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Overview

Jeremy Soule is an award-winning composer for video games, movies and TV. He is best known for his work in the Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars games and providing the soundtrack for many successful CRPGs in the early 2000s. He pioneered the use of orchestral symphonies in strategy games with his Total Annihilation score. He also composed for many games in the Harry Potter series, which have earned him multiple BAFTA nominations and a win.

Soule frequently works with his brother, Julian Soule, who often goes uncredited. Together they created their music production house Soule Media, which is now known as Artistry Entertainment. They also started the music website, DirectSong, to sell and promote classical music.

Biography

Early Life

Secret of Evermore was Soule's first professional work

Jeremy Soule (born: 1975, Keokuk, Iowa) took an early interest in orchestral music and started composing at the age of five. In his sixth grade, he started learning with professors from Western Illinois University. By the time he passed high school, he had acquired enough knowledge to earn an equivalent Master's degree in Composition, though he never enrolled so he never actually got a degree. His initial career plan was to become a concert pianist but he also had a passion for composing. Realizing that he couldn't pursue both, he chose to concentrate on the latter.

He started playing games at a young age as well and saw the potential of improving the overall experience with a "heightened, realistic score". He describes games as "an exciting virtual world that could contain a vast array of emotions in a more active and vivid way than any movie". At the age of `14, he was pitching ideas for a video game start up company to investors because he wanted to write music for games. After graduating high school in 1994, he decided to take a year off and build a portfolio. During this time, he produced music demos that he sent to SquareSoft and LucasArts. Soule believes LucasArts never listened to his work due to their "no unsolicited package" policy. However, Square certainly did and just two weeks after sending his demo tapes, Soule was working as their in-house composer at Seattle.

SquareSoft

Soule's first professional job was to score Secret of Evermore. He was initially interested in composing a symphonic score and studied the Seattle Symphony to figure out how he could apply it in video games. However, due to the technical limitations of the SNES & the buggy Sculpture sound tools, Soule had to work creatively and he eventually decided to score a minimalistic & low-key soundtrack, incorporating ambient background sounds like ocean waves. The entire soundtrack was performed by Jeremy with his brother Julian, two instruments at a time. Evermore went on to become the fourth highest selling RPG on the SNES and its music was one of its strongest rated aspects. The original soundtrack CD has since become a specialty item on auction sites and frequently trades at exaggerated prices. After Evermore, Square closed their Seattle office and moved to Los Angeles. Soule decided to stay behind in Washington and joined Ron Gilbert's startup, Humongous Entertainment. In the next three years, he composed music for multiple children's games in the Putt-Putt, Spy Fox and Freddi Fish series.

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation - Soule's first orchestral soundtrack

At Humongous, Soule collaborated with Chris Taylor on Total Annihilation – the game that eventually put him on the map. 1997 saw the release of nearly 35 real-time strategy games and most of them were using techno soundtracks at the time. To stand out from the competition, he convinced Taylor to let him compose an orchestral score. Soule later noted John William's Star Wars soundtrack as one of his inspirations for this decision. The score was performed by the 95-piece Northwest Sinfonia orchestra. This was the first time he was working with a live orchestra and given the financial requirements & the uncertainty of success, he wagered a year's pay if the risk didn't pay off.

On release, the Total Annihilation soundtrack received universal praise and GameSpot's review described it as “easily rivals Hollywood's best”. It went on to win GameSpot's “Best Music” award for 1997. Soule continued working at Humongous for another two years and produced the soundtrack for Total Annihilation expansion packs and multiple children's games.

Soule Media & RPGs

In February 2000, Jeremy and his brother, Julian, formed Soule Media (later renamed to Artistry Entertainment) as an independent media production company that works on sound for television,movies and games. Their first work was a quirky soundtrack for Rugrats Totally Angelica Boredom Buster, a small scale game centered around Mattel's movie Rugrats in Paris. In late march, Jeremy got a chance to do a proper shakedown of Soule Media's new systems with their first large project, Icewind Dale. The score was well received and was awarded Best Music by GameSpot, IGN and an honorable mention from GameSpy.

BAFTA award winning soundtrack

In September 2000, Sovereign was Soule's and the industry's biggest musical project at the time, with a reported budget of over $200,000 and a 100-piece orchestra. The musical project was finished but the game was eventually canceled in 2003 and the work remains unpublished and in the hands of Sony Online Entertainment. Between 2001 and 2005, Soule scored five games in the Harry Potter series and was nominated multiple times by Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) and British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA). In 2003, the Soule brothers were awarded the BAFTA in the “Best Score, Game Music Category” for The Chamber of Secrets.

During this period, Jeremy also scored multiple role-playing games by many high profile developers like BioWare and Bethesda. His music for 2001's Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance was nominated for "Best Music" by GameSpot. In 2002, Soule composed the music was all three of the year's top-selling RPGs: Dungeon Siege, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Neverwinter Nights. The soundtrack for Morrowind received mixed responses, as many reviews praised its high production values but knocked its short length. While the game has over a hundred hours of content, Jeremy Soule only produced 45-mins of soundtrack. He realized that his music would be reused frequently and deliberately wrote a minimalistic soundtrack, so as not to wear out the player's ears. In February 2003, the soundtrack was nominated for an AIAS award but ultimately lost out to Medal of Honor: Frontline.

