Gary Huff: Were there any differences in the scoring approach for this score than in the original Medal of Honor?
Michael Giacchino: The main difference was the time schedule. I was supposed to have about two months to write the score, however my daughter was born almost 3 1/2 weeks early, and that threw a big twist into my schedule. I ended up spending just 30 days writing the score for Underground. It was quite a crunch, but it sure forced me to get down to business. Other than the physical difference of the time schedule, I was also dealing with a completely new character and story line. The story of Medal of Honor Underground is from the point of view of a member of the French Resistance named Manon. A woman who's brother is killed by the Nazi's in the opening of the game. The old Medal of Honor themes (other than that which belonged to the Nazi's) were to be left behind in favor of all new material which reflected the views and circumstances of the new main character. So in that sense, my research was quite different for this project than it's predecessor.
GH: What kinds of decisions were made about the inclusion of themes from the first score?
MG: At one point I thought that perhaps the Nazi theme in Underground should be different, mainly because of the point of view of the main character - she may emotionally perceive the Nazi's in a considerably different light than perhaps a member United States military such as Jimmy Patterson from the first MOH. So we had several early discussions about what would remain and in the end, everyone seemed to agree that since the Nazi element was to be a global threat in the ongoing Medal of Honor series, that their themes should remain intact. So in the end, the motifs that remain are the main Nazi fanfare and the more stealthy Nazi "threat" theme.
GH: The theme for Manon Batiste seems to consist of three different sub-themes.
One is heroic, another tragic, and the last is romantic. Each of these sections receives its performance at the appropriate moment. Was this aspect
of Manonıs theme mapped out carefully, or was it just something that came out of the emotional qualities that you were trying to convey?
MG: Oooo - good question. I actually planned it out that way. In
Medal of Honor, Jimmy Patterson was represented by two different major themes - the
main Medal of Honor theme, and his own more personal theme which was used during the tougher moments of his Journey. For Manon, I wanted a theme that
could convey one emotion at a particular moment, and then a completely different emotion the next without having to rely on two completely
different themes. As a result, Manon's two main themes are very similar and yet very different. One version of the theme stays the course in a major
tone, conveying a feel of great national purpose against the Nazi menace, and the secondary theme dips into a minor 6th chord which describes Manon's
more intimate and emotional feelings as an individual and a woman who is pitted against the fascist war machine. Both of these themes are bookended
with what liner notes author Paul Tonks has aptly named "the resolve theme".
This theme was meant to represent the moments where Manon is called upon to steel her nerves and gather the courage to continue on with the fight. This may sound very high and mighty, but it really is necessary for me to think of it in this detail when I'm writing a score like this.
GH: What is the deal with the accordion? Were you searching for some way to deliver a "French" style sound?
MG: I really wanted that 1940's Parisian feel, and that seemed to be the best way to get it. At first I was a little afraid to use it, but in the end I really think it gets its point across just fine in the context in which it's used, not to mention that it was really fun having the accordion player there with this huge orchestra.
GH: What kind of information are you given for each level to
help you in establishing how you will go about scoring for it?
MG: I am usually brought into the project at the point where the team has both the missions and the story pretty well worked out. At that time we all sit down and they walk me through the complete scenario, carefully describing the tone and emotional content they are going for in each area of the game. The goal of this meeting is to create a list which contains each part of the game that will need music and just how it is to be used. It's like walking through a set of very detailed storyboards. Also in this meeting I am usually presented with the projects concept art by the game's Art Director, Matt Hall. Matt generates a large amount of art which represents each area of the game. This concept art is of great use to me. It truly sets the tone in what I do and helps immensely with my writing - it's that powerful. You can see examples of it at my site. There were several areas in Medal of Honor Underground which needed to be carefully timed out musicaly. For example, in the very beginning of the game, you (Manon) are following her brother through the streets of Paris. At one point you encounter a truck which he climbs into. The truck is then ambushed and subsequently destroyed, killing her brother. Through the streets of Paris, the music is pretty low key and suspenseful, but when the truck explodes, the music swells into this big emotional moment as the flames from the blast rise into the night. It's pretty effective when you are playing. Moments like these really start to blur the line between scoring for film and scoring for games.
GH: What prompted you to add a chorus to the score?
MG: I wanted a sound that would help identify the score with the new subject matter of the story. In looking for a way to portray the innocence of a country taken over by evil, I found that the sound of the boys choir had an inherent sense of pathos, which really helped illustrate the dramatic struggle of the French people during the War. And this is the point, more than anything else, that I really hoped this score would reflect. Even though I know that in the end this is a game, and it has to be fun in order to work, it's the subject matter behind the entertainment which is most important to me when I am working. And this is something I really, really try to stay true to. I think all of the people working on the game feel this way, and I'm proud of that.
