Well, here is a little of what you can expect from “Iris.Fall”: striking monochrome visuals, impressively crafted environments and a spellbinding theme of “light & shadow”.
You play as Iris, a girl who awakens from a strange dream and follows a black cat to a dilapidated theater.
Here she travels back and forth between a strange land of light and shadow, utilizing special books that allow her to become her own shadow and traverse on a 2D plane rather than the regular 3D plane to progress.
While all this is going on, the unique score by composers Thomas Parisch and Edwin Wendler does a great job of pushing the game along all the while creating mystery and intrigue.
So, in-order to give you (our reader) a better sense of the composing process for “Iris.Fall”, I (Steven Brown) did an interview with Parisch where he goes more in-depth about Iris.Fall’s soundtrack and much more (you will find the interview further down the page).
Online you have said that you got inspiration for the “Iris.Fall” score from barrel organs and early cinema theater organs. Were there any specific recordings or early films that you heard or watched in particular where you saw these used and wanted to base the score on?
No specific films really, no. But I did experience a few of them first hand actually in a fascinating museum here in Los Angeles where I live, the Nethercutt Collection.
It’s a private collection that centers on automobiles but also includes a vast selection of rare mechanical instruments. I’ve never seen so many unique and inventive musical machines in one place.
Most of them are still operational so a tour includes a lot of listening which was quite interesting for me, of course. They also screen silent movies with an organist scoring them live on one of their theater organs.
I highly recommend that place! So, when we discussed Iris Fall’s score, all those experiences came to mind immediately.
The music these mechanical instruments produce is interesting from a performance perspective. Since they attempt to have the ability to produce whole ensembles, the performer has to let go of certain controls, like shaping phrases more intuitively for example.
The resulting music can be somewhat more raw, a bit rough around the edges, literally. But that is part of the theater charm and the nostalgia. We tried to include those imperfections for the score.
You created the initial instrument palate and tone for the game. Were there instrumentations that were in the final score that you didn’t initially start with? If so, can you say which ones.
I would say the special violin we had built, a more nasal & rattling sounding one, wasn’t there in the beginning.
Our musical inventor we hired to design instruments for the score, proposed that specific violin and the violin in general was also a sound that our audio director, Koozer from Next, would ask for during the writing process.
It actually is an obvious choice for the world we were going for but I wasn’t in the mix in the beginning.
I think mostly because initially we were focusing on plucked sounds and percussive tones and sounds from the childhood universe such as bell-like tones, piano and music box type stuff.
Also, even though we planned the instrument way before, the special zither our inventor put together was, even though preconceived, not exactly imaginable in terms of actual timbre until it was built. I would say the sonic result was definitely in the ballpark of what we had aimed for, so it wasn’t much of a surprise.
The real surprises, actually, were good ones there. I realized that we could do more things with the zither than what we had imagined, such as scratching and scarping sounds. This was a real addition to the performance and fun to do…
About how long did you work on “Iris.Fall”?
Well, that’s a bit hard to say because there was a first draft for the game back in 2017. I had worked on themes and a slightly other musical direction then with another composer. It was more orchestral back then and less of the small ensemble, with the focus on unique instrument sounds it has now. Then, last year, we changed gears and the score became what it is now.
We didn’t keep anything from the first draft in the final music. From the initial brainstorming phases about setting the tone and finding the right instrumental sounds, the whole process took probably close to about 2-3 months. It was a solid time window to work with.
Still I had to bring in another composer halfway into it, the amazing Edwin Wendler, to help with writing as I was unexpectedly thrown into another project at the same time.
You work on a lot of games for Tencent such as Honor of Kings and Moonlight Blade that have a heavy Chinese influence. Did you incorporate any of those influences in the “Iris.Fall” score?
No, even though “Iris Fall” comes from a Chinese game studio, Next Studios from Tencent, it really isn’t Chinese at all. In a lot of other Tencent games I scored for there was a certain cultural crossover encouraged or required even if the world was leaning more towards western aesthetics.
