Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Music of WildStar: Q&A with Jeff Kurtenacker and Exclusive Video!


Carbine has been all over this last week, providing us with plenty of tasty tidbits to keep us going! If you haven't yet, check out these three new WildStar articles!

Look at that detail!

Behind the Scenes/Artwork article on Polycount- This has some AWESOME screenshots, concept art, and even shows the incredible level of detail that went into animating Agent Voxine's face!

Check out WildStar's Economic Game by the Senior Systems Designer Bull Durham

WildStar Wednesday- Stress Test Postmortem- Carbine continues to excel at keeping their community up to date on their beta testing. So come check out the information from the first stress test and their followup from yesterday!

I would also like to give a big shout out to the Carbine devs, especially for Chad Moore and Troy Hewitt for stopping by WSRP lately to visit with all the fine folk there! We really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to talk to us! We are especially flattered for Chad adding his opinion on Luminai lore in our thread and some exciting news from Troy!

Chemical Cutthroat of WSRP has made some fantastic WildStar themed drinks for the community including the Scowling Cassian, the Psyblade, the Logic Bomb and many others! Troy stopped by to talk about potentially bringing these recipes to PAX and other community showings for fans to try these exciting themed drinks! Thank you CC for your wonderful creations and thank you Carbine for showing once again, how much you love your fans and take our efforts into consideration!

 Okay now. Are you ready? I have such a treat for you today, my dear readers! I have right here a Q&A with the talented Lead Composer of WildStar, Jeff Kurtenacker as well as an exclusive video for the Scowling Cassian!

And so without further ado, let me talk about one of the most powerful and exciting aspects of WildStar: the Music.

Not long ago my friend brought to my attention, a comment from someone online in regards to the music from Mass Effect. They were saying that those who created the music were 'cheating' by forcing fans to 'feel' specific ways for certain scenes. They seemed so insulted by the idea that they felt that people only felt sad or excited thanks to the 'manipulative music'. I had to chuckle a bit because this is one of the aspects that makes music such a powerful and unique tool to use!

Take, for instance, the soundtrack to the recent Doctor Who seasons. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of the music. Or rather, by itself it is interesting but nothing super fascinating to me. Now...put this in alongside the acting and scenes in the show and I am blown away! The music integrates so flawlessly with the scenes, helping to encourage grief during the sad times and excitement when the Doctor tries out some daring plan. With the use of such clever compositions, this series turns into an epic adventure, pulling you completely along for the ride with sight and sound!

To me, this is so important and so very wonderful. That music has the power to make us feel and creates an experience for us. We have been trained to recognize sounds and tones to create ideas and emotions in our minds. You hear dissonant chords and you become discomforted. You hear harmony and it carries a sense of power or perhaps a clear voice brings peace. Fast scores get our blood pumping while slower ones might bring on the tears. So you can see, music is such a powerful tool, especially in the hands of a talented composer.

The Master of Music!

Enter Jeff Kurtenacker, the Lead Composer for Carbine Studios. If anyone understands the power of music, it is certainly this man and his entire talented team working on the music of WildStar. When I first took the time to check out the pieces he had on his soundcloud I found myself utterly blown away! These pieces aren't just a pleasure to listen to, they are gateways into an exciting world full of adventure and sound! From the powerful and heroic “Defend The Gates” to the “Character Creation Screen” that invokes a sense of wonder and mounting excitement, these pieces are a brilliant window into the world of WildStar.

I began listening while I blogged. It seemed appropriate. Then I found myself humming the tunes around the house and at work. Not long after, I was flailing with excitement and enthusiasm to Jeff himself on his Twitter, eager to tell him how much his music had moved me and how it made me even more excited for WildStar!

And here I am today with an amazing treat that I am so very honored and excited to share with you all!
Thanks to Jeff, Troy and all the wonderful folk on the Carbine team, I present to you my Q&A with Kurtenacker and a Scowling Cassian exclusive video of the recording of none other than the AMAZING Dominion Faction theme (and my personal favorite ) “Systematic Domination”

