Enter the Matrix Interview with Composers Don Davis and Erik Lundborg

By Paul Martin April 5th, 2003, in Enter the Matrix, Interviews

Check out an interview by music4games.com with Don Davis and Eric Lundborg – the men in charge of the music for the game.

Thanks to “Greg”

Incorporating Don Davis’ music from the box-office smash “The Matrix” and its’ first sequel “The Matrix: Reloaded,” Erik Lundborg is scoring “Enter The Matrix” – the first videogame of the Wachowski franchise. We caught up with both composers in bullet time to discuss their music contributions to the super scifi franchise.

Music4Games: Could you tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment and at what stage you’re at on the various Matrix projects?

Don Davis: I have just completed scoring The Matrix: Reloaded at this point, as well as the nine Animatrix episodes.

Erik Lundborg: Resting, composing, reading books and preparing for the next onslaught, whatever that might be.

M4G: The Wachowski brothers are said to show an incredible amount of interest and involvement in the musical aspects of their projects. Is this true for the game as well as the films, and if so, how do they influence the process?

DD: You’re right, the brothers are very involved with every music moment in their projects. They have very specific ideas about what they want each scene to communicate, and they are tireless in working out each parameter of the process to that end. For example, when I score their films, we have a pretty detailed working process by which I demo each scene with an electronic mock-up, and we can then discuss the success or failure of any particular idea. There are also moments when a direction that they had given me during the spotting proves fruitless, and I come to them to discuss what may not have worked from that standpoint so that a more successful approach can be discovered.

EL: Yes. They wanted to preserve the original music from The Matrix, in addition to some new music from the Animes and The Matrix: Reloaded.
It was my job to score the game-play music and the cineractives with that precise directive in mind and to hopefully make them happy. They are a demanding duo.

M4G: Early reports seem to suggest that this will be a movie-to-game transition that is worthy of its highly acclaimed source material. What do you think makes this game stand out and how does it enhance the Matrix experience overall, considering many games based on film licenses are quite disappointing?

DD: Larry and Andy were adamant from the start that the video game should be far more than simply rehash the concepts of the film.  As such, there is an incredible amount of storyline cross-pollination between the film trilogy, the video game and also the Animatrix episodes. I think that this level of coordination between platforms is absolutely unprecedented.

SB: The game contains film footage that was shot specifically for the game, so the player’s experience is not simply an echo of The Matrix: Reloaded. Therefore, it expands the sequel’s story line and the game player is part of something new and independent of the film experience.

M4G: The film’s producer, Joel Silver, recently said that this film would change the way people view and make films in the future. Is the game a similarly ambitious project with the potential to break as much new ground?

DD: I do think that this game will change the paradigm. Game producers in the future will be challenged to match the level of production value and integrity that was achieved in Enter The Matrix.

EL: As a famous person said, “I did not know that.” My point is that working on the music is by definition part of the post-production process and I have no clue about how the envelope is stretched within the game business itself in terms of technical matters.

M4G: How does this pioneering vision affect you as a composer?  Is there similar pressure to create something as new, unique and innovative with the music, and if so, how is this possible?

DD: I was challenged and excited by the creativity that was evident in every aspect of The Matrix. It was certainly incumbent upon me to look for innovation in the music, and I approached that problem by looking to what has preceded me in that medium and trying to fill what I perceived as a gap in the repertoire, so to speak.

EL: The pressure is always on to break new ground when the project demands it. And, Don accomplished that spectacularly in his original score to The Matrix and the same holds for Reloaded. Nothing like this has been attempted before.

M4G: The Matrix combines an ultra high-tech look, feel and approach to that great old, traditional battle between good vs. evil. How does the music reflect and enhance these starkly different influences?

DD: In Reloaded for example, we made the decision to rely on electronica for that sheen of hypnotic coolness during those moments when that kind of music was required, and to tap into the dynamics aspects of the orchestra when the film needed the energy and drama that orchestras provide. That way we could benefit from the best of each sonic world.

M4G: Does the game include any of the actual recordings used for the first two films, or is it re-recorded arrangements or adaptations of the original score?

EL: None of the actual recordings are used from the original score.  All the music is adapted and re-recorded for the new environment demanded by the game.

