Neil Davidge - Q&A Session

LIVE Question & Answer session with the Halo 4 music composer, Neil Davidge

Here are the questions for those who can’t actually visit the link.

Q: Will we hear any Gregorian Chants on the soundtrack?
Neil D: Possibly. Something reesembling Gregorian Chants but not exactly like the original chant you are familiar with.

Q: Why change the music to something new rather than sticking with the old?
Neil D: It’s ten years later and the Chief has been on a journey and the music should travel with him. We should always be moving forward and looking for new ideas. The music needs to evolve as the story evolves.

Q: Living up to composer Marty O’Donnel must be stressful. What do you hope to bring to Halo that you think will make your work distinct from his, while still maintaining the classic sound of Halo?
Neil D: It is indeed very daunting to live up to Marty’s stuff. he was a groundbreaker for video game music and he set the bar very high. I’ll be using more electronic production and sound creation techniques.

Q: what made you team up with 343 industries?, and have you played the halo games before?
Neil D: First of all I have played them and have done so from the start, since 2001. And yeah, you guys [343] are making it, so that’s why. :slight_smile:

Q: There will be electronic music or any other kind of music in addition to classical music?
Neil D: I think that would be a BIG YES.

Q: Will there be songs from Halo 1-3? again :smiley:
Neil D: I think there is a thematic Halo score approach that I have tried to continue, but I haven’t actually adapted any of the original themes.

Q: With Halo being a huge franchise and its fan base wide, what are you planning to ‘bring to the table’ that wont upset Halo fans and at the same time make them filled with that original Halo feeling?
Neil D: I guess the most important thing is that I am a huge Halo fan myself, so I am the first to judge myself if I am not stepping up to the mark. I want the music to be the best it can be and I am on the same page as the majority of the players who care about this franchise.

Q: if there’s one character you could choose from the halo series who would it be and why?
Neil D: I’m not going to say Cortana! The Master Chief of course. He’s the man of action, the hero, I want to be the MC, save the galaxy in my own small way.

Q: How did you get into music? Also, how did you decide you wanted to do the music for Halo?
Neil D: I started as a singer songwriter, had a record deal when I was a teenager, playing in bands. My first success was Suzanne Vega, where I remixed Tom’s Diner. That was a worldwide hit.

Q: what programs do you use to create the music?
Neil D: Protools, and I use Contact for sample instruments and I have a load of plugins, pretty much everything under the sun, but Protools is the main workstation.

Q: What do you think about making video game soundtrack?, what is the difference between them and the movies soundtrack,for you?
Neil D: That caught me out initially - i though they would be very similar in aaproach but I have since found out it’s a completely different medium to write for. For the most part with a game I have to use my imagination and put myself in that particular setting and write from that emotional feeling - unlike a movie where I am writing for what’s on the screen, I am writing from the heart

Q: I noticed in the sample that you are using a large amount of drums in the music, is this to create a more ‘heroic’ feel to Chief?
Neil D: A more “muscular” Chief, more physical.

Q: How many tracks have you composed?
Neil D: Wow. It’s gotta be in the hundreds. Not all of them are going to be used, obviously. Some are on the cutting room floor or the shelf. There’s about four hours twenty minutes of music now, with forty to fifty pieces intact.Normally for every major moment within the game, I would write three pieces, I would play those to 343 and get their feedback and pick the one that best suits the action.

Q: Can you talk about the difference in music you have created for the Covenant vs the new enemy?
Neil D: How would I put that into words… the Covenant themes are more direct, whereas the [REDACTED] are far more complex themes. With more variation.

Q: Is there a central theme for Halo 4, like the chanting from the previous trilogy?
Neil D: That’s down to 343 to answer. I think there are several key themes, memorable themes for this game. But it’s up to the fans to decide, and attach themselves to a favorite theme.

Q: You will make parts with electric guitar solos?
Neil D: In my own way… I have played some guitar myself on this score, but you may not actually recognize it as guitar…

Q: When was your first encounter with halo, and what were your first impressions ?
Neil D: Yeah - it was way back in 2001 ina very dark studio in Bristol, making the second album I did with Massive Attack, whilst waiting fro them to arrive at the studio. the Xbox had just arrived and it was the first game I picked up. I loved the music, was particulalry taken with the monk theme and the use of choir on a video game. I thought it was outstanding.

Q: What was the hardest part of working on the score for Halo 4?
Neil D: I don’t know if there was one, there were many challenges, indeed the biggest challenge was the fact that there were so many. I had never worked in this medium before, so I was learning on the game.

Q: How long would you say the complete soundtrack will be? How many hours of compositions?
Neil D: It will be hours long, depends how long it takes you to complete the game!

Q: I’m a violinist and loved some of the scores done for the original Halo trilogy. How heavily will violins and string orchestra be integrated into the new electronic medium?
Neil D: We’ve spent a lot of time working on orchestral arrangements for this project, spending many days in Abbey Road studios working with the top London session players and the top UK orchestrator working with us, who’s scored many, many successful films. And a sixty piece orchestra.

Q: What is your favourite Halo game and soundtrack?
Neil D: I would go back to the first one. It made the biggest impression on me. It was unique both as a game and a score.

