Eimear Noone's work as a videogame composer has seen her work extensively with Blizzard Studios on titles such as Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, World of Warcraft and Overwatch.
This weekend's iDIG Festival - that's Dublin International Games Music Festival - runs from this evening until May 1st and sees a huge swathe of names and faces from the gaming industry descend on Ireland. We managed to get a few minutes with Eimear Noone and talked about her work, her influences and why she set up a gaming music festival.
How do you approach composing for music as opposed to say film?
There's several aspects. There's cinematic, which is just like scoring a film. There's certain techniques we can use to draw forth emotion from players and we can use affect in the music to put them into a certain headspace and help them make the emotional connection with the journey. A lot of games are almost interactive movies, so that gives composers great scope to go into human emotion and write the big themes that are no longer de rigeur in filming scoring. The big John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith themes; a lot of the fashion is to create an ambient atmosphere without saying too much about the characters. With videogames, it's the opposite.
Outside of cinematic, we don't have the big problem of treading on dialogue. The landscapes are so deep and imaginative; they're as deep in some spots as a Salvador Dali landscape and I truly see this as pop art. I'm saying that now, rather than looking back in fifty years that things like like Diablo III are pop-art. To me, that's one of the most beautiful games out there, visually, and the artwork is inspiring. You have to go into this deep creative space just to be at their level. I find it really inspiring.
When you're composing music, would the creative directors push you in a certain direction with existing music already?
We don't use temp music all that much because Blizzard really has its own sonic identity. Our audio director, Russell Brower and Chris Metzen and the whole team have gone out of their way to create a unique sonic identity for the different IPs within Blizzard. For instance, World of Warcraft is brooding and dark, whereas Overwatch is brassy and clean, Diablo has all kinds of subtleties. For Diablo III, I actually brought the whole gang over to record Anúna to act as the hell choir. Something like Hearthstone, it's more playful, it's almost tavern-lite. When I worked on Warlords of Draenor, we have this very collaborative environment.
Russell gave me the artwork and told me to go away and come back with a story. I went away with artwork from Warlords of Draenor and we did exploratory sessions. It's quite structured, not like jamming with a band. We all went into the studio and all played what we came up with from the artwork. Russell's intention was that we all absorb a little of each other's work and came back with something cohesive. We had a lot of music to write for that and Blizzard are always trying to push the boundaries, so we try to do the same with music. The fans definitely keep us on our toes, which is actually very rewarding and very scary, but it's good to have accountability!
It must be exhausting to come up with a unique sound for different games with different environments and different reactions within it.
No, it's definitely not. For a composer, to live a creative life where you're writing all the time, it's just the be all and end all. To have orchestras play it and record it and have played at things like Video Games Live. It never gets old.
Why set up a music game festival in Dublin? Is it just because you're Irish yourself?
I've been on the road five years, performing music. We always do signings afterwards and I was in Sydney at the Opera House, and I met so many young Irish people. They kept asking if I was doing anything back home and I hadn't done anything back home in about ten years, at the time. I thought to myself, A) a lot of people had studied audio, animation, all sorts in Ireland and left. So I thought, if I did something here in Ireland, how about we make it something more than just one concert? We could do something that promotes Irish game developers, we promote the work they're doing, we help bring awareness to this industry that really deserves support and investment. I keep saying it, the talent we have, the animation, the acting, the tech genius - it's ripe for the taking.
I got a great education at the expense of the taxpayer, I left and headed off to LA - so my karma is seriously in the red! So, if I can bring awareness to the industry and Ireland's talent, we want the word to get out there. We've got people from Blizzard flying in and they'll be walking around the creative spaces and seeing what indie developers in Ireland are making.
Have you had any help from political circles?
Absolutely no help whatsoever. That doesn't mean that Craig (Stuart Garfinkle, Eimear's husband) and I aren't banging on doors. I've had a couple of interesting meetings with people in government, but we've no sponsorship. This is an idea that we feel so passionately about that we're putting so much resources and time into it. Last year was a really high quality festival and people loved it. We're doing this for people and we're doing it so we'll get the attention of people who can help the industry and make it go.
OK, final question. What's your favourite piece of film music?
Oh, man! That's really difficult. I used to do these concerts with the National Concert Hall with Braveheart and stuff. John Williams gets me every time. It's a common answer, but for a common reason. The third reel from ET always gets me. Come on! I've seen John Williams perform it live twice and Steven Spielberg introduced him! I'll go for John or Jerry Goldsmith, they'd be my two favourites.
iDIG Music Festival runs from April 29th to May 1st. Tickets are available at idigmusicfest.com