Scary Good: Composer Daniel Licht
With over twenty years of scoring hit horror franchises like Children of the
Corn, Amityville, and Hellraiser, composer Daniel Licht knows a thing or two
about scary sounds, and is perhaps best known for his work on Showtime's
award-winning serial killer drama Dexter. And now he's turning his ghoulish
gifts to another medium - videogames - with his original score for Konami's
Silent Hill: Downpour, snatching the bloody reigns from series regular Akira
Yamaoka for the first time in the long-running survival-horror series' history.
Lucky for Silent Hill and genre fans, Licht was kind enough to answer a few
questions on the creative differences between crafting scores for film and
videogames, working on Dexter, his surprising favorite videogame themes, and
making the latest Silent Hill soundtracks uniquely his own.
Check out the full review for Silent Hill: Downpour right
HERE, or - if you're brave - take a
trip to Daniel's website right HERE!
How did you get involved with composing music for Silent Hill:
Konami, the gameís developer, approached my agent. They were interested in
finding a composer who understood the dark elements of the game and who had a
built in horror audience. With my previous work on Dexter, Thinner, and Children
of the Corn, horror is my area of expertise.
Since it was your first time creating music for a video game, how did
your experience differ from that of films?
Fundamentally they are very different approaches. For a film, you are hired
for a certain amount of time, ranging from two weeks to six months. You create a
particular sound for the film- creating themes, sound design and orchestration.
For television, you create a theme that gets manipulated throughout the seasons,
starting with a basic sound and building it. You are continually scoring each
episode, trying to create familiarity with your audience as well as create new
sounds that are exciting and thrilling.
Video games are entirely different. The sound design is the creation part.
Youíre not actually scoring a picture; youíre scoring what the players will
encounter. You create different themes so that when there is a lull, for example
when the player is deciding their next move, a new theme is integrated. It is
constantly changing, therefore youíre really scoring anything that can happen.
As youíre aware, Downpour is the first game without the influence of
[series regular composer] Akira Yamaoka. What was your approach when creating the score and did his
previous scores influence you?
I familiarized myself with the style and history of the previous Silent Hill
themes and musical cues. It was important for me to understand where the music
was coming from, the overall story, and the use of the musical themes throughout
the game. It was then that I was able to create new themes that were consistent
with the game that had my own signature sound.
Are there any recurring themes found in the earlier Silent Hill
scores, such as the use of dark electronic motifs and mandolins that youíre
drawing inspiration from?
I studied Akiraís music from previous games, but there are no direct themes
from previous games in the Silent Hill: Downpour game. I definitely drew
inspiration from his previous scores. I wanted Downpour to have the same vibe
and energy as previous games, but I wanted to create my own signature for the
game - create my own sound.
Are you a video game fan? Are there any scores or favorite composers
from the realm of gaming that youíre fond of?
I am a video game fan. I particularly am partial to Garry Schymanís score for
BioShock. I found that score particularly good. I enjoy the theme for Halo. I
like a lot of the music found in Assassinís Creed.
Your work with Dexter was iconic in that it took on a life of its
own. Do you look for most of your pieces to do that- especially in your work
with horror films/series?
One would hope that music would take on its own persona depending on the
function of the piece of music. Sometimes you do not want music to be conscious,
you want it to be subconscious so that people are influenced by it but donít
know they are. In Dexter, especially, I created themes earlier in Season 1 and 2
that happen around specific events so when he has recurring memories of these
events, the viewer recognizes the music. You can do that with a television
series because of the recurrence of characters and situations; a film it is much
tougher to do so.
What kind of direction are you going to be taking the score for
Silent Hill: Book of Memories?
For Silent Hill Book of Memories, I wanted this album to sound like a tribute
CD to the franchise rather than a soundtrack. The blend of music is more present
than just background music to a video game. From my point of view, the music
will mix more with the video game as individual songs. Each song is a component
to the different areas of the game, making an impression on the player.
My goal with the album overall was to touch upon different colorful areas
that I explored musically. Each area has its own unique, colorful sound.
What types of scenes (in films or other media) do you prefer scoring?
Tense, dramatic, etc.
I like a variety of scenes to score. Most of my work is in the horror genre,
but I enjoy all genres. Emotional scenes are always fun; itís nice to come up
with a good heartfelt theme. I like doing all mediums- films, television, video
games, etc.- all the above is fun. I recently did the documentary Dumbstruck,
which had a different vibe about the music which was fun to score.
With each scene, each project, each genre, I do my best to convey what the
directors want and create a piece of music that works well in the scene and can
stand on its own.