The sounds of some of the most popular video games from the past decade are playing the peninsula this weekend.
Days of blips and bloops on the Atari-2600 are now full musical scores for epic stories of man versus alien or plant versus zombie. You name a genre and the video game industry has covered it.
The Port Angeles Symphony is partnering with composer Stan LePard, who has composed and orchestrated for video game franchises like Halo and Age of Empires, to bring two nights of video game music Sept. 27-28 in Sequim and Port Angeles.
Adam Stern, music director for the Port Angeles Symphony, said he recently turned his attention to the medium after learning many of today’s great composers are working in video games.
At a recent video game concert in Seattle, Stern said he played keyboard and rarely encounters a crowd like video game fans.
“Two seconds into a piece and people would be whooping and hollering when they recognize it,” he said.
Stern will co-conduct the shows with LePard who conducts for a live audience for the first time. But he’s not a newbie to conducting with some of his resume includes the Halo series, Age of Empires III, The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age, Plants Vs. Zombies, Guild Wars 2 and more.
“It’s a new experience,” LePard said. “I’ve been taking lessons from Adam.”
LePard either composed or conducted some of the music going to be played and contacted some of his industry counterparts to play their music. Songs and suites range from whimsical to romantic to action and adventure, Stern said.
To add to the experience, LePard created a video that corresponds with each game represented.
Fun for all
The concert is meant to be an introduction for families and gamers to orchestral music. Each show ticket includes a spaghetti dinner, which Stern said is the first in his tenure for the symphony.
“If they like what they hear, then maybe they’ll come hear us at another performance,” he said.
Preparing for the concert, LePard said it was a lot more work than he imagined.
“I went through all the orchestral music I thought was the most fun,” he said.
LePard finds a concert like this gives a new emphasis to the music when the audience might not do that otherwise.
“It’s like when watching a movie, you are too focused on the story and what’s happening than the music,” he said. “(With the concert) you might be able to relate more.”
LePard has been making video games sing since 1994 when he moved to Seattle. He started with sound design for Microsoft before transitioning into games.
His first game was Microsoft’s Hover and he’s gone to be involved in some capacity with more than 300 interactive media products.
He said the industry continues to grow and change and in his time the mediums for transferring music have changed from MIDI files to CD-ROMs to adaptive music while more audio was put into games and budgets blossomed.
“Then there was a reversal when mobile games and Facebook games became the thing. Their downloadable content had to be small,” he said.
LePard is composing and conducting for Facebook games, mobile games and home console games like X-Box and the Playstation.
He said one of the biggest changes in his career was the creation of adaptive music where in the game, the music will change to the scene. For example, the score changes from melancholy while a character walks through the woods and intensifies when it encounters a battle.
“Since everyone plays the game a little bit differently, the game has to adapt to that,” he said.
While LePard doesn’t consider himself a gamer, he does play through the games he works for to know what’s going on.
With his first Halo job, he said a friend recommended him and he’s gone on to compose (Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST) and orchestrated many titles in the franchise.
As for the game phenomenon Plants Vs. Zombies, LePard has orchestrated one of original game composer Laura Shigihara’s songs and has composed for expansions like the Facebook version.
Non-gamers might have heard his work in Encarta, the digital encyclopedia, various Windows operating systems and card games.
For more about LePard, visit stanlepardmusic.com.