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Sony Online Entertainment, in keeping with current MMORPG practices commissioned four-time Emmy award winning composer, Laura Karpman to score the music for the up coming EverQuest II. Even if fans are not familiar with her name, many are familiar with her music. Laura has scored the music for quite a few TV projects including Odyssey 5 and Taken as well as documentaries and films. She takes time out of her busy schedule to speak with Carolyn "Sylvene" Herrick of EverQuest II Stratics about her recent work with EverQuest II.
Stratics: How did you feel when approached to do the music for what essentially is a video game? Have you played any MMORPG yourself?
Karpman: I was actually quite befuddled - I 'm not a gamer, and so I really had no idea what the parameters of scoring a video game would be. When I would try to play Everquest, I would be instantly killed, so it was hard to get a sense of what a more advanced gamer experiences.
Stratics: Were you taken through the worlds and music of EverQuest before being shown EverQuest II?
Karpman: Yes, after my initial death experience, the developers played the game with me, and I was able to watch more advanced play with them.
Stratics: How did you draw your inspiration for the music in EverQuest II? Did you view game footage of the towns and watch combat sequences?
Karpman: Well. It was a combination of things. I did see very early versions of the incredible locations in Everquest II, and I had extensive discussions with the developers regarding the emotional content of these various lands and combat experiences.
Stratics: I notice your major influences for your other Sci-Fi pieces were from 20th century composers such as Bartok and Stravinksy, and you mentioned that for Taken you looked a lot at Shostakovich, Lutoslawsky, Britten, R. Strauss and Mussorgsky. Those names immediately bring to my mind the more well known pieces those composers have written. Stravinsky's ballet the Firebird, the opening of the movie Space Odyssey (Strauss) and the very dramatic Night on Bare Mountain (Mussorgsky). Did EverQuest II inspire also such dramatic music?
Karpman: Very much so! When composing EverQuest II, I listened to a lot of Britten, especially for many of the sea travel and sea battle experiences, I listened to all of Shostakovich symphonies, Lutoslawsky's Concerto for Orchestra, and Prokofiev's Sythian Suite, and Alexander Nevsky. I think much cinematic heroic music is based on Strauss, and so was mine . I did listen to Mussorgsky, but the Ravel orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition.
Stratics: I would imagine that a world as diverse as Norrath would have inspired many diverse pieces of music. Did any of the landscapes or towns inspire the use of any of the esoteric collection of instruments in your studio? Would the discerning listener find a Harpsichord, a Gamelan or Angklung lurking in the music?
Karpman: Yes, several lands are composed only with samples of the instruments in my studio, then these sounds are highly processed. I even sing a little. However, 70 out of 90 minutes of music is scored with an 84 piece orchestra.
Stratics: How was it like scoring for EverQuest II? Did you work with different developers with different dungeons and settings or were you given free reign with some basic guidance from the producers?
Karpman: Both are really true - the guys at Sony online are true artists in their own right. They both guided me, and gave me tremendous freedom to create a really original musical world for Everquest 2.
Stratics: Were you given any general themes to work with? Or structure in which to score the music?
Karpman: I did preserve part of the original theme, for the installation and loading music, but the rest of the music is wholly original. I did, however, change the original theme musically to better suit my musical language.
Stratics: Did you find composing for a video game any different than say... a movie or a play? In terms of creativity, do you think it took you somewhere you haven't gone or expanded your horizons?
Karpman: I loved every minute of it. It was a highly creative and imaginative process - because it is an online game, and therefore there are no timings like in film, each piece of music is exactly as long as it should be, and as I wanted it to be.
Stratics: Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience in creating the music for EverQuest II?
Karpman: This was one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever had. We had an amazing time recording the score in Prague, a wonderful city with equally great players. I really believe that this score will make the EverQuestII experience much more cinematic.
Stratics: Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic?
Karpman: Yes. It was the Prague Symphony Orchestra - eastern Europe was an appropriate choice for many reasons. We recorded in the Rudolphinum, a beautiful 19th century hall in the middle of the ancient section of Prague.
Stratics: Do you have a short music clip from EverQuestII that you would be allowed to share?
Karpman: That you will have to contact Sony about.
Stratics: Well, that I have done and hopefully, Sony will share. Thank you for your time in sharing the EverQuest II musical experience with us, Laura.
Karpman: You are welcome. Those were great questions - are you a musician?
Stratics: If you can count a childhood of piano lessons and a lifetime of listening to NPR, I am!
We asked, and we received. Thanks to Sony Online Entertainment, Stratics is proud to bring you, our readers, the EverQuest II Theme by Laura Karpman.
Carolyn "Sylvene" Herrick