Pariah picks up Myst composer as music producer

Digital Extremes reveals early details on the soundtrack for its upcoming PC and Xbox shooter. Producer Tim Larkin takes us inside the studio.

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Canadian development studio Digital Extremes has announced additional details on the soundtrack for its upcoming PC and Xbox action game Pariah. Music composer Tim Larkin, whose previous work includes such games as Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and the original Prince of Persia, has been hired to produce the game's soundtrack.

Larkin played the trumpet in his early years, performing with artists like Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Sheila E., and Huey Lewis. He has recorded with Ice-T and contributed to soundtracks for film, television, and documentaries. Within the past 10 years, he has turned his talents to composing music for video games and is currently the audio director at Cyan Worlds.

For some inside information on the soundtrack, we sat down with Larkin:

GameSpot: What's the process for creating music for a video game like Pariah? Do you get to play early versions of the game to get a feel for it, or do the producers discuss with you what they want?

Tim Larkin: The process varies from game to game, so it's difficult to pin down a definitive way of composing game music. In this case, I was given some screenshots and in-game video as well as a list of the different enemy/character factions that would need music and the amount of music for each. I was given a brief description of the style and general characteristics of each group, and went to work from there. I did get to discuss the feel for the game with the producers in the very beginning, and we remained in touch during the rest of the process as each piece was submitted.

GS: What are the musical themes that you're aiming for in Pariah? With the game's sci-fi plot, was there a particular sound that you wanted to capture?

TL: I was looking for a really different signature sound in order to set the game apart from others. I wanted to create a sense of urgency in the theme as well as original textures. I recorded myself doing breaths and grunts--something I learned from a group of Maasai not too long ago--as part of the main rhythm bed, and built the rest of the theme and orchestrations around that. I'm really happy with the way the theme came out, and the producers seemed pleased with it right away as well.

GS: What kind of instrumentation did you end up using for the game's soundtrack? How long does it normally take to create a song or theme?

TL: I ended up using quite a bit of percussion and lower brass. I like the edge that a big trombone section can give the tracks blended with huge metallic and natural percussion sounds. On average for Pariah, it took a day or two for one finished piece of music. That is something that also can vary wildly depending on the orchestration and production involved.

GS: For our readers out there who are interested in working in music and audio in the game industry, what kind of background would you say is required? Any tips on how to break into the business?

TL: There is such a wide variety of backgrounds for game composers--coming anywhere from the film industry, television, advertising, or right out of school.

I would recommend getting an education first: really learning about music, writing, orchestration, and production. Getting into game composing is getting more and more difficult as the industry matures. There are quite a few talented composers competing for the same jobs.

However, I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from trying to get in, because it is great fun when you're working on a game like Pariah, doing what you really enjoy doing. Just make sure that when that door opens that you're ready. Be flexible and deliver quality work. You don't get many chances at making a good first impression, and as big as the gaming business may seem, it's a very tight community. You really need to hit the ground running.

GS: Thanks, Tim.

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