Every fan of the Star Wars franchise knows how iconic the sounds of John Williams' compositions are. Let's face it, just about everyone knows the main title theme to Star Wars.
However, not everyone may be familiar with the composer who was tasked with creating original music for the franchise's latest video game, Star Wars: Battlefront, which puts a fresh spin on the familiar sounds we all know and love.
Meet the man behind the music, award-winning composer Gordy Haab.
Haab is no stranger to the franchise, previously writing the music for Kinect Star Wars and BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now, he can add Battlefront to his list of accomplishments, which was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (in just two recording sessions) at Abbey Road Studios.
Tech Times spoke to Haab to find out more about his creative process for composing the music, how much his scores were inspired by Williams and his expectations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
How did the partnership with Electronic Arts come about for composing music for Star Wars: Battlefront?
I had met Ben Minto, who was the audio director at DICE, at a game developers conference a couple years ago, and he had mentioned that they were working on a Star Wars title. So, when the time came, he asked me if I would submit demos, and I did.
They narrowed it down to a few people, and at that point, they had me write a 10-minute piece of music for Tatooine in Battlefront, sort of as an audition, and everyone loved what I did for that, so they hired me for the game.
What was the process like when creating the music for the game?
There's four planets, and then three factions I wrote music for, so it totaled to about 120 minutes of music. So, probably about 60 total tracks of original music composed for the game.
Each planet has its theme that was an original piece that I wrote. From that piece of music, I would develop new ideas and write an action cue that was based on that theme, a background cue based on that theme, and then a few in-between pieces that we call "exploratory things" that were sort of inquisitive and not necessary action, but still had some rhythm to it, like something is about to happen, so that we could use these pieces to bridge gaps before we get into a battle sequence.
Since they all have a slightly different feel, how would you describe each of these scores you composed for Star Wars: Battlefront?
Since each planet has its own sound, I really got to develop a vast language based on the Stars Wars universe.
John Williams had written the music for Tatoonie that was very unique, that has large percussion —almost like Planet of Apes-style percussion use — and also the use of bassoons and these double reeds in sort of a quirky fashion. So, I took that sound and developed it into something new and sort of lodged off of what he did and created new music that sort of bridged the gap between the original trilogy music and the Battlefront music before getting into my own sound.
And then for Hoth, I used these large sheets of metals to emulate the gust of wind like a blizzard to accompany the harsh blizzard-like environment.
Endor was a really fun planet to work on. I got to do these woodsy kind of sounds and ethnic percussion instruments to accompany that — and it was similar to what John Williams had done on the original trilogy as well.
What is the balance between your own original music, while blending it together with John Williams' iconic scores?
John Williams' music, of course, is a huge inspiration for this score. Since the game is based on the original trilogy, I wanted to take snippets of John Williams' original score just to give the player sort of an anchor point to hang onto. So, maybe I would take 30 seconds of original music from John Williams, and from the point that that would stop, I would bridge into something completely new and then expand and write maybe a five-minute piece of music that was completely original that came out of the original sound he created.
It was certainly an inspiration, but trying to do something unique as well. I never used any of the original themes in John Williams' music, but rather created brand new themes based on the sounds that he established — with the exception of one planet.
For Sullust, I wrote something completely original because there was no music because Sullust was not featured in the original trilogy. So, that was an opportunity for me to create something brand new and spread my wings a bit. It was a great opportunity to create something completely new and establish my own sound that was very angular and ridged to emulate the shapes of the terrain, like the harsh lava rocks, but always had something boiling up underneath of it. So, it was very textural and experimental.
What role did Lucasfilm have in this? How present were they in the process? Was there anything they told you you can't do?
Lucasfilm was involved in the approval process of the music I wrote, as was DICE and EA. So, typically, I would write a piece of music and send it to DICE, and once they signed off on the approach I'm taking, I would then fully flesh it out, create a synthesized mock-up of it and EA and Lucasfilm would have a chance to listen and sign off on it.
Lucasfilm's role was to make sure that it was in keeping with the canon that John Williams had set forward years ago. I had to live within the universe of the Star Wars sounds, but I certainly was able to stretch out here and there and create new ideas, and everyone seemed to be on board with that as well, which was really cool.
They never told me that I needed to use a certain theme, or couldn't use a certain theme. I was able to use any of the John Williams themes that I chose to, but I consciously chose to not use his themes because I knew we were already going to use the original scores in the game as well, so why reinvent the wheel and instead use the opportunity to write new themes for the audience and associate with Battlefront specifically.
Moving from the video game to the upcoming movie, do you have plans to see The Force Awakens?
Absolutely. I have tickets for two screenings, and I am going to both of them. [Laughs]
What are your expectations for the film?
I'm really looking forward to seeing the aesthetic that J.J. Abrams is able to bring to it. From what I've seen from the trailers so far, I think it looks beautiful, and it's a good balance between a modern look with the look of the original trilogy.
And then, of course, I am looking to hearing what John Williams has written because I love what he did for the prequel films, and I feel like the music he wrote was a modern take on what he had set forth in the '70s. And I feel it was an improvement. I can hear his musical growth in the prequel, and I believe what he has written for The Force Awakens will be an extension of that — at least I hope so.
Do you have a favorite Star Wars film?
The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite for sure.
It's probably partially nostalgia because it was the first movie I saw in theaters. For me, it really shaped my childhood in so many ways, and the music in particular really inspired me and made me want to be a composer.
Coming full circle, Star Wars inspired a young Haab to become a composer, and now, he has had the opportunity to create the the sounds of the franchises's latest video game.
Star Wars: Battlefront is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows. Check out The Force Awakens in theaters Dec. 18.