M4G: How much additional and original music has been written solely for the game?

EL: About 25-30 minutes.

M4G: How different, or similar, are the styles of music used in the game and the film?

DD: I had much less actual involvement in the game because I was very busy with the underscore for “The Matrix: Reloaded” during the time that the game had to be done. Erik, who has orchestrated some of “Reloaded” and is an excellent composer himself, re-worked much of the score from “The Matrix” as well as scores from the various Animes (especially “Final Flight of the Osiris”) and parts of the “Reloaded” score, so that they would fit the situations that the game presented. He also had to compose some transitional material so that it would all work together.

EL: The styles merge into one another seamlessly and this was the original intent of the Brothers Wachowski.

M4G: Have you focused on certain instrumentation to achieve an overall and specific feel and theme to the music?

EL: No. The orchestra is treated in much the way one would ordinarily treat the various different moods that one encounters on the screen.  Fighting can be dominated by brass and percussion and suspense may be localized in strings, but this is just a typical example. No one would argue with these conventions. By the same token, there are no formulas as to how human emotions and action can be supported by a given orchestration. One has to judge these things by context and then make the best assessment.

M4G: Will the film, or game, use traditional musical themes or signature tunes for any of the characters, or will it be more abstract and unconventional?

EL: Don has composed a sonic “trademark” for the Matrix consisting of contrasting swells in the brass that often supports magical jumping by our heroes. This trademark will compete favorably with the top themes in filmdom, in my opinion. Don’t you agree, Don? And, there exist other familiar themes, such as Agent Smith’s that is derived from The Matrix.

DD: I agree, Erik. Absolutely.

M4G: How differently were the two projects treated in terms of composition, recording techniques, time and budget allowances and final product delivery?

DD: We spotted Reloaded in early December, and recorded the score in Los Angeles at the 20th Century Fox scoring stage in late February. There was over 90 minutes of music that we recorded in seven days with a 96 piece orchestra and an 80 voice choir. We also added some electronic elements that were recorded and mixed at my home studio.

EL: The recording in Seattle in a church took 44 hours and amounted to 130 minutes of music for the game. The game has two characters, Niobe and Ghost, and so each required unique scoring for their various cineractives which amounted to about 130 animated films. Composing started late November, 2002 and recordings were complete by early February, 2003. Recording techniques is out of my area of experitise.

M4G: Is your job of composing music to fit the film and game helped or hindered by the fact that the original Matrix movie was so influential and successful?

DD: I think that any sort of distinctive quality that is associated with the Matrix score made it very useful to apply that quality to any particular situation that required reference to anything Matrix-like.

EL: Helped.

M4G: Can you tell us what your personal favourite musical moment is from your respective pieces of recent work?

DD: It’s always gratifying to look at a completed work and see how the component parts fit together, once the scoring is finished.

EL: Conducting the very challenging “Multiple Smiths.”

M4G: How much friendly rivalry and competition is there between you two in terms of feeding off each other’s work and wanting to impress or out-do each other and how much do you get involved in, or influence, the other person’s work?

DD: Erik is very obedient. That’s why we keep him around.

EL: Usually Don politely lets me into his studio and offers me some coffee and water. Then he engages me in a three-hour wrestling match and I lose. Then, we have a giant fist fight and I lose. After that, I go home and go to work. The next day, I go to work at around 4am. A couple of days go by. I go back out to his studio and he politely lets me into his studio and we repeat the process ad infinitum, ad libitum. After that, I talk to Stan.

M4G: With all the camera tricks, stunts, explosions and visual distractions, do you ever feel that all your hard work is being drowned out, or overlooked slightly by the average moviegoer?

DD: Actually, the function of film music is to not call attention to itself. So, although the average moviegoer may be unaware of my contribution to any particular film, I can be fairly confident that his moviegoing experience was enhanced by my work.

M4G: Have you seen the film or game in their entirety, and if so are they going to live up to our huge expectations?

DD: Yes, and I’m convinced that they will surpass expectations,
because they surpassed mine.

M4G: What are you working on next?

DD: I’m getting ready to score The Matrix: Revolutions.

Interview by Alex Hyde-Smith

Source: Music4games

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