Sean Murray, Composer
Being projected as one of the biggest selling pieces of media in history is a pretty big deal, especially considering the state of the economy. On November 9th 2010, Call of Duty®: Black Ops was released and is being labelled as just that; and SONAR X1 was the engine behind the scenes for the score. Even more exciting for one man, Sean Murray (Composer/Producer), is the fact that Activision has simultaneously released his soundtrack on a worldwide basis through an arm of Universal Music Distribution to coincide with the release of the game.
Sean Murray, who dove deep into his intellectual music vocabulary to write the score to the game, is no stranger to professional music composition. While most kids at the age of 8 years old are hanging out with their imaginary friends, Sean was hanging out on the sets of some of the most iconic movies ever made with his father Don Murray who has co-starred with timeless talents such as Marilyn Monroe (“Bus Stop” 1956), Henry Fonda and Steve McQueen. It was in situations like this that gave Sean the wisdom at an early age to realize exactly what he wanted to do in life; compose and create music for media. By the ripe old age of 16 years old he was getting on-the-job training by scoring movies for Brooks Institute of Film, and by 1987 his early vision paid off when he landed his first “real job” composing and scoring for the film “Scorpion.”
Since then, Sean has continued his musical journey (in many different genres) by scoring over 40 feature films, writing music for such prominent TV shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and now putting himself in a well-deserved world-class arena of video game composers with his release of Call of Duty®: Black Ops which was created completely in SONAR X1. Previous to Black Ops and SONAR X1, Sean has utilized SONAR and other cutting edge tools of Cakewalk to sculpt the sonic beds for other video game releases such as True Crime L.A., True Crime New York City, and the previous block buster Call of Duty; World at War. “I have a seamless relationship with SONAR that truly enhances my creative spirit” stated Sean on a recent phone interview. “I look at this DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] as more of a creation partner than a software suite; one that I can rely on to help develop what‘s going on in my head when I’m writing for a large-scale project such as Call of Duty.”
Sean Murray is the type of guy you root for, a guy who has worked so hard and accomplished so much, yet is still humanly grounded by an old-school trait of civility that only comes from a careers-worth of experience and detailed knowledge. He even speaks in a modest and appreciative tone as if he was still on a set with his dad as an 8 year old when he talks about recently witnessing a blasting rendition of his music at the Activision E3 show in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. “It was quite a surreal experience to work that hard on a project, and then hear an orchestra playing my music back to me in front of thousands in an arena of that size; not to mention sharing back stage with the likes of Eminem, Rihanna and Usher,” commented Sean about the event.
CAKEWALK Artist Relations: Can you quickly describe the technical process of how this score was facilitated?
Sean Murray: I record and orchestrate all of my music In SONAR. That means all MIDI, synths and live instruments guitar, bass, solo strings, live drums etc. When the cue is finished and mixed, I then determine which instruments will be orchestrated for live orchestra. Then the live orchestra is mixed back in with all of the other elements.
CAKEWALK AR: Where do you draw the energy to create music for such a large scale project like Call of Duty: Black Ops? (And what I mean by this is that the project is so large scale with different elements of music – how do you turn out so much music for a project like this without it starting to sound the same?)
SM: Black Ops has so many varied landscapes and moods that it’s hard to stay static musically. I wrote three hours of material, with only handful of recurring themes. The excitement and intensity of the game play as well as the powerful performances from actors like Gary Oldman and Ed Harris kept me motivated and driven.
CAKEWALK AR: Specifically what are a few SONAR-specific features that helped you create music for Black Ops?
SM: Track folders are essential for me when I am composing cues with over a hundred audio and MIDI tracks. I group all of my different orchestral sections, strings, brass, woodwinds, synth, percussion and orchestral percussion separately into neat packages. Also, the clip based effects are essential for my style. For example, I sometimes run whole orchestral sections through the Z3TA+ synthesizer for amazing LFO and filter effects.
CAKEWALK AR: What technical elements inspire you to write music for video games?
SM: My mission is to fulfil the vision of the director or producer that I am working for. So given that, I view myself as a musical actor. The director gives me a motivation while the imagery and setting are my emotional guides. SONAR helps me do virtually everything I can imagine.
The common threads of passion, knowledge and raw talent are inevitably the driving forces that continue Sean Murray on his path of musical excellence. We at Cakewalk are honoured and excited that he utilizes Cakewalk and SONAR X1 to separate himself from the rest, and we wish him and his family all the best and much continued success.