Q: Will there be anything special done for the soundtrack such as breaking benjamin, hoobastank, and incubus for Halo 2?
Neil D: I’d love to get different modern, contemporary artists and different remixes to take these tunes and rework them in their own style. I’ll have to talk to 343 about that.

Q: Neil, answer honestly. Have you ever had inappropriate thoughts about Cortana?
Neil D: ABSOLUTELY. I have been trying to get my GF to dress up in a Cortana suit.

This topic will be updated until the Q&A is done.

Q: In the recent video, I spotted some extended techniques (bowing a table/using the ebow, etc). What unique/new sounds/instruments are you excited about bringing to the Halo universe
Nial D: Generally I am loving experimenting with sonics in the studio and adding completely unique sounds and textures to the score to help flesh out this new universe that is being created. The instrument you point to is called a Kantele, it’s from Finland, a traditional folk instrument.

Q: Will we get an idea of Forerunner or Covenant music? Do the grunts have their own music? For some reason, I see them as country music fans…
Nial D: Well maybe there’s a theme [Grunts] we haven’t written yet…

Q: In the vidoc that was released today, when you said that you were bringing something new to Halo a dubstep-ish type music started playing. Will Halo 4 have dubstep-ish elements in the music?
Nial D: Loosely, techniques yes, but no wub wub.

Q: sound quality For halo 4 will no doubt be amazing but what can we expect IE 5.1 Digital surround sound 7.1 ?
Nial D: It’s going to be 5.1

Q: Where do you personally look for inspiration?
Nial D: In life. It’s inspiration all around me. In the clouds, the streets below, my friends, my family.

Q: What are your greatest musical influences?
Nial D: I hate answering this question. The very first album I ever owned was Abbey Road by the Beatles, so I have come full circle.

Q: What does a typical recording session entail?
Nial D: Getting up early, meeting all the artists and performers, and settling in for a long day.

Q: are you passionate about halo? or any other games?
Nial D: No I’m not. :slight_smile: Quite simply it’s Halo all the way for me.

Q: As you have probably noticed, gamers are some of the most vocal critics in the entertainment industry. How do you deal with criticism for your work?
Nial D: I love criticism as long as it’s well thought through. i always listen to what people say, what they think about the music I make. I see it as a very positive thing as long as it’s intended to be helpful.

Q: When you were a litle kid did you know this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life make music? and how did it start for you.
Nial D: Funny enough, the job that I wanted to do when everyone asked what you want to be when you grow up, nurse, doctor, train driver - I wanted to be a pop star. And I was an artist too, a painter.

Q: Will we be seeing various slow piano pieces, as we saw in the previous games?
Nial D: There are some very beautiful, slow pieces, most of those are orchestral, there is some piano, but with the rest of the orchestra.

Q: What are your favourite collaborations with massive Attack? Which of their tracks would you recommend I listen to to better understand your style?
Nial D: A cover we did with David Bowie, Nature Boy, that was pretty special. But Liz Frazier singing Teardrop would be the best intro to Massive Attack, that was magical, sitting there listening to her perform that vocal.

Q - MY QUESTION :slight_smile:: Are you staying at 343i to compose the music for longer than Halo 4?
Nial D: I hope, if everyone is happy with what I have done, to stay with 343 until they kick me out.

Question & Answer Session finished.


The Q&A is now over, the user running also seemed to confirm a 343i Sparkcast for this afternoon as shown here: If you want more from Neil, tune in to the 343 Sparkast this afternoon..

Can’t wait!

Thanks so much!

Thank you. :slight_smile:

I wounder if he or 343i going to post some sample songs like Bungie did? Something to tease us with.

Very intreasting, but my question just disappeared, didnt even show up on the chat, which sucks.

> Very intreasting, but my question just disappeared, didnt even show up on the chat, which sucks.

They had to be approved before Neil could see them and then answer them, it is likely your wasn’t seen or deemed important.

> I wounder if he or 343i going to post some sample songs like Bungie did? Something to tease us with.

Here! ;D

The first answer makes me very sad.

:frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

The fact that he’s not taking any of the old themes saddens me a bit, but I’m quite excited to see what kind of music Halo 4 will have and how it differentiates itself from Marty’s work. Still, not having the Halo main theme we know and love will be strange.

> Q: Neil, answer honestly. Have you ever had inappropriate thoughts about Cortana?
> Neil D: ABSOLUTELY. I have been trying to get my GF to dress up in a Cortana suit.

I love you whoever asked that.

So far I like all the clips I have heard from him, so that’s promising. I just hope to hear some heavy guitar riffs like in Halo 2.

Well if I knew you would make this thread I wouldn’t have saved all the comments in a word document! You ruin everything, Moa!

Great thread! Very helpful!

BREAKING NEWS: The new enemy in Halo 4 is called Redacted! (I really want someone to think that.)

> > I wounder if he or 343i going to post some sample songs like Bungie did? Something to tease us with.
> Here! ;D

Hmmm, I’m talking a download, not a Youtube.

> > > I wounder if he or 343i going to post some sample songs like Bungie did? Something to tease us with.
> >
> > Here! ;D
> Hmmm, I’m talking a download, not a Youtube.

You’re really putting me to work.


If they don’t have some of the themes from “one final effort” included someplace I don’t know if it’ll still sound like halo.