Sergey Khmelevsky Interview: Composing Galactic Assault (July 2008)
Interview Subject: Sergey Khmelevsky
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: When did you decide to become a composer and what did you plan to be before that?
Sergey Khmelevsky: I think it was in grade 6, but at that time music just went through me – I couldn’t keep it in mind or write it down. Later I began to write down some things more consciously. Some of them were really not that bad. I didn’t think much about what I wanted to be... Daily music lessons prepared me for the moment when was able to write music professionally.
Michael: Have you had a classical music education?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Yes, 12 years in a Republican college of the arts and five years in the Belorussian University of Culture and Art.
Michael: Which groups and performers have infleunce you the most?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Certainly Queen and Europe, in the early days. Then there are classical composers like Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Mussorgsky and Stravinski. I am also fond of listening to the music of impressionist composers. In general, each composer is a like a single separated world unto itself, each of them good and comfortable in its own way. I believe that every performer, composer or group has at least one creation that I would enjoy.
Michael: What instruments do you play and how big is your collection?
Sergey Khmelevsky: I can play piano, accordion, cymbals and double bass. I recently bought a recorder and have learned to play it and have even written several pieces :) I also sing. I plan to get some ethnical instruments and to learn to play them.
Michael: What hard- and software do you use for your work?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Hardware include a RME DIGI 96/8 Pad, Yamaha MSP 5 monitors, Mackie HR 824, Sennheiser HD 600 earphones and a CME UF-7 midi keyboard. I also have an old Kurzwei K2500XS, and some old Yamaha TX-802 FM module. For midi sequencing, I use Nuendo and bring everything together in Samplitude. I am planning to change to Logic Pro… Some time ago I worked with it on a PC and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since...
Michael: Galactic Assault interlaces symphonic music with electronic and ethnical elements. Was this style something that the game's developers requested or did you come up with it? How strong was the influence of Galactic Assault's producers in general?
Sergey Khmelevsky: I think this was my choice (coordinated with the game's music producer Ivan Dribas). Through the use of electronic music, I wanted to underscore the futuristic setting of the game. By using ethnical music, I highlighted the similarity of the game's locations to real locations on Earth, while the symphonic elements underline the gravitas of the game's events. I'd like to point out that Ivan was a big help... He has also had a classical education at a conservatory, which helped us to connect very quickly. We chose compositions from different existing games that matched the style we were looking for to explore for Galactic Assault's soundtrack. I'd like to point out how important it is to have people who understanding music and a game's concept on a project like this. It's no secret that a strong and well executed sound is a big plus for a game. The music allows the game to be more than just a chase for high scores, with the aim to shoot lots of bad guys. Together with impressive graphics and plot, music can move a game closer to a movie - to be more precise: to create a virtual reality.
Michael: At what stage of the development process did you join Galactic Assault? Have you read the book Inhabited Island on which the game is based and if so, did the book inspire you?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Shame on me, I haven’t read the book by the brothers Strugatsky. The plot of the game is designed to be a sequel to the book. My work began with the two tracks "The Battle" and "First Strike". At that stage, I didn’t have a demo version of the game and I wrote these pieces inspired only by screenshots. Later on, I had to stop writing music for Galactic Assault for a while because I was working on another project. Half a year later I continued on Galactic Assault. This time, I had a demo version of the game, and I could add and check my musical themes. It was around that time that most tracks for Galactic Assault were written.
Michael: Was all of the music you wrote used in the game? How long did the creation of the soundtrack take?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Yes, all of my material was used. It's difficult to say how long it took me because I worked with a break in the middle, but I think it was 5-6 months.
Michael: Did you plan to make the music in Galactic Assault dynamic, so it would change depending on what's happening on screen?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Yes, I did... But these things depend on what's happening in the game and on its genre. Galactic Assault is a turn-based strategy game, and as a matter of fact, the battles take up pretty much all of the game, so it would have been very difficult to make the music dynamic, and maybe even unnecessary. However, we did consider the option. I even had this idea that when you give a soldier the order to execute a sneak attack, the music becomes mysterious and anxious...
Michael: Theare are a lot of symphonic elements in Galactic Assault - are they all samples or did you record live instruments as well?
Sergey Khmelevsky: Live instruments were recorded, but not symphonic ones. The orchestral parts are samples.
Galactic Assault can be purchased at KeepMoving Records.