In part one of our deep dive into the music of Battlefield 1, we showed you some of the unique instruments that made the game’s soundtrack. In part two, we dive deeper with Johan Söderqvist and Patrik Andrén to learn about the soundtrack’s creation. Learn more about the difference between making music for games versus film, the best compliment you can get as a composer, and how to make music that surpasses the brain and goes right to the stomach.
What was the overall feeling you were trying to achieve for the Battlefield 1 musical score?
Johan: One important thing that we discussed from the start is making music that moves you, and ultimately involves the player emotionally, not just music that makes it fun to play the game. It can be hard to make music for first-person shooter games, because there is a constant sound of combat. You must find small snippets of time where you can push in some emotion.
We utilize the space in the deploys and the menus. If you can catch the emotion in there, the player will sometimes stay there and listen to the music. In fact, some people are commenting on YouTube that they feel emotionally moved and just want to stay in the menu playlists!
Patrik: We got an email yesterday from someone who basically said he was crying while playing. This is the best compliment you can get as a composer of a game.
Johan: Music has a way to surpass the brain and get into your stomach. We really try to work with that. Players are so engaged in using their heads to play the game so we try to take the emotional part and make it more significant.
Left to right: Patrik and Johan at the Battlefield 1 launch party.
Left to right: Patrik and Johan at the Battlefield 1 launch party.
How did you collaborate with other teams?
Johan: We work closely with Bence Pajor, the main sound designer and Stefan Strandberg, the Creative Director of the game. They´ve both given us a lot of great direction showing us inspirational footage and ideas.
It’s very important to have this type of creative input and feedback because neither of us are gamers. We come from the film world.
Patrik: Our musical team is very important to us. Fredrik Möller (additional music) and Dave Moore (music editor and mixer) are two key players, along with many other wonderful musicians and assistants. Also, the head of the music department at EA, Steve Schnur, has supported us greatly.
Johan: And let’s not forget the DICE LA team, with sound designers Jeff Wilson and Tom Hite who have collaborated closely with us on the expansion packs.
You’ve worked together composing music for many films and TV shows. What differences did you find in composing music for games?
Patrik: For games, we sort of write the music simultaneously while the game is being created. In the beginning, we can’t see the game in pictures, but only as concept art. That means we’re hungry for input from DICE. We try to absorb everything that we get as far as feelings, environments, and colors. In film, you react to the picture and the story that is more or less edited and you go from there.
Johan: That’s why it’s vital to share a common dream. There is not a lot of material while you’re working, because the animation takes a long time to create. You have a work-in-progress for a very long time, so it’s really important to carry a shared vision from start to finish. If we didn’t, we would only have had about four weeks to create all the music.
What were some of the tactics you used to create a richness in the Battlefield 1 music?
Johan: It’s very interesting because the in-game instances like “deploy” come up frequently. We try to do as many different variations of the music in these places as we can. Instead of having one deploy, and one menu song, we actually have 5 or 6 songs in each different place. We wanted to give the players the feeling that everything is new all the time. Even if it’s just a little variation: it could be with or without a drum, or it could be a waterphone piece and then the next song could be a full orchestral piece. Every time you come into the deploy menu you would have some new content that would evoke emotions.
Patrik: There is a word called round-robin. It’s means that you have a small variation of the same thing. We try to do that with the music in Battlefield 1. Basically, every time you come to a menu there’s a difference or a variation in the music.
Johan: We’re trying to build a world that enriches the game for the players. A feeling of a big and limitless game.
How did you incorporate the original Battlefield theme music into later game updates?
Patrik: We felt a responsibility to stay true to the original Battlefield theme and legacy. We use the theme or motifs from the theme in many songs and every time we modify it to fit the current setting. For example, in Battlefield 1 In the Name of the Tsar, it’s in a Russian feel written for choir with text. You will find a little snippet of the Battlefield theme in many of the songs in the game.
Patrik and Johan after the first day of recording at Abbey Road.
How does the music change from scene to scene throughout the game?
Johan: Battlefield 1 has an overall feeling, but it should have different feelings in different places on the globe.
Patrik: We try to build a sound background and texture around each location that is interesting and fits the scene or geographical location. For example, if the scene is set in Turkey, we could use more Turkish instruments and percussion.
Johan: You could say that we are trying to find the musical world and language of the different locations. First we have the language of Battlefield 1 and then we try and find the palettes for the different locations.
Patrik: Both Johan and I are very sensitive to visuals. So perhaps we get a new map and it’s a forest. We try to create something around that, an earthy, damp or woody sound. Alternatively, a desert sound would be windy, sandy and dry. We always try to capture those specific places and their elements, like the vegetation, and the colors.
Were there any key themes in Battlefield 1 that influenced your music?
Johan: I think the feeling of Battlefield 1 in the start is a bit naive. The soldiers went out to the war thinking that they would become heroes, with a “we are going to change the world” attitude.
However, it turned out to be one of the most horrific periods in the history of mankind. They were talking about bravery and honor at first, but this was the first modern war so there was no honor or bravery, it was just slaughter. There was a big difference between what they thought and what they went into.
We tried to capture that feeling of naivety, but still in the background there is pure darkness and evil. I think we tried to create this heroic sound in some parts and then it kind of changes into cataclysm and darkness and apocalypse. You have these two worlds that coexist.
You’ve recorded so much music for Battlefield 1 now. How do you continue to find inspiration?
Patrik: We always record new instruments with the goal to “charge” inspiration and creativity. It’s a way of getting into the writing process, but it’s also a time-consuming process. It takes a few days to record one instrument, and edit it, and make it work in the computer. Then you take the next instrument and you can go on for months like that. So, finally, hopefully you are fully “charged” and you just explode with music.
Want to hear more from Johan and Patrik? Learn about some of the interesting instruments and rare sounds they used in the Battlefield 1 score.
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