, the work of composers like Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, and Jerry Goldsmith. Going a little deeper, there are elements of the jazz-fusion sound as heard in work by composers such as Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman or Terence Blanchard.
GS: Do you work closely with the sound team to ensure all the music is integrated with the sound? Or is it separate?
IP: A lot of the time they are very separate kinds of work, and we have a separate team of guys that work on sound design. But ultimately, everything has to fit together perfectly in order to achieve the vibe and atmosphere we're going for. Certain things, like the two-note "clue-finding" sound, are designed to ride above the background score in a noticeable way without breaking the immersion of the game. Another good example is something like engine sounds: the sound design team went to huge lengths to make sure we had the right sounds for the cars of that period, but there's also a lot of detail work to ensure that those sounds then don't compete with the ambient score.
GS: What is it like working with licensed songs as well as original music? How do you balance the two?
IP: Licensed songs often complement an original score and trigger different kinds of responses from a player. You have less flexibility in using a licensed track, but there's often a sense of familiarity that is hard to get from creating new songs from scratch. Also, if you want to be sure that you get the perfect tracks for a game, it can often require spending a little (or a lot) more money. With an original score, it's yours from the beginning, tailored exactly to suit your needs, and will eventually become recognized as unique to the experience of playing that game. The balance is different for every game.
GS: What are some of your favorite tracks?
IP: I love the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan song "Stone Cold Dead in the Market." This will also be remixed by Ticklah for the Verve Remixed album. I like how 40s songs always had a playful, double meaning to their titles, which were related to the type of entertainment popular in those days: "Stone Cold Dead," "Murder He Says," "Pistol Packin' Mama," "I'm Confessin'." Ultimately, they were all about love and heartbreak.
GS: How is the score integrated into the gameplay?
IP: In L.A. Noire, the ambient score functions a little differently to our other games, such as Grand Theft Auto (which relies more on ambient sounds and radio stations for atmosphere) or Red Dead Redemption (which used a dynamic score that rises and falls depending on the action unfolding onscreen). Andrew Hale's score is used across the bulk of the game to evoke the drama of classic noir films, but the transitions between different types of gameplay aren't as rapid as they are in Red Dead Redemption, so we could focus on creating different moods for different kinds of crime scenes and gameplay.
GS: How do you approach individual tracks in the game to set the scene or complement the action?
IP: L.A. Noire uses classic jazz tracks on the car radio, but because of the unique design of the game that takes you from a crime scene to interrogations and then finally to tracking down a perpetrator, we can focus on creating very specific vibes at each point in a case. You will hear different kinds of music at a homicide crime scene, for instance, than that of something from vice. In addition, interrogations have their own recognizable atmosphere, reminding players that they're in for a challenge.
GS: Could you talk about the album L.A. Noire: Remixed and what we can expect from the album and how that was put together?
IP: Verve Recordings has a reputation as one of the most legendary jazz labels of the era, but through their Verve Remixed project, they have managed to reintroduce their incredible lineup of artists to a new audience time and again with great reinterpretations of their vault of classics. In that sense, working with Verve was a perfect fit. L.A. Noire carries on that tradition with surprising takes on classics from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Jordan.
GS: Any advice for aspiring musicians looking to get into the field?
IP: These days, it has never been easier to get your music out there. Getting financial support for making music is another thing. Make the music because you love it, not because you want to get paid.
GS: Thank you for your time!
Sound Byte is GameSpot's game music blog, which covers every aspect of music in games, including interviews with top game music composers and discussions of new or classic game soundtracks. Have a question or suggestion? Leave us a comment below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of previous Sound Byte features, click here. Follow us on Twitter! @gs_soundbyte