WildStar Music Q & A Questions for Kurtenacker for the Scowling Cassian.
  1. What/who are your biggest inspirations for your music?
I’m definitely influenced by a lot of different composers and artists across a wide variety of musical genres, but in the film scoring world I’m inspired and influenced by Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Tyler Bates, John Williams, Danny Elfman… the list goes on. I’m also really inspired by some great classical composers like Bach, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Beethoven. I love to listen to all kinds of pop, rock, jazz, blues, opera, musicals… everything. I would say I have a pretty healthy and eclectic mix of influences. In a single car ride home from work I can go from The Killers to Shooter Jennings to Indiana Jones and everything in between. I’m all over the place.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process when you make a new piece? Do you visualize what you are working with or perhaps look at screenshots?
This is usually the most daunting part of the process… the blank page. I like to sketch out my ideas with staff paper and pencil before I get too carried away in a digital workstation piece of software. I’ve found once you take that step you can end up wrestling with the software rather than wrestling with developing your music. So I have a giant notebook of staff paper that I chart out all my ideas in. When I begin a new zone I have a few things I tend do first: I read a design document written by our lore department about the zone, which is the overview of what the zone is, and what’s going on there. That always gets some ideas flowing.

After that, I’ll jump in the game and go to that zone to get a visual representation of what is happening. WildStar’s art style is a really big influence on me, so when I walk into a zone for the first time I definitely get a mood and vibe based off the art. The last thing I do is talk directly to the people who are working in these zones. They are the experts on these places, so they can sit down with me and walk me through the content players will be experiencing, and I can get a sense of the emotion and moods within the zone as the player progresses. After all that, I pull up a piano patch on the computer and start to sketch out some ideas. Usually just plunking through some melodies or chord progressions and jotting it down. I keep the game open on one computer screen so I can make sure that what I’m doing matches the mood of what I’m seeing. When I find something that feels right, I take it to the next stage and start to really develop it.
  1. What programs do you use when you record?
There are a few different pieces of software used to make the whole piece of music come alive. I’ll walk you through the process from concept to final mix so you can get an idea. I just mentioned how I usually start the creative process for a cue, so what I’ll do once I have some ideas sketched out is start making a more detailed mock-up of the piece. I use Logic on a pretty powerful Mac Pro. I open Logic and load in my orchestral templates for the orchestra instruments. Even though the orchestra tracks eventually get replaced with live orchestra at the end of the process, it’s still great to get a pretty realistic representation of the cue. I use a combination of LA Scoring Strings, Vienna Symphonic Library strings, and 8Dio Adagio Strings. I blend those three libraries together for a nice rich string section to use in my Logic session. For brass I lean heavily on CineBrass, and augment that with Hollywood Brass and Vienna Symphonic Library brass. Often there will be other instruments such as ethnic instruments, woodwinds, percussion, etc… and I have a wide variety of musical instrument libraries to draw from should I need to use them in a cue. I also use a lot of Omnisphere, Damage, Evolve, Alchemy, Phaedra, Project Alpha, Assault, and other great electronica/industrial libraries to get those edgy, electronica, hybrid sounds. I craft the cue entirely in Logic, and I’ll do a rough mix on the cue in order to get it in the game and live with it for a while. When we batch up enough pieces of music to make it worthwhile to do an orchestra session, then I take each cue and orchestrate it using Finale or Sibelius notation software. This is a really critical step. Real instruments behave differently than sampled virtual instruments on the computer, so it’s important for me to make new decisions on blend and balance of the orchestra with the mind-set of live musicians on a stage rather than what I did in Logic to make it sound right. Sometimes, depending on the cue, the orchestration choices may be only slightly different than the MIDI, but sometimes it may involve a whole new approach to the arrangement. Once I have all the scores and parts notated, then we are ready for a day of recording. At the orchestra session we are using Pro Tools for recording. Our audio engineer captures the session on Pro Tools, and then takes it back to his studio to edit and mix and ultimately deliver the final version of the cue.
  1. What fuelled your passion for music?
I guess it was mainly the ability to express myself. When I was in middle school I used to come home from school, drop my backpack, sit down at the piano and play for an hour or two. Not playing anything in particular, but just making up music that resonated with how I was feeling. It was an emotional outlet for me. Even if no one else was home or no one else was listening, I felt like I was able to get those emotions out by playing piano. I was also impacted a lot by music I listened to. I still remember how I felt when I first heard the Back to the Future score, and Edward Scissorhands, and The Who’s Tommy, and Nightmare Before Christmas, and the original Superman, and.. I could go on and on. I vividly remember being moved by the music, and being envious of how the composer was able to manipulate my emotions through the score. So for me it was that connection of the language of music and its ability to say everything I needed it to say. And music is such a rich language that it can express anything! So I’ve never felt short of ways to express emotion or storytelling through music, and that was a big reason I fell in love with composition.
  1. What other projects have you worked on prior to WildStar?
Before working at Carbine Studios I was a composer for SomaTone Interactive Audio, an audio post-production house for multimedia. Mainly we did video games – everything from mobile phone games to casual download PC games to console games. I wrote a lot of music for a lot of those kinds of games, and in a wide variety of styles. Before that I was doing contract work as a composer, where I got to work on some short films, pop production, be co-lead composer on Pirates of the Burning Sea, as well as some arranging and chart/score preparation for WarCraft 3 and WoW.
  1. What is your favorite WildStar song so far?
This is a difficult question to answer. Of the songs we’ve released so far, the Character Creation track is probably my favorite.  To be fair, I love them all, and some days certain themes or certain cues resonate with me more than others. That said, there are a lot of great memories wrapped up in the creation and production of the Character Creation piece, and I remember being really moved emotionally as I was conducting the orchestra during the recording session.  I wanted to do something a little different (as far as character creation music loops go), and I think we were able to do that. As a result, we’ve got an emotionally engaging piece of music that is ambient yet stirring, and conveys that sense of epic vastness and wondrous adventure.  Even so, I am REALLY excited for the next couple pieces that are going to be released in due time.
  1. What is your favorite part about WildStar?
My favorite part of this game is actually beyond the game itself. It’s the experience of making this game together with some really awesome people here at Carbine Studios. Yes, we are making an awesome game that has a ton of highlights, but honestly for the rest of my life I’m going to look back on this journey of making WildStar music, and being a part of the dev team, and it’s going to stand as an iconic time in my life. Not only because of my own personal journey during this time, but all the relationships I’ve built and experiences I’ve had over these years. It’s difficult for me to separate the game from the people who are making it, because the game is so much a part of who we are here at Carbine – so for me, what means the most about this game, is actually the process of making it and journey we get from it.
  1. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes there is, and I’m glad you asked! With a name like the Scowling Cassian, I know you would be excited to get a little more insight into the creation of the Dominion theme – Systematic Domination. So I want to share some footage from Eastwood Scoring Stage when we recorded the orchestra playing that piece of music! The video starts with some banter between the booth and me about bringing the trumpets back up to full volume, and then you can see me conduct the amazing group of musicians we had at Warner Bros. that day. Enjoy!!

