Aleksandar Randjelovic Interview: Gregorian Chants in Space (August 2008)
Interview Subject: Aleksandar Randjelovic
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: First of all, tell us about yourself. When did you decide to become a composer? Have you had a classical music education or are you self-taught?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: I can’t even remember when I first started to write music. I went to music school but, typical for a teenager in those days, I had a band and somehow I was always the one who had to write the music and lyrics. So it started then, I guess. I suppose you can say that I’m a self-taught composer. When I graduated from music school (violin and solo singing), I chose drama over music at university. At that time, the world of movies fascinated me but music was my first love and I couldn’t get away from it.
Michael: Are there any bands or performers whose work as influenced you?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: There are some composers whose genius works have inspired me to create. Basil Poledouris, for example, was the composer whose works made me interested in film music. His early works still inspire me as much as his latest ones. I was deeply moved when I heard of his death.
Michael: Can you recall your first memory connected to music?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: Oh yeah, that was Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. My mother used to play it all the time. Sometimes it even bored me :)
Michael: You've written music for both movies and games - is there a huge difference? Also, could you tell us about your composing process?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: It’s not so easy to explain and I won't go into too many details. When I work on a movie, in most of cases the director gives me “look-a-like” music and some hints which guide into a certain direction. I rarely have total freedom in the process and that is very frustrating for most composers - so I’ve heard. Composing music for games is similar and different at the same time. I feel that making music for games better suits my creative nature, because its gives me more freedom. But I enjoy making film music as much as writing music for games. The process of creating music is different for every composer. I, for example, feel each scene the moment I see it. I try to feel its rhythm and soon I start tapping it with my fingers and things are on move… It is something inside you that drives you to 'tell' a scene through music.
Michael: What music instruments have you mastered? Also, we're curious to hear about the hard- and software that you use to create music.
Aleksandar Randjelovic: Singing was my first choice. I became a master in it during my music education and while working with singers for many years. My colleagues often call me in for their recording sessions to produce their singers… I also play the violin and the piano. I always try to do live sessions, but sometimes tight budgets become an issue. Because of this I often have to use samples, mainly self-made. I also work a lot with synths, virtual instruments… I found that I like to sit with my computer and program samples… It's great fun.
Michael: Have you had any sources of inspiration outside of the game itself?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: The story of the game itself inspired me very much because I think it presents a unique vision of the future. I like science fiction literature and movies very much. I was eager to work on projects like these and all my enthusiasm and love for the science fiction genre came out when I got this offer. I couldn’t have picked a better project.
Michael: What you can tell us about creating music for Genesis Rising? From what moment on did you work on the game?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: From the moment when I got the script, I was in constant contact with the studio and the game designers. It's very interesting but difficult to work on a project when you only have the script and art work to work with. It was like creating music for a comic book… Later there were some models available, but there still wasn't a game. However, I had time to think a lot about the music. The game's lead designer and me talked a lot about the music, which had a strong influence on my creative work. I tried to imagine what the situations that I would write music for will look like. When I was given a playable demo of Genesis Rising, I was pleased to see that my demo tracks perfectly suited the game. I think that my music itself clearly describes the game - it makes you picture the game even if you haven't played it yet. The music completely merged with the game.
Michael: What materials did you receive from the developers?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: Like I said in my previous answer, I was eagerly waiting for a demo. Before that, I had a script, drawings and models. When the game started to come together, I asked the developers to capture some movie clips of Genesis Rising for me so that I could get a feel for the game. They gave me various situations like short battles, long battles, long building procedures… It was a good way for me to experience different aspects of the game.
Michael: How long did it take you to create Genesis Rising's soundtrack?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: Too long :) I worked on it for a whole year! It was very hard to program all instruments, but that is the price you pay for a tight music budget. A live orchestra would have been a better solution, although I did record a lot of live instruments and singers, which was absolutely necessary for some themes.
Michael: Did you ever consider using a full live orchestra and if so, why didn't this happen?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: I did consider the option, but when I presented the costs of using a full live orchestra to the producers, they were like “We will go with samples.” That was disappointing for me, but…
Michael: Using a Gregorian choir in Genesis Rising was a great idea - how did this come about?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: When I was working on Genesis Rising, I was absolutely fascinated with the writings of St. Augustine. During that time, I traveled a lot across Europe and in every city I would look for cathedral and churches. For example, l listened to a concert in the cathedral of St. Denis - beautiful acoustic! I became interested in Gregorian chants and this whole religious experience, together with the story of Genesis Rising, led me to the idea of using Gregorian choirs in the game. I took the most beautiful words from St. Augustine's Confessions and put them in my music, and that was it. Everyone was very pleased with that idea.
Michael: Could you tell us about your studio and your hardware?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: My studio is not very big, but it has everything I need. Logic is the main software that I use in my work. I use a Lynx TWO B soundcard on my Mac. My PC, which I basically use as a sampler, is equipped with my favorite soundcard, a Lynx L22. My outboard is also modest. I have two not very expensive microphone preamps (my setup's weakest point), but I’m a proud owner of a TC 6000. My near field speakers are a PMC DB1 (my favorite) and I made a surround system with the Genelec 1031. My choice of microphones for vocals were a Neumann M 149 and an Akg C 414. I also have a couple of dynamic mics for instruments and percussion.
Michael: Do you like playing video games and would you call yourself a hardcore gamer? What are your favourite games?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: No, I’m not a hardcore gamer. My friends always call me in on Call of Duty and Quake 4, but my passion are strategy games. I’m playing Universe at War: Earth Assault right now.
Michael: Have you listened to works by other game composers and if so, could you list any favourites of yours?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: I can remember themes from the very first games that I played on my PC like Supremacy or M.A.X. For many years, I was thrilled with the music of Heroes of Might & Magic III, but that was a long time ago. Lately I noticed that music from big video games sounds very much like Hollywood blockbusters. I understand this trend, but I would like to hear something more distinctive in video games. BioShock's soundtrack is something that I waited to hear in the world of video game music. Nothing else drew my attention like that score. It is innovative and when you listen to it, you really get the impression that someone created a very serious piece of art.
Michael: What are your plans for the future?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: Film is my big passion and I’m going in that direction. I’m working on a big movie at the moment (with a live orchestra this time), and I’m doing my best to meet the deadline, which is in July. But when I think about it a little bit… I would exchange working on two big movies for work on one good game any time :)
Michael: What do you think the future of the game music industry holds? Will there be a place for talented freelancers, or will the scene be dominated by Hollywood style scores?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: I think that the game industry will go for Hollywood style music for some time, but I can tell you that at some point in the near future, film music will be a combination of various electronic, synthetic sounds with atonal orchestral sounds. Something similar is already happening in European cinema, mainly in art house movies. It’s probably going to happen in the game industry as well. I also think that music will be more about the atmosphere and themes will be less important. Instruments will sound raw and dirty and the concept of composing music will merge with the concept of sound design.
Michael: Do you have any hobbies that are not related to music?
Aleksandar Randjelovic: I rarely have time to do anything beside my work, but luckily for me, most of the things I enjoy doing are in one way or another connected to what I do for a living. I like watching films, it's a passion of mine. And… oh yeah, I like playing video games.
Michael: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Genesis Rising can be purchased at Keepmoving Records.