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Halo Wars interview with Ensemble Studios’ Audio Director and Lead Composer Stephen Rippy
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Halo Wars is a strategy game based on the legendary Halo universe created by veteran RTS developer Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires). Halo Wars takes place in an early period of the Halo universe, allowing players to experience events leading up to the first Halo title for the original Xbox. Players will command armies of familiar and new UNSC units in its initial encounters against the Covenant, an alien coalition threatening to obliterate mankind.

Since Halo Wars predates the original first-person shooter Halo we were curious to know if the iconic theme music by Marty O’Donnell would be incorporated into the score. As the following Q&A with Ensemble Studios’ Audio Director and Lead Composer Stephen Rippy confirms, elements of Marty’s iconic Halo music will be featured in the Halo Wars soundtrack along with new material composed by Stephen. Ensemble Studios have thereby ensured a credible level of continuity with the rest of the Halo franchise while establishing their own take on the Halo universe.

M4G: What is the music direction for the game and how was the recent recording session at CNSO Studio No. 1 in Prague?
Stephen Rippy: My goal for the music was to write something that could fit comfortably into the Halo universe, but that would also push the edges out a little bit.  I’m happy with the balance – there’s a lot of familiar and a lot of new.  Recording in Prague was great – we were able to get a different sound than I’d had before, and I think it lent itself well to the material.

Halo Wars was recorded in the historic city of Prague, Czech Replublic.

M4G: Why did the original trailer not feature the Halo signature music?
Stephen Rippy: The "monk theme" from Halo is actually in there, but it’s played on a duduk rather than sung.  Kevin McMullan, who composed the trailer piece, was looking to reference the earlier scores while at the same time establishing a new identity for Halo Wars.

M4G: Will the signature Halo theme music be incorporated into the Halo Wars score?
Stephen Rippy: Definitely – there are a couple of themes from Halo that show up in Halo Wars at different times.

Score sheet of Stephen Rippy's "Spirit of Fire" music from Halo Wars.

M4G: How long did the writing process take and when was the score recorded with the FILMharmonic Orchestra and Choir in Prague?
Stephen Rippy: Writing and recording began in Dallas around April 2007 and continued through February of this year.  The Prague orchestral and choral dates were March 10-15, and the music was mixed in Seattle for the rest of that month and a little into April.

M4G: How many orchestra players and choir vocalists performed the score?
Stephen Rippy: There were 45 orchestra players (with the strings parts often doubled with an overdub pass) and 24 vocalists (similarly doubled with overdubs.)

FILMharmonic Orchestra recording music for Halo Wars at CNSO Studio No. 1

M4G: How many minutes were recorded live?
Stephen Rippy: The total running time for the Halo Wars score is right around 75 minutes, and the orchestra and choir drift in and out of almost all of it.  I’d say we tracked something like 65 minutes in Prague.

The Halo Wars Music Team:

Composer:  Stephen Rippy
Orchestrator:  Stan LePard
Orchestra: Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir Prague
Conductor:  Adam Klemens
Choir Master: Stanislav Mistr
Engineers (Prague):  Jan Kotzmann, Cenda Kotzmann, and Roman Sklenar
Music Contractor and Sessions Organizer (Prague):  Petr Pycha for Musa Ltd.

Halo Wars is scheduled for release later this year exclusively for Xbox 360. For more information visit

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