The Music of Delta Force - Black Hawk Down
An Interview with Russell Brower

Sample Tracks
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Main Title, Part Two
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The Longest Mile recently sat down with Russell Brower, Director of Audio at NovaLogic to discuss how Delta Force – Black Hawk Down’s atmospheric soundtrack came about.

Russell, please tell us a little about yourself and your background?

For the last 23 years, I've been working in most every entertainment medium there is. I started with the Disney theme parks, when Epcot was being built, as a show designer, composer, and sound effects person (trainee, really) at WED Enterprises. I worked on my first game projects for an Epcot pavilion in 1982. My first foray into film was assisting on the sound effects for the movie "Tron". I worked on the voice of "Bit" among other things. Thus began a 13-year freelance stint doing television, film and whatever else I could get my hands on. For six of those years, I supervised sound for Warner Bros. Animation, working on "Animaniacs", "Batman", "Tiny Toons" and others. I did some music composition for "Animaniacs". I did lots of live action and movies, too, also some games and even museum exhibits. Three Emmy Awards later, I had the opportunity to work again for Disney (now Imagineering), and provided Musical Direction for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, DisneyQuest, and Tokyo DisneySea. In 2002, games came calling again, in the form of NovaLogic, and my current position as Audio Director.

How does working on a video game soundtrack compare to your previous work?

Game soundtracks are an interesting combination of the techniques developed in film scoring and music for theme park environments. All three require the music to help tell a story, however film (and television) hones your skills in leading the ear, or directing attention, anticipation, setup and payoff, tension and release, subtext and writing for dialogue.

Theme park environments force you to deal with an entirely created "world" in which the audience can roam almost freely. Perceptions change with perspective, and perspective changes constantly.

It is very rewarding to bring all my past experience to bear in creating a game soundtrack that supports the story and makes the virtual world a more compelling place to be.

What challenges did DF - BHD pose for you musically?

The principal challenge lay in bringing an ethnic feel to the music, without sounding clichéd or too "Hollywood". With some Middle-Eastern and African lead instruments balancing out the synthesizers, both sides of the conflict in Somalia had a "voice", while the ethnic drumming (from a multitude of cultural influences) provided the "voice" of the land itself.

How long did it take you to compose the music?

The main thematic material was written in two short sessions just prior to the 2002 E-3 trade show. Writing resumed in August. The entire production took about six weeks, with the composition effort sprinkled throughout that time frame. My collaborator, Ron Fish, and I came up with approximately two hours of material for the project.

Where did you record the music?

Some recording was done in my personal studio, and one belonging to Ron Fish. The bulk, however, was recorded at NovaLogic's own in-house studio, including the ethnic instruments. The drums were recorded at Jersville Studios in Woodstock, New York, so that I could work with my favorite drummer.

Who were the artists you worked with on the soundtrack?

The powerful, visceral drumming came from Jerry Marotta, who makes his game soundtrack debut on DF-BHD. He may be best known for his work with Peter Gabriel, both recording and touring, but he has also worked with Paul McCartney, the Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello, Tears for Fears, Hall & Oates, Carly Simon and dozens of others.

Papa Gynoo is a master of all wind instruments, both flute-like and reed. Several of them are of his own creation. Papa and I have worked together on some theme park tracks in the past. He has played and toured with many wonderful musicians and composers.

Daniel Gilbert is a Los Angeles session guitarist, and instructor at the Musician's Institute.

S.A.F. is a "chant" style vocalist, who has worked on several big Hollywood feature soundtracks, and also is a voice actor in DF-BHD.

Ron Fish is a composer whom I also met during my recent theme park adventures. Like many drummer/percussionists, he is an incredible musician, and provided much expertise in finding the right level of ethnic influence for our score.

Did you use any special instruments for the music? Was it difficult to get hold of them?

It's almost always more difficult to find the right musician, rather than the instruments. In this case, Papa Gynoo brought about 200 different wind instruments to the session! He played the duduk, which provides the highly emotional and haunting melodic voice heard throughout the score. He played several variations of the flute, including the ney. Another was fashioned out of the horn of an African oryx, and fitted with a saxophone mouthpiece, and delivers a more wailing, snarling tone. He called it the o-phone!

Jerry Marotta has a special drum kit which comes from the Taos drum company of Taos, New Mexico. Each very large drum is made in an ancient, Native American fashion. The very-low bass pulse heard on some of the "stealthier" cues comes from the 4-1/2 foot-diameter Taos kick drum. His "standard" drum kit is from Yamaha, and was used on the Peter Gabriel sessions.

For aficionados of electronic music, names like Reason, Moog, Oberheim, Logic, Nord and Kyma may be familiar. Also, many parts came from my rather large MOTM Modular Synthesizer from Synthesis Technology.

Is there one particular segment of music you are proud of in DF - BHD?

In a climactic mission entitled "Mog Mile", there is a departure from the action music which has permeated the game, and a very emotional, wailing score amidst the fog of battle reminds the player of the harsh reality of conflict and war. The piece ends with a powerful percussive statement from the talented hands of Jerry Marotta. As a longtime fan of Peter Gabriel's music, I am quite proud of that moment.

How big a part of any game experience do you see music being?

I feel that game music has the potential to deliver the same impact that Hollywood has enjoyed for decades in film. We are all storytellers in this business, whether it's film, television, theme parks, or games. I have worked in them all, and this era in the development of games is very exciting--- it's like being in Hollywood in the '30s, when sound film had just changed the world.