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Dec 022017

The Music of Mordor

Nathan Grigg and Garry Schyman crossed paths in 2012 to collaborate on the music for Monolith Production’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor game, and they discuss the pressures of bringing the music of Mordor to fans.

 “Calling yourself a Tolkien fan is risky enough given that at any moment you might run into someone who speaks fluent Sindarin.” ~ Nathan Grigg

In a recent interview on Billboard, Nathan Grigg and Garry Schyman talk about the pressures of scoring a Tolkien-Inspired video game.

The music for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and now Shadow of War had the task of bringing the emotional resonance and atmospheric nature of the the story of Talion to the game.

These two composers have decades of experience creating music for videos games, that gamers everywhere have played and enjoyed, but they had particular challenges when it came to Middle-earth. Here is an excerpt from the interview on Billboard…

Having composed for popular franchises like F.E.A.R. and Bioshock, respectively, not to mention winning numerous awards, the two crossed paths in 2012 to collaborate on the music for Monolith Productions’ popular Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor game, an original story that takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendarium.
Following the success of Mordor and a partnership that seemed to work wonders, Grigg and Schyman once again teamed up to work on the highly-anticipated sequel, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, out now on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.
Billboard spoke with the composers about the hours of music they created for both Middle-earth games, the pressure of creating music for Tolkien’s rabid fanbase and how scoring an open world game differs from TV or film.

In the interview, they talk about how they came to the project.

How did you two come to meet and how did a work relationship form?
Nathan Grigg: I’ve been composing and directing music for all of Monolith Productions’ titles since 2001. Whenever we define a music scope that exceeds the internal production schedule, I outsource some of the composition work and select a composer I think is the best fit for the project. I became familiar with Garry’s music via his scores for the Bioshock series and Dante’s Inferno. I found it striking in the sense that there was very expressive, melodic writing that I thought would bring our iconic characters to life, but also wild aleatoric material and a kind of early 20th century-inspired approach to orchestral music that connected to the kind of sonic environment I wanted to achieve in our combat music. So, I reached out to him, and we started working together on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor in the fall of 2012. It’s been a good five years of fun.
Garry Schyman: Nate is an amazing composer, and though our styles are not identical at all, we complement each other nicely. Seems to have been a good fit as we did get a BAFTA nod for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Here they talk about the experience of working on the game…

Between the two of you, you’ve worked on some incredible games, but the Middle-earth games are especially epic encounters considering the universe they’re attached to — not to mention the fandom. Did that put any additional pressure on you going into working on Shadow of Mordor, and now Shadow of War?
NG: Calling yourself a Tolkien fan is risky enough given that at any moment you might run into someone who speaks fluent Sindarin. When you’re telling a new story in a world that’s been so deservedly celebrated for so long, you’re talking a huge risk, but if you don’t focus and follow through with your own vision, you get lost in the noise. We were telling a new story, with our own style and pacing, and a protagonist with a very un-hobbit-like view of Middle-earth. And most importantly, we were making action adventure games, and they needed to be really fun. My thought from the beginning was to simply acknowledge and respect the work that had preceded us, and then put our best foot forward along our own path.
GS: I’m not sure either of us knew how big a hit Shadow of Mordor would become and that did add pressure to make sure our work on Shadow of War not only matched but hopefully surpassed [it]. That said, there is so much music to write that you can’t take too much time becoming frozen in fear for not writing a big enough or significant enough cue. You just have to keep writing and making cool stuff. Plus, the game and the images we score are so epic [and] beautiful that I believe it inspired us to do our best work.

Go HERE to read the rest of the interview.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War ~ “Fires of War” (Official Music Video)

 December 2, 2017  Posted by at 6:19 am
  • Ufthak, of wide eyes

    Thanks for sharing!

  • TroyTroodon

    I kind’a wish they had the privilege to use some of Howard Shore’s compositions.