Jack Wall Interview

D’ni Jazz Club: How does it feel to be doing another soundtrack for Myst?

Jack Wall: It feels amazing! I am so privileged to be working on such an original title. It’s very rare to be asked to do something that literally sounds “totally different”. Myst is a rare opportunity for any composer. I feel lucky.

DJC: What kind of approach are you taking to this soundtrack?

JW: In many ways it’s turned out to have a lot of Eastern European influence. It started out with my original desire to work with the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. For story reasons, I wouldn’t say why because it would be a spoiler, but it did have to do with the story and I just felt that their sound would be just right. I was a big fan of them in the early ’90s and when I read the story from the original brief, that particular light bulb went off. While it didn’t work out that I could work with the original group in Bulgaria, Simon Pressey at Ubisoft found Dragana, up in Montreal who sing and perform much of the Bulgarian repertoire and they sounded great on their recordings, so we asked them to be involved. Also, the Warsaw Village Band, who I found through the label that produces the Bulgarian Women’s Choir recordings, is just about my favorite music group right now! I wrote a song for them and I’m going to be producing that song with them in a couple of weeks. Very traditional old Polish Folk sound that few people in North America and maybe even Western Europe have heard much of. Very cool stuff. Then, of course, there’s the ode to Robyn Miller that ties all of the Myst series together. I’m using certain motifs from the original Myst and Riven in subtle ways throughout the score.

DJC: Was this soundtrack easier than last time? Did you have to do extra preparation?

JW: I don’t know that it’s ever easy for me! But, that’s probably why I do what I do. The challenge is the thing. Look at it this way – when composing a score, there are an infinite number of possibilities. I just try to have confidence that when I pick a direction and fully commit to it. As far as comparisons to Exile, I would say that the experience has been similar with, I think, very different results.

DJC: Anything you wish you had put into the soundtrack but hadnt?

JW: Exile? Or Revelation? Well, for both, I’m pretty satisfied with the large amount of preparations we did in concert with the design and production teams in both cases. It’s really all about the design of the music and taking the time before writing a note. I can say that for Revelation, we’ve got some wide variety of style and it’s really starting to take shape in very interesting ways.

DJC: How have you adapted/changed your style for the two?

JW: I tried to analyze what worked for me in Exile and adapt a similar way of composing the score for Revelation while striving for a certain uniqueness in the new score. I think that is going to work well.

DJC: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

JW: Mostly, for this game, it’s about the story and how that story is folded into the gameplay. I’m trying to do what I can to move this very interactive story along. Also, the Ages themselves are so compelling.

DJC: How do you feel about the soundtracks done in the past for games like Riven and Uru?

JW: I, unfortunately, haven’t had time yet to play Uru, but I did hear Tim Larkin’s soundtrack CD and enjoyed it quite a bit. He had some really nice production ideas in there and I thought he did a fantastic job. And I think I’ve said in the past that Myst was the first game score to really show the world where game music was headed. It showed the potential in the medium before any other game. It was what got me into game music!

DJC: What do you find yourself listening to?

JW: Right now, in my CD player, I have the Warsaw Village Band’s “People’s Spring”, “Les Mystere de Voix Bulgare” from the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, the scores to Gladiator and Lord of the Rings as well as a bunch of Chinese source music that I have been using to learn the Chinese styles for the other game I’m working on now, Jade Empire. So I guess my listening habits do bounce around very much depending on what I am working on as composer. I think it’s important to listen to your favorite music in a certain style and then work to put your own stamp on it. Oh, and I also really like John Mayer.

DJC: If Myst 5 development went ahead could you see yourself doing another soundtrack for that?

JW: Absolutely!

Thanks to Jack and Katie for taking the time to make this interview possible.