But with “Iris Fall”, there was never even was the mention of such a crossover. I think it is clear from the overall aesthetics that Chinese elements would have been out-of-place, pretty much alien actually, to the environment. If anything, the world has cultural nods to Western-European theaters. So the score, loosely, connects to these origins.
You scored Resident Evil 6 with a few other composers. Did you collaborate with any of them more closely than others?
Yes, I certainly did. Not only for Resident Evil 6 but also for a variety of other projects, I was working closely with a writing partner during those days, French composer Laurent Ziliani.
Even though we still composed cues independently for the most part, our work would focus on the same sections and, based on our previous collaborations and teamwork, we would have many internal discussions and shared resources on topics ranging from more technical aspects such as software and sounds.
However, we would also, of course, talk about creative choices and approaches. Apart from composing, we did also collaborate when it came to orchestrating for the live recording in Sydney.
All this was very natural for us as we were well used to working in a team already before RE6. This sort of teamwork can not only help relieve a lot of pressure but also induce inspiration and keep us sane during a long-term project like RE6 was.
Musically, which part of Resident Evil 6 did you think was the strongest?
It has been a while, so I can’t recall everything too clearly… It’s just a small bit but what popped into my mind just now was the music for a cinematic sequence written by one of Capcom’s in-house composers, Akiyuki Morimoto. I think it’s called “Entrust Oneself To The Future“ on the soundtrack.
I guess what made me remember this cue is that apart from being very well written, of course, it not only served the picture but added to it.
Also, this sequence was unusually emotional and a key story point that gave an opportunity to make it standout, contrasting with most other music. It also had a special treat as it features a beautiful trumpet solo that was a pleasure to record live with amazing musicians.
Congrats on your Hollywood Music in Media award for Moonlight Blade. Was there anything in particular you learned from that game that you now apply to your other titles?
Yes! More than any other distinctively “Chinese” games I worked on, Moonlight Blade has not only introduced and educated me on Chinese traditional music and culture but has also led me to discover ways of combing these influences with my western approach of orchestral music and scoring in general.
I’m rather comfortable now and actually thrive by the challenge of introducing and featuring ethnic elements for a global audience. And I see this approach as not being confined to Asian elements only, of course. It’s more like a world music approach, to say it more generally.
Actually, for the HMMA winning music from the latest Moonlight Blade release, it was in discussions with the Moonlight Blade audio supervisor that we decided to go beyond just the ethnic scoring and move into world music.
So we not only feature the specific Chinese elements but open the angle to include other cultures usually absent from the scoring world and mix it all up in new ways.
The fact that this latest Moonlight Blade installment took place on a legendary island from which little is known about in terms of what music might have sounded like, gave a perfect premise to be less location-specific in influences and more imaginative in combing music influences not only from Asia in general but also the middle east.
What type of video game would be your dream game to work on?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t really have a wish list. For me, the most interesting game experiences are usually the very immersive ones, those hitting us on the sensory and emotional front, and, rather on the exact opposite, the strategic ones, more intellectual and observing.
So, I think it would be really cool to work on something totally immersive where the score can reflect a world in a holistic sense, meaning it would not have much of a narrowing down beforehand into genres or styles. Rather it would adapt to whatever the situation requires, just like real life is complete immersion…
Maybe VR will create immersive experiences that would require such an approach. Although I can see the dangers clearly of being open-ended like this… On the other hand, a strategy or simulation game requires a totally different approach to the music.
Rather than pulling you in, the intellectual observer needs to be aided in transcending into higher stratospheres of observational viewpoints and meditative states of calculation and planning.
I have not worked on such a game yet but have fantasized about what music I would write for such an occasion. Even though each very different, both would be challenges I would enjoy very much I think. For now, the latter is a bit more realistic than the first I suppose…
Robin Ek – Editor
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