GH: The linear notes have special praise for the 8th grade chorus group. Were the sections written specifically with a boyıs choir in mind?
MG: Working with the Seattle Boys Choir was a great experience.
When I first started writing, I didn't have in mind that I wanted to use a
boys choir. In thinking about the Main Theme and the idea of clearly
giving this score its own soul, I started thinking about the addition of a
choir. But an adult choir just didn't seem to be the right direction.
I was about halfway through the score when my friend Tim Simonec (who
conducted the MOH and MOHU) was raving about an experience he just had working
with the Seattle Boys Choir on a film that he just finished scoring. The
moment he mentioned it, I thought to myself "that's it!" That
was the element that I was looking for.
Flash forward three weeks later in Seattle - we had just recorded the main theme with the orchestra during the second day. The boys were to be recorded separately, later that evening because they were in school during the day. Before they arrived, we listened back to the main theme (without the choir) and were pretty happy with how it turned out, but when those boys were added in that night - it just changed the entire piece for me. I was in awe of their sound. Clearly, for me, this score would have not been as strong without them.
GH: The Battle of Monte Cassino is quite a departure from many
of the other action cues in the Medal of Honor scores. Did you have any specific
inspiration for this heavily chorused cue?
MG: The main inspiration for this cue actually came from the cue which precedes it,"Last Rites". But "Last Rites, actually holds some inspiration from studying some of Bach's Chorale's and a few 5th century Italian monastic chants. Since this set piece takes place in an Italian monastery which has been taken over by the German's, I thought that might be a neat fusion - the German influence with the Italian. I also wanted themes that could be carried over from one cue to the next, but at a much more urgent tempo. I wanted these two cues to be somewhat different from the other material because the action in this area of the story was to be played out in a place which ultimately was created for divine peace, not war. So with that in mind, I tried to give it a more haunting feel without quite loosing sight of the rest of the score. This was a fun score to write for that reason. There were several cues which allowed me to go a bit deeper into the story's atmosphere than before - (for example: Monte Cassino, Last Rites, Labyrinth of the Minotaur, Amongst the Dead). Manon travels to places that are not quite so militaristic as Jimmy Patterson. Her journey was a bit more "scenic".
GH: What kind of feeling do you get when you hear your compositions performed for the first time?
MG: The first feeling is usually quite analytical, because that's the moment when I find out if the writing I did worked. I usually spend the first couple of practice runs of each piece making notes and communicating with the orchestra. It's very business like, especially during the first session of the day. That's when you are checking the mics, the balance, the overall sound. But once those issues are all ironed out, I am able to have a bit more fun with the process. Overall, I've always believed the music to be somewhat lifeless before it reaches the orchestra. I can only imagine the outcome, and hope that the instructions I've laid out are in line with what I hear in my head. Ultimately, the orchestra is made up of the people who will give personality and soul to the written notes. That to me is the most fascinating part of the process - working with the people who are so good at their craft that they can pick up their instrument and play an hour's worth of music that they've never seen before.
GH: Are there currently any plans to continue the Medal of Honor series?
MG: In January I start scoring the next installment in the Medal of Honor series. It is being developed for the new PlayStation 2 platform. We will have a bigger orchestra for this one than the previous two, and we plan to do more "scoring to the action" such as the examples we talked about earlier from Underground. The story is almost complete, so I expect to have the initial scoring meetings sometime in the next several weeks. As to whether Medal of Honor is just a trilogy or something more has yet to be decided.
GH: Now that you are being represented by the Gorfaine / Schwartz Agency, have any interesting projects been brought to your attention?
MG: Well, it's been a tough battle. I love the people at Gorfaine/Schwartz. They've really taken me in and made me feel very much at home there. The struggle has been with getting Producer's to give me a shot. They seem to have reservations about seriously considering me. I think it's mainly because of the industry that am coming from. Even though I have scored several films, and worked with DreamWorks television, I'm still a new type of composer to these people. They are not used to the whole gaming world because of all of the preconceptions that come with the business. Music for games isn't supposed to be sophisticated. It's supposed to have beeps and boops and be completely annoying.
I realize that I am the new guy, so I am perfectly willing to be patient. Nothing happens overnight. I am really looking forward to working on on the DreamWorks Television movie "Semper Fi" in a few weeks, so I am hoping that will help start to change people's minds. In the mean time, I get to work on the Medal of Honor projects. And they are in many ways a dream project for any composer, so I still consider myself very lucky.
GH: OK, well thank you very much for your time, and I hope you get a lot of good projects coming your way in the future (and very much looking to Medal of Honor on Playstation 2!).
MG: Thank you very much.