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The Music Behind TitanFall – An Interview With Stephen Barton

TitanFall composer gives us some insight on creating music for this highly anticipated Multiplayer FPS

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On March 11th, one of this year’s most anticipated new IPs will finally be available on the Xbox One, PC, and Xbox 360 platforms. TitanFall is best described as a highly acclaimed mech-inspired first-person shooter that has the potential to change the landscape of multiplayer shooters as we know them today.

Late last week, I had an opportunity to speak with acclaimed film and video game composer Stephen Barton and asked him a few hard-hitting questions about his work process, career goals, and what it feels like to be the one responsible for scoring the entire TitanFall soundtrack. Below is a detailed overview of all of his answers and a glimpse into the mind of the talented Call of Duty: Modern Warfare composer.

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What movies or games would you list as great sources of inspiration while composing the TitanFall score?

Stephen Barton: I pull inspiration from all over the place I think – less so direct ideas from specific movies or games, but more subtle effects or moments, even in how music interacts with the world around us. It’s usually a texture that leaps out to me that I think I can find a new spin on, and that can be anywhere – in a movie, on the radio, in the background from someone else’s car….you never know. I’m interested in music where I don’t know how it was done – if I hear a sound and can’t place it, or if it has a certain quality to it that sets it apart from normal.

A good example is the first 10 seconds of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place”. That’s just one sound – on the face of it, a pretty simple electric piano sound, maybe a Prophet 5 – but it has this fantastic dreamy width to it and that one sounds needs nothing else with it to feel complete. Play that exact same part on a Rhodes or some other sound and it might be anemic in comparison, or certainly not as evocative. That’s the kind of thing I’m looking out for.

Do you have any existing dream projects or franchises that you would love to create the music for one day?

Stephen Barton: If there’s a good story and a top-notch creative team behind it, then it’s always going to be a blast. I think a MMORPG might be fun to work on though!

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Are you a gamer and if so which systems do you own or plan on getting in the near future?

Stephen Barton: I am – I have a 360 and will probably put an Xbox One in the studio at some point (there’s nothing like playing one of these games on huge ATC loudspeakers in a studio environment). I’ve played on both the PS3 and PS4 though, and all of these systems are capable of awesome depth in terms of graphics, sound and experience. It’s really an incredible privilege to be working on projects that can utilize resources that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago (but that also goes to show how amazing some of the early soundtracks for video games were, when those composers had to create evocative music from little more than a single one voice synth patch).

Did you feel any pressure while creating the soundtrack for this game? How did this project compare to other projects you’ve been on in the past?

Stephen Barton: There’s always pressure and anybody who says otherwise isn’t telling the truth! New sound-worlds are always tough – you have to really try many ideas out and distill down to what’s good and what brings a satisfying emotional core whilst creating a distinctive palette. That said, when you have developers like the Respawn guys who really know what they want and have created a world that’s so visually compelling, it’s easy to find inspiration.

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What advice would you give to any aspiring composers who may want to get into creating music for either the film or game industry down the road?

Stephen Barton: Learn to listen as analytically as you can to what makes a good sound, a good mix and a good performance. Hone your programming skills – they’re vital now – it’s not enough to be able to have a good idea, you have to be able to demonstrate it and communicate your thoughts, generally without the use of a huge symphony orchestra at the outset. Then try and find avenues for your work where people will hear what you have to say – wherever that may be. You never know what the spark will be that ignites your career.

For a full comprehensive biography and to listen to several of Stephen’s tracks, please feel free to visit his website at www.stephenjbarton.com. For those who would like to learn more about TitanFall, I would like to encourage you all to check out Gary Swaby’s detailed preview of the game right here.

Are any of you looking forward to TitanFall? If so, please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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Richard Bailey Jr. Editor-In-Chief
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