Recently, I was interviewed about my work on the “Firefly” game and “Firefly Cortex”. Below is an excerpt from that interview that I wanted to share with you.
“You know what the first rule of flying is? …Love.” - Malcolm Reynolds
“When I'm creating the score for a project, I tend to approach it in the same manner no matter if it's a TV show, film, or video game. All of these mediums are a platform for storytelling so my core approach is the same for each of them. My job as the composer is to use music to bring out and enhance the emotions that are driving the story. If I do my job right, the music should help you feel what the characters are feeling and to further immerse you in the story. The music should also help to give you a "sense of place" and transport you to the world you see unfolding in front of your eyes. Paired with the script and the actor's performances, the music is there to really bring the heart and emotion of the characters to you. The music can be a conduit between you and the characters and world that's been created.
In the case of “Firefly”, I'm approaching it not only as a composer, but as a fan with strong emotional ties to the project as well. I've been a devoted Browncoat for 12 or more years - ever since I first watched the series. I'm a sci-fi dude and a big "Buffy" and "Angel" guy, so when I saw that Joss Whedon was diving into a sci-fi series, I was thrilled to see what would happen. "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!" was my reaction. My expectations were high and they were blown away. It was right up my alley. Spaceships, check. Old West elements, check. Incredible characters (including a Han Solo-esque captain), check. So, um.. yeah I'm a fan.
Creating the music for "Firefly" is a dream gig. I get to live in that amazing world that Joss created and I get to play in the 'Verse all day. Greg Edmonson, who wrote the music for the TV series created such an amazing soundscape. It's a musical melting pot that just nails it. Being tasked with continuing what Greg and Joss started is not only a huge honor, but a complete joy because the musical foundation they created is so fantastic.
Inspiration for me while working on this project has come so easily because of my deep love for all things "Firefly". It's basically like breathing. It feels like home. I've also been a fan of Western, Bluegrass, and Folk music all my life. So, I bring my love for those styles along for the ride. Working on "Firefly" also gave me an excellent excuse to buy an arsenal of new instruments for the project. "Aw shucks, looks like I need me a new banjo and geeetar." I'm playing all of the instruments on the score myself, which adds an extra layer of inspiration for me. There's something magical and stirring about the banjo and the other instruments used in the various styles of music in the "Firefly" universe. All I have to do is pick up my guitar or banjo and the ideas start flowing. The Voice Memo app on my iPhone is chock full of little sketches named "Firefly Banjo Idea 2" and the like.
I've gotten several comments from people saying things like "This feels like music from a lost episode of "Firefly" and others saying that they've been transported back to the 'Verse when they hear my music. I can't tell you how much that means to me. Honestly, comments like these and all of the love I've been feeling from other Browncoats out there is EXACTLY why I do what I do. You inspire me even further and I can't thank you guys enough. I'm one of you, a proud Browncoat. And you guys are just about the best fan community on Earth-That-Was.
When writing music for a video game, there are some extra challenges in conveying the emotions of the characters and triggering the emotions of the player. The amazing thing that video games do that doesn't really happen with TV and film is that it puts you, the player, in control of the situation. That means that the music can't just say "Jayne is disappointed that he can't bring grenades.", it has to portray the multitude of emotions the player could be having at any given time. In a game like "Firefly " a lot of the music's job is to put you squarely back in the 'Verse and to give you the sense that you're really there. But, there are also many tense and downright violent and scary situations and the music needs to make sure the player feels like they're in the thick of it. I'm creating several layers of music that transition between the different emotional states the player will go through. It ranges from "shiny", to "gorram it", to "Oh God, oh God we're all going to die". I've been a big video game guy my whole life and I know what it's like when you're playing a game and that magic happens. When you're transported into that world and feel like you are that hero (or scoundrel) who's saving the day (or ruining your enemy's day). I'm hoping that my music puts you there in the 'Verse and gives you that feeling.
For "Firefly", the most important thing I feel my score should achieve is what I've said above. To bring you back into Joss Whedon's funtacular space cowboy adventure zone. Otherwise known as the 'Verse. If I accomplish this for the fans, then paint me happy. That's what it's all about for me. Honoring what Joss and Greg did an
d carrying "Firefly" into the future with the super talented teams creating the game. Everyone aboard is a shining example of what it means to be a Browncoat. There's a spirit to this project that honestly feels like what I'd imagine it would feel like to be a part of Serenity's crew. We all have the love that keeps her in the air.
Being a part of this project and the larger "Firefly" universe is nothing short of amazing. It's one of the greatest times of my life and one of the most rewarding projects I've been a part of. Getting to work with everyone involved in the project has introduced me to some great and talented new friends. And, I'm now hopelessly addicted to playing 5-string banjo.”