In 2003, Soule scored his first film, Journey Towards Creation, a made for television science documentary . Also in 2003, for Knights of the Old Republic, Soule produced many original themes to go along with John William's traditional force themes. But he couldn't write a full orchestral score because of Xbox's 8 megabit per sec MIDI system, and instead he had to fool people into thinking they were listening to one. It's a trick that has become one of Soule's trademark as he often uses electronically generated sounds, instead of a full orchestral score.

Relic, Oblivion & Guild Wars

Oblivion's multiple award winning soundtrack

Over the next few years, Artistry Entertainment continued to grow and Soule took on multiple large scale projects such as WarHammer: 40,000, Company of Heroes and most notably, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. 2006 was Soule's most successful year yet, as he received critical praise and multiple awards for Oblivion. Much like Morrowind, the score is minimalistic and ambient in nature mixed with many orchestral symphonies. Soule stated that he enjoys working on the Elder Scrolls series since the epic scale of the game particularly suits the grand, orchestral music he enjoys composing the most. This was also a personal score for Soule, as he survived a terrible car accident while working on the project and consequently, he wanted to “to comment on the human condition and the beauty of life."

Since 2005, Jeremy Soule has been working in close collaboration with ArenaNet on the Guild Wars series. He got involved after he saw the concept art & screenshots for the game on their website. He described Guild Wars as "one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen". Coincidently, Jeff Strain - one of the head of the studio was a big fan of Soule's music and immediately hired him. Since then, Soule has been composing music for all the game's expansions and the sequel, Guild Wars 2.

He also composed music for Skyrim, the last game in the Elder Scrolls series.

DirectSong

In 2005, Jeremy & Julian Soule started DirectSong, a website that sells DRM-free downloads of classical music from composers like Mozart & Beethoven. The site also sells many of Soule's video game compositions. The website's name is a result of Soule's aim to get directly in touch with his audience, as opposed to publishing it on a third-party tool like iTunes. By 2007, the websites had over a million registered users and their traffic occasionally surpassed that of major record labels, though a significant portion of the site's traffic is a result of free downloads as a result of promotions like Collector's Edition coupons & download codes. Soule also publishes music “expansion packs” to the Guild Wars series through DirectSong and he estimates nearly 10% of the players have bought these packs.

ArenaNet is one of Directsong's partners and the WMA format of these musical expansion packs can be played directly inside the game.

Influences & Style

Soule has stated his three biggest influences as "DeBussy's exploration of harmony, Wagner's grand operas - which were a lot like giant video games - and Mozart's form and composition". He listens to everything from Mozart to AC/DC to British pop and electronica like Moby. His all time favorite composer is John Williams. Critics have noted the similarity in their work and have called him the "John Williams of video game music".

When composing for a game, Soule prefers to experience as much of the game as possible. However, when a games is not playable during development, he instead refers to concept arts, videos, demos and locations inside the game for inspiration. He has often stated that he prefers writing music for role-playing game because of their usually grand scale, as it suits his orchestral style. He finds it easier to compose for a game, than a standalone composition.

Soule usually starts a project by deciding on a tempo and the amount of kinetic energy required to keep the player engaged. For faster, action-based games like Guild Wars: Factions, he decides to use a minimalistic score to compliment the gameplay. In most cases, Soule writes the side tracks first and then picks up clues from all these minor tracks to write the main theme.

Though he often uses live orchestras and could be considered a pioneer in the field because of Total Annihilation, Soule has synthesized many of his scores with electronic instruments. It's a trick he used often in the late '90s and early 2000s to get around the hardware limitations of the time.

Live Concerts & Remixes

Many of Jeremy Soule's compositions have been played in live concerts. The annual Symphonic Game Music Concert in Germany has played compositions from his score for Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and Morrowind. Music pieces from Morrowind, Oblivion and Guild Wars were also used by the concert series Play! A Video Game Symphony and Soule has described them as the closest thing to an "official touring symphony“ for his music.

Many of Soule's compositions have been remixed and rearranged on OverClocked Remix and he has been supportive of the unofficial game music arrangement community. In 2003, he even submitted his own remix of the track 'Terra' from Final Fantasy VI, in honor of the community and Uematsu.

Trivia

  • Soule was partially responsible for the name “Secret of Evermore”. The story goes that one night, Soule wrote Evermore on a board – simply because he liked the word. The next morning someone noticed it and it eventually became part of the title.
  • Though was hired as composer and sound engineer at Square, he also performed testing and quality analysis.
  • His all-time favorite games include The 7th Guest and The Legend of Zelda series. He also enjoys all of Chris Taylor's games but finds it hard working with him, because he fears Taylor's games distract him from his work.
  • His ambition is to work with Miyamoto and score a game in the Final Fantasy and Metroid series.

Awards & Nominations

Year

Game

Award

Category

Result

1997

Total Annihilation

GameSpot

Best Music

Won

2000

Icewind Dale

GameSpot

Best Music

Won

2001

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone

Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition

Nominated

2002

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition

Nominated

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

GameSpot

Best Music

Nominated

2003

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets

British Academy of Film & Television Arts

Best Score, Game Music Category

(with Julian Soule)

Won

2004

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

British Academy of Film & Television Arts

Best Score, Game Music Category

(with Julian Soule)

Nominated

2006

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

British Academy of Film & Television Arts

Best Score, Game Music Category

Nominated

Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition

Nominated

MTV Video Music Awards

Best Video Game Score

Won

Official Xbox Magazine

Soundtrack of the Year

Won

Spike TV

Best Original Score

Won

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