×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How the Music to Videogame ‘Halo Wars 2’ Was Made the Old-Fashioned Way

It's the first game soundtrack in 12 years to be recorded with union players on Twentieth Century Fox's Newman Scoring Stage.

The Xbox game “Halo Wars 2” is shaking things up musically as the first game soundtrack in 12 years to record with American Federation of Musician union players on Twentieth Century Fox’s Newman Scoring Stage. There, composer Gordy Haab conducted an 80-piece orchestra last fall. The game was released in February.

For the final mix, Haab also integrated a 20-piece choir, recorded at Skywalker Sound, and meshed electronic music created by Finishing Move’s Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White. “We had an opportunity to do something new, and then you stay up at night thinking ‘How?’ But between Gordy and the Brians we really did create a singularity,” said Paul Lipson. He headed music at Microsoft Studios’ and 343 Industries, the unit responsible for the “Halo” franchise, before being named VP creative at Formosa Group, where the soundtrack was produced. The soundtrack was released digitally, on CD and as a “blood red” marbled vinyl collector’s edition double LP, all from Sumthing Else Music Works.

“I approached the score very thematically, so each character had a theme, which was sort of an old-fashioned, traditional approach,” Haab said, speaking at a Grammy contenders panel discussion at the American Film Institute’s Mark Goodson Theater Wednesday. Although “Halo Wars” was released in 2009, with a score by Stephen Rippy, Haab said for this iteration “we started completely fresh. The only callback to any theme was to the ‛Spirit of Fire,’” referencing the space ship, the ship in the game). “Otherwise all the music is totally new.”

“The music to ‘Halo’ is such a pillar in the industry,” said Lipson, noting that in an October survey by the game streaming service Twitch, “Halo” was voted the greatest videogame music of all time, with more than 155,000 votes. “Adding something new was very important,” Lipson said, explaining it was his idea to blend a traditional orchestra with cutting edge electronic sound. Specifically, he had been looking for a project to work on with Haab, whose scores for the “Star Wars” games “Battlefront” and “The Old Republic” he’d long admired.

Haab said it has always been a dream to record on the Newman stage. “I moved here 17 years ago from Mechanicsville, Virginia, because I had always heard that if you want to get into film music, you have to be in Hollywood, that’s where all the greatest players are, and sure enough, that is a fact.”

The mandate of integrating digital and orchestral music presented interesting challenges, Haab explained. “They’d play a really cool piece with a synth effect, passing through a filter, and I wondered, how can I get that same effect with the orchestra? So I’d play muting combinations in the brass section, and pathing that around so the mutes were effectively the filter, and then combining that with some melodic material [Trifon and White] would come up with, and it would conter-align with something I’d come up with, and it really all fit together well,” he said, by way of explaining a cue called “Barren.”

The score required a complete range of musical emotions, ranging from battle-driven “face-melters,” as White called them, to delicate melodies and transcendent hero’s journeys, as was required for the new character, an AI named Isabel “It feels like ‘Halo,’ but we’ve taken it forward into the next generation of ‛Halo’” sound,” Lipson said. “‛Halo’” is a billion dollar franchise,” added Trifon. “We felt the weight of that, and respected the history while also striving to ensure that fans get something new and fresh.”

More Music

  • Grammys Play Catchup

    Despite Improvements, the Grammys Still Have a Lot of Catching Up to Do

    Even after a Grammy Awards show that was judged to be the strongest in years — one that addressed many long-standing issues regarding female and minority inclusion — a top-level Grammy executive once again sowed discord. While the Feb. 10 telecast featured many dynamic moments and a nominee list filled with female and minority artists, [...]

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • R. Kelly

    Grand Jury Reportedly Convened in R. Kelly Case

    UPDATED: A grand jury has been convened in Cook County, Illinois, in connection with new allegations against singer R. Kelly, CNN reports, citing two sources close to the case. The latest round of accusations against the singer — who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been [...]

  • 21 Savage

    21 Savage Talks Possible Deportation, Grammys in New Interview

    After being arrested on Feb. 3 for a visa violation, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage — whom few people knew was actually a U.K. citizen — spent 10 highly publicized days in ICE detention before being released on Wednesday. The following day, the New York Times sat down with him for an interview in which the [...]

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - February 16

    San Francisco Symphony Ushers in Chinese New Year With Glitzy Gala

    As legend has it: among the Chinese Zodiac’s 12 animals, the pig comes last because it was the final one to arrive to a party thrown by the Jade Emperor — lazy sauntering being a characteristic trait of the animal. The folktale was perhaps less fitting this past Saturday evening, as the San Francisco Symphony [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content