Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Music Spotlight: The Epic Jesper Kyd

While my Sega Genesis catalogue is nowhere near as plentiful as my NES collection, I do have to say that the games featured there are a collection of my all time favorites. One game in particular I found while i was in Canada for a short stint of time, and that was The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The game itself was a standard side-scrolling shooter/brawler combo not unlike Contra (especially the difficulty), with some of the best special effects you could find on the Genesis at the time (1994), but that's not why I'm writing this blog post. No, dear reader I'm writing this post because of the music which was equally interesting. This was one of the first times I've ever heard a video game (A licensed one at that) have such an awesome soundtrack that had such a strong industrial electronica vibe to it.

The "Tea Time" stage has some of the best music in the game.

Of course years later I managed to score the soundtrack to listen to at work, and that was when I decided to look up the composer, because I'm a strange person who needs to know every little detail of anything relevant to my interests. (My blessing my curse) The paper trail led me to something incredibly interesting through. The composer of this game is Jesper Kyd. Who is Jesper Kyd you might be asking yourself right now?  Oddly enough you've probably heard and enjoyed his music before and never even knew it was him, but I'm getting ahead of myself. let's start from the beginning.

History Lessons 

Wikipedia has a lot of the lowdown on Jesper's life but I took the liberty of adding some additional material like interviews, and such.

Kyd started playing piano at an early age. Later, he took several years of training in classical guitar, note reading, choir singing and classical composition for piano. However, he is mostly self-taught.[1][2]Kyd was always more interested in the compositional aspects of music and received a Commodore 64 when he was 14, enabling him to compose music for the demoscene.[3] Several years later he obtained an Amiga, allowing him to compose music with samples in it.[4] He, along with his good friend and collaborator, Mikael Balle, became a member of the demo group Silents DK, and after some time started collaborating with a group of coders known as Crionics,[5] which would arguably later prove vital for his professional career. They eventually made the legendary Amiga demoscene production Hardwired.[6][7]He also created and scored the first wild demo, Global Trash 2, together with Mikael Balle.

At this point Jesper Kyd decided to quit the demo scene and focus on a professional career as a game musician. He and his demoscene friends who had collaborated on the Hardwired demo created the computer game developer Zyrinx and started working on a game called Subterrania for the Sega Genesis. The game was successful and the music of the game received particular acclaim, many stating it was "Some of the best ever" for this particular system.[citation needed]
With the commercial success of the game, Jesper Kyd and the rest of the team relocated to Boston. Kyd composed music for two additional Zyrinx titles, Red Zone and Scorcher as well as the music for two externally developed games, Amok and The Adventures of Batman and Robinbefore their game publisher Scavenger went bankrupt, forcing the Zyrinx team to dissolve as well.

Where is he now? 

Jesper Kyd's real fame came, according to him, with the release of Bioware's MDK2: Armageddon, Shiny's Messiah and IO's Hitman: Codename 47 being released around the same time, all being fairly well-known games, with Hitman ending up as one of the most popular of the time.[8] The soundtrack to Codename 47 was based on urban soundscapes and ethnic instrumentation. It immediately took the focus of many magazines around the world. Mp3.com declared that "The theme song to the original Hitman is arguably one of the best pieces of video game theme music so far this decade".[9]His next huge step was recording the soundtrack of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. The soundtrack was recorded with 110 musicians of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Choir. “The music of most big budget action movies won’t move you like the music of Hitman 2,” said IGN.[9]His next soundtrack contained heroic and densely atmospheric music for the epic action/adventure Freedom Fighters. He recorded the score with the Hungarian Radio choir. It further established him as one of the leading, innovative A-list composers in interactive entertainment. It was described by Film Score Monthly Magazine as "Vangelis on steroids". Billboard Digital Entertainment Awards nominated him for Best Use of Soundtrack, meanwhile, Game Audio Network Guild Awards nominated him for "Best Original Vocal Song – Choral" (for Main Title and March of the Empire). Leading video game web site GameSpot awarded Freedom Fighters "Best Music of the Year".
His unique fusion of modern electronica and brooding symphonic and choral grooves featured in Hitman: Contracts garnered international critical acclaim as one of the truly groundbreaking original soundtracks. It was awarded Best Original Music by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at the 2005 BAFTA Games Awards and won Best Cinematic / Cut-Scene Audio at the 2005 G.A.N.G. Awards. "Many have tried to turn a video game soundtrack into a musical experience. But few have succeeded in creating a coherent, satisfying listening experience as well as Jesper Kyd," noted EQ Magazine.[9]Kyd's other works include the modern anime video game soundtrack for Robotech: Invasion, the cinematics for Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory[10] directed by Andy Davis (The in-game music was composed by electronica artist Amon Tobin), and the soundtrack of Hitman: Blood Money, which features a bombastic live orchestral and choral score recorded with 150 musicians of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Hungarian Radio Choir, with additional electronic music. His latest works include the fantasy MMORPG The Chronicles Of Spellborn, and the sci-fi epic Unreal Tournament 3. He is also scoring next generation titles for Ubisoft and Eidos Interactive.
Kyd currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on his own debut album, Deftronic, which is described as a cinematic electronic music album. The album has been produced by Jesper himself and co-produced by Jeff Blenkinsopp, who worked with Pink Floyd, The Who, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Vangelis, among others.

Yes, you read it correctly. Hitman, Borderlands, Unreal Tournament, MDK2, Messiah, Like I said before, there's a good chance you've heard his work.

In fact here is a detailed list of projects he's worked on. Additionally, he's won multiple awards for the Assassin's Creed soundtracks, as well as awards for the Hitman games and Freedom Fighters.  He's worked on a number of film scores like Staunton Hill which is directed by G. Cameron Romero (Son of the infamous George Romero).

If you want to learn more about Jesper or just drop him a line and thank him for all his hard work on the games you've enjoyed playing, you can visit his website here

What's next for music spotlight? Well I have a few ideas I'm kicking around. Possibly another interview in the works. I definitely have a large scale article in the works which will arrive sooner than you think. I'll give you a hint on what it'll be about...

Game On!

Source(s): Jesper Kyd Online , Wikipedia

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