Strong and powerful, this piece certainly represents the courage and might of the Dominion! And if you close your eyes and just listen, you can almost feel the heroes of the Empire marching by... ;)


I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Jeff Kurtenacker for taking time to share with the Scowling Cassian. It has been a pleasure not only with this interview, but chatting with you on Twitter and being able to share in your enthusiasm and excitement in your work. I look forwards to more talks in the future!

I would also like to thank Troy Hewitt for all your hard work in helping to get this all together and in taking the time out of your busy day to talk with me!

And I would like to say thank you to all the rest at Carbine Studios! I simply cannot express how amazing they have been for the community. They fly their fans to Arkship events to share in their excitement of your game, they chat with us on Twitter and visit our sites to say hello or share information. They ask us what we think and feel and then thank US for being such devoted fans. As I said before one of the most exciting parts of WildStar is that, thanks to Carbine, this isn't just some game we are watching being made, but a game we are a part of. The devs are certainly listening!

And that makes WildStar very special indeed


  1. Really looking forward to this game coming out, hopefully i still get a chance at the beta!

    1. Carbine says to keep your hopes up!

      And yes, I cannot wait for WildStar to launch! And I especially cannot wait to hear more of the music!

  2. Awesome, I'm so glad to see people passionate for their jobs taking part in the making of a great game. Jeff is certainly an amazing composer, his music give me chills... sometimes, and others they feel like strenghtening, so many emotions communicated solely by the sound. :)

    1. yes Yes YES!!! That's exactly it! That music that carries you that one step further. So wonderful! Jeff is fantastic!

    2. awesome! Can't wait for E3!!!

    3. They wont be at E3, right? Q_Q

    4. Yes! WildStar WILL be at E3!

  3. That would be my dream job - playing music for video games :)

    1. Oh very nice! I personally would love to design lore and monsters!