with Jack Wall - Myst IV Composer
By Jennifer Miller – Just Adventure +
Hello Mr. Wall! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these
questions for Just Adventure. I just recently started playing Revelation
and I am ecstatic about the music I have heard thus far. I am a huge
fan of the Exile soundtrack (it’s always with me on
roadtrips) and I was thrilled to hear that you were at the helm of
Thanks so much –
and it’s a pleasure to be talking to you!
JA: I have been
impressed with the level of communication you have kept with the AVIDs
in the Myst world. Were/are you a fan of the series?
Oh yeah – I’ve
been a big fan since the beginning. The story I always have to tell
is that back in 1994 when I was producing records, I bought an Apple
SE30 (I think it was called…) and a friend of mine handed
me a CD and said “you gotta play this game!”. I popped
it in and couldn’t stop playing it until it was finished.
The one thing that held my attention the most, aside from the stunning
visuals, was the music. I thought – “now this is the
future of music!”. I was just as happy when Riven came out
JA: You draw on
such an amazing background, working on projects with musicians such
as David Bowie and John Cale of the Velvet Underground. How did these
influence your musical choices when working on the soundtrack for
Well, for clarity, I
never worked with David Bowie. (JA: My mistake!)
I did engineer the soundtrack to Basquiat, which starred
David Bowie and Dennis Hopper. John on the other hand, I did work
quite a bit with. He was a big influence on me becoming a composer
in the first place. Very inspiring guy – that one! John is
very inventive. He always works hard to get the results he’s
looking for. I think that I certainly took that from him as well.
I went way further with this score (for better or worse!) than most
because it’s important to me to always find a new sound or
approach to what I do. I think that in this score, I definitely
challenged myself a great deal. I’ve written things I’ve
never written or even contemplated before. Basically I stretched
for this one.
JA: I felt that
Exile’s soundtrack had a very North African, Mediterranean
feel to it, while Revelation takes it’s cues from Southeastern
Europe. What influences your decisions for a certain “sound”
within a game?
very astute! I can see you’re really paying attention. :)
Well, it has to do with 2 things mainly – the story and the
fact that it’s Myst - which gives me permission to do things
musically that Western ears are somewhat less accustomed to; actually,
to do things I’m less accustomed to, but very interested in.
I poured over the story in the very beginning of the production
and found what I thought to be the emotional or tonal center of
the game. From there I made some assumptions about what I thought
that center would sound like and began to formulate the instrumental
palette for the game around that. It just so happened that the Eastern
European influences that I loved in the early ‘90’s
was a really good starting place.
JA: I traveled
to Bratislava, Slovakia in 2000 and spent some time working with musicians
at the Bratislava Conservatory. I was astounded by the rich musical
heritage in the city, between the works of native composers such as
Smetana to traditional folk song. How did being in that city and working
with the Slovak Radio Orchestra effect your compositions?
You probably know more
about that than I, but walking around the new part of the city where
we stayed – I came across Franz Liszt’s house! I guess
this area of the world used to be part of Hungary? Very cool. By
the time I got to Bratislava, of course, my compositions were complete
– I just needed to record them. But, the musicians were great,
very nice and they seemed genuinely interested in the music. A couple
of them came up to me afterwards and told me how much they enjoyed
playing it. I was really writing to them back in LA – knowing
that I would be in Eastern Europe, I really did try to have a hint
of that influence in there. So I guess in answer to your questions,
I think we influenced each other to some degree.
Did Robyn Miller (Myst, Riven) influence your work
at all? I could swear I hear that familiar Myst theme quoted
Oh absolutely! I reuse
bits and pieces of what he started all over the place. For Revelation,
since the brothers return to the story, I reused Sirrus’ Cache
and Achenar’s Cache. And also Atrus’ theme from Riven
makes an appearance both in Exile and Revelation. Revelation has
the first full orchestral version of Atrus’ Theme which I
expanded out to what I thought might be a natural length. I think
it’s around 6:30 or so.
JA: Having just
traveled to the Ages of Tomahna and Spire within Revelation,
I’ve already discovered great contrasts in the music, with Tomahna’s
warmer instrumentation and Spire’s heavy, sad harmonies. What
can I expect in Haven and Serenia?
Haven is a jungle. ‘nuff
said! Serenia is all about a female choir. I’d hate to spoil
any more for you because it’s tied to the story.
JA: Your soundtracks
have such a cinematic quality to them. I’ve made many fans of
your Exile soundtrack before they have even seen the game,
yet they can get an idea of how the game will progress just by listening
to the musical story you’ve written. How much did you know about
Revelation before you set down to construct its score?
much as I possibly can. It is important to me to get totally engrossed
as far as possible before laying down a single note. For Exile,
I read all 3 books, replayed Myst and Riven, read the new story
line and spent days just listening to the soundtracks and taking
copious notes to try find the important themes that I might want
to carry forward. Revelation was the same – although I’d
already played the games and read the books. In mid-November, the
Revelation soundtrack will be released and you’ll see that
I laid it out in a specific order which more or less follows the
story line. It’s just the form that makes the most sense to
me for the soundtrack.
JA: I’m sure
it was a treat for all to hear the choral aspect of the Main Theme
return in Revelation. Before you used the Narani language
to illustrate the theme for Exile. Would that be D’ni
we’re hearing this time around in the Revelation theme?
And can you translate for us?
I just expanded on the
Narani language – it’s dialect that this is related
to Serenia, called Serani. I’ll be posting the lyrics and
translations about the time the soundtrack gets released in November
on my website www.jackwall.net.
I have a special journal I’ve been keeping there for Myst
It was amazing to hear Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack for Uru,
and as a huge fan, I was doubly spoiled to hear him again in Revelation.
Do you think this will be a lasting partnership between the Myst-world’s
composers and Mr. Gabriel?
I really don’t
know. I think that Peter enjoyed working on this project. It was
certainly great meeting him and discussing his role in the game.
Great guy, Peter. I’ve just always loved everything he’s
JA: I saw that
you’re working with BioWare on a new RPG project. What else
is coming up for you so that we all can listen out?
I’m pretty flat
out on that right now. It’s called Jade Empire. Lots of Chinese
instrumentation and large orchestral flavors in it. I’m really
excited by that as well. Also, I’m working on Rise of the
Kasai for Sony. It’s the sequel to Mark of Kri. I love the
tribal, percussive qualities in that one as well.
JA: Thank you so
much for your time and speaking with Just Adventure +. I wish you
all the best in the upcoming weeks as Revelation hits shelves
all across the globe.
Thanks so much, Jennifer
– it was a pleasure speaking with you.
For more information
on Jack Wall, visit www.jackwall.net.
For purchase information on the soundtrack CDs for all the Myst games
visit the Goods page at CyanWorlds.