If you can’t stop humming the Battlefield 4 theme, or maybe dropping extra beads of sweat listening to the dramatic score, composers/producers Jukka Rintamäki and Johan Skugge are the ones to thank. Here, they give you the details behind the music of Battlefield 4.
From the streets of Seine Crossing to the forests of Caspian Border, veterans of Battlefield 3 have already been fighting to the music of Jukka Rintamäki and Johan Skugge. For Battlefield 4, Jukka and Johan are back, sharing the composing and producing duties. In this installment of Inside Battlefield 4, the duo talks about re-imagining the Battlefield 4 theme, musical influences and the challenges of creating a videogame score. In this post we’ll also share the music of Battlefield 4 with you, in the form of ringtones.
The Battlefield 4 theme has naturally been a great part of our work. We spent a lot of time discussing the theme with the audio department at DICE and the initial idea was to make something warmer and more organic when compared to Battlefield 3. This was our goal not only with the Battlefield 4 theme but the entire soundtrack of the game.
The official theme to Battlefield 4 in ringtone form. Find more ringtones on the Battlefield Soundcloud account.
The classic Battlefield theme, that’s been around since Battlefield 1942, is very dramatic with the big drum pattern as the main riff. It also suggests adventure which is a perfect fit for the game. What we’ve tried in our versions of the Battlefield 4 theme is to make it resonate with the overall feel of the game and the rest of the music.
We started work on the theme by using a lot of organic instruments, guitars, cellos and even tubas. We experimented a ton, and in a couple of months we were heading back down the path of a more electronic sounding theme. It seemed to fit the game the best, though. But some of the first recordings we and fellow musician David Tallroth did, and the vibe that came from playing with guitars and cellos, remain here and there on different tracks. Though the main theme ended up being mostly electronic and quite harsh, there are fragments of a more organic approach left in its DNA.
It’s hard to place the music of Battlefield in a certain genre. It could be defined as electronic music but it’s not exactly that either, since we’ve used quite a lot of guitars and effect pedals to make it feel more organic. And it isn’t classical war music or “music for a wargame” either. Much of the inspiration has come from Blade Runner or the movies of John Carpenter. Maybe it can be defined as “retro-futuristic dark synth music” – if that category exists!
The so-called “Stinger”, a beat that’s been around since Battlefield 1942. Find more ringtones on the Battlefield Soundcloud account.
There was a lot of experimenting during the recording sessions to get a unique flavor of the tracks. We recorded some huge metal plates that we hung in the studio ceiling, for instance, bashing the plates with drumsticks to make gong-like sounds. Those sounded exotic to our ears. It wasn’t intended to be specifically Asian or something like that, it just sounded so great that we had to use it. The sound of the metal plates can be heard in the “Oppression” track in the Battlefield 4 soundtrack.
Another exotic sound that is present on the soundtrack is an ebow (electrical bow), being used on a steel guitar. That combination produced an unfamiliar, exciting sound that fit in great in all sorts of environments in the game. On some tracks you can hear the ebow and steel guitar sounding like strings, and sometimes like sirens.
One of the most challenging parts with creating the music for a game like Battlefield 4 takes place before the composing and recording even begins. Everyone needs to agree on what type of music is needed, how it should feel, what kind of instruments and sounds we want to work with, and other kind of things.
We also need to understand the game before we can compose suitable music to it. The more you familiarize yourself with the game, the better. Usually the stages in-game are not finished when we produce the music, so it’s important to have a clear vision of how the game should sound. It is also critcial for us to understand what the sound designer is trying to do, and what we as composers can do to make the overall music and sound experience as rich, deep, and emotional as possible.
Battlefield 4 tune named “Escalation” in ringtone form. Find more ringtones on the Battlefield Soundcloud account.
It’s also quite a challenge composing for a video game compared to composing for other media. One of the reasons for this, at least when it comes to Battlefield 4, is that the game and the music is dynamic. Your musical experience varies depending on what happens in the game, how fast you move forward, and so on. The intro part on a certain track can be 20 seconds or 5 minutes – depending on who’s playing. The tracks on the official soundtrack can be very different to the versions that the players themselves are “composing” while playing the game.
With so many vast areas in Battlefield 4, like the far-reaching sea, we worked on several tracks expressing a feeling of open spaces. One keyword in this process was “Journey”, and we spent a lot of time trying to find the right tone. We struggled a bit with this but in the end, the piece “Majestic Valkyrie” was a great fit with a lot of the naval scenes.
I love when music inspires players; that is the greatest reward. It’s of course great when players get totally immersed in the game and the story with the help of the enhancement of the music, but the nicest thing is when the music means a lot to people outside the game. Someone did a 10 hour version of the song Solomon’s Theme from Battlefield 3 and posted it on YouTube, and we’re seeing similar kinds of things happening with the Battlefield 4 music. I think that is fantastic, we’re very happy with our work and to see that it moves people feels great.
We hope you have enjoyed this post! The Battlefield 4 Official Soundtrack is available on Spotify and iTunes now. Make sure to get Battlefield 4 to enjoy the music of all-out war. For more behind-the-scenes pieces like these, check out all our The Road to Battlefield 4 articles.