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Composer Jack Wall Taps Warsaw Village Band for Video-Game Soundtrack

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When composer Jack Wall (shown here) wanted to add a unique flair to the new Myst IV: Revelation video-game soundtrack, he turned to the Warsaw Village Band, a seven-piece Polish group that blends the passion and sadness of traditional music with the rhythmic drive of punk rock. "It's just such a great sound, so different from the formal kind of string playing we hear all the time," Wall says of the popular folk-punk group (and winners of a 2004 BBC3 World Music Award), which includes two violinists and a cellist. "It's a more folksy, ethnic sound that I don't hear every day, so I became quite enthralled by it."

To record the orchestral sections, Wall, 41, overcame a language barrier and turned to another Eastern European ensemble: the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra, a 76-piece ensemble with 50 string players.

For Wall—part of a growing segment of composers and musicians delving into the interactive-sound market—this was his second video-game score. In 2001, he scored Myst III: Exile using Seattle-area symphonic players. "That project went really, really well," he recalls. "It has this enormous sound; I had a 51-piece orchestra and an eight-person choir. It sounds like the wrath of God. This one has a more powerful main theme but the orchestral score is more fluid and lush."

To foster the use of flesh-and-blood musicians in the interactive-sound genre (which ranges from cell phone tones to slot machines, toys to video games), Wall last year cofounded the Game Audio Network Guild ( www.audiogang.org), a coalition of composers, sound designers, musicians, and other professionals. GANG, with 600 members in 18 countries, promotes the creation of better-sounding audio in the belief that will advance interactive-audio industries by helping to produce more competitive and entertaining products. Last year, GANG met with representatives of the Recording Musicians Association in Los Angeles to create a new video-game union agreement.

That commitment is reflected in the Myst IV recording project. "I set up a pretty big challenge for myself, going around the world and working with groups I had never worked with before," Wall says. "I wanted to raise the bar creatively. The experience was a mixture of heaven and hell and I loved every minute of it."

Music enthusiasts won't have to journey to the arcane world of Myst to sample the results; downloadable tracks from the Myst IV soundtrack are available worldwide at the Apple iTunes Music Store and a commercial CD release is in the works.

*This article appeared in Strings November 2004
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