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Jack Wall (composer)

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Jack Wall
Wall at a Video Games Live event in 2009
Wall at a Video Games Live event in 2009
Background information
Born1964 (age 57–58)
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresVideo game music
Occupation(s)Composer, symphonist, conductor
Years active1995–present

Jack Wall (born 1964) is an American video game music composer. He has worked on video game music for over 20 games including the Myst franchise, Splinter Cell, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Call of Duty. Wall earned a degree in civil engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, after a brief stint working in civil engineering, transitioned into music production. He worked with musicians such as John Cale, David Byrne, and Patti Smith, and, after performing increasingly complex production and sound engineering tasks, moved into music composition in 1995.

Wall immediately began working in the video game industry, composing the soundtrack to Vigilance. Primarily composing in an orchestral style, by 2001 he composed the soundtrack to Myst III: Exile, which was the title he says put him on the map as a video game composer. In 2002, Wall became one of around 20 co-founders of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) as well as senior director. In 2005, Wall, along with G.A.N.G. founder and fellow composer Tommy Tallarico, produced the Video Games Live concert series, having served as the conductor for the international concert tour. His latest released soundtrack is that of 2020's Black Ops Cold War. His soundtracks for Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Rise of the Kasai, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2 were nominated for and won multiple awards.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jack Wall, born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania,[2] earned a degree in civil engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia and began a career "planning out sub-divisions and shopping malls".[3][4] At the same time he was in a rock band, as he was also interested in music. After recording a demo tape with the band, he was inspired to change career paths and quit his job to work in the music industry. He initially worked as a bartender and later started working in recording studios in Philadelphia and later Boston and New York City, where he worked for Skyline Studios. In 1991 Wall left Skyline, and until 1994 worked as an independent music producer and sound engineer in New York City, working with musicians such as John Cale, David Byrne, and Patti Smith, as well as local bands. Over those three years, Wall consistently worked with Cale, eventually handling arrangement and orchestration of Cale's compositions as well as producing and working as a sound engineer. While working with Cale on the soundtrack to a movie, House of America, he watched as Cale composed thirty minutes of music in almost real time, and was inspired to begin composing music.[4]

Career[edit]

October 24, 2008 Video Games Live performance with Wall as the conductor

By late 1995, Wall was living in Los Angeles and was married to singer Cindy Shapiro, who he had met in 1994.[4][5] She knew Ron Martinez, who was starting a video game company, PostLinear Entertainment, and he asked Wall to work for it as a composer.[4][6] He composed the soundtracks for several games for PostLinear; the first released was Vigilance in 1997.[4] His daughter Gracie was also born early in 1997.[7] After leaving the company, he composed the soundtrack to 2001's Myst III: Exile, which was his first orchestral score and the work that he said put him on the map as a video game composer. It was also interesting to him, as it was a sequel to the first video game he had ever played, Myst.[4] Myst III was nominated for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition" award, which it lost to the Tropico soundtrack.[8]

In 2002, Wall became one of around 20 co-founders of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) as well as senior director.[9][10] The group works to promote the appreciation of video game music, as well as serve as a professional resource for video game music composers and musicians. It was developed and headed by Tommy Tallarico.[10] As of 2010, Wall serves as vice chairman, after stepping down from heading the board of directors in 2007.[9][11] He continued to compose soundtracks for games such as The Mark of Kri and Unreal II: The Awakening. His work on Myst IV: Revelation in 2004 earned him his first three awards, those of "Best Live Performance Recording", "Best Original Vocal Song: Choral", and "Music of the Year" from the G.A.N.G. awards.[12]

Wall, along with Tommy Tallarico, has produced the Video Games Live concert series, which began on July 6, 2005. The two had been planning the concert series, which presents orchestrated versions of music from dozens of games, for three years.[13] The concerts consist of segments of video game music performed by a live orchestra with video footage and synchronized lighting and effects, as well as several interactive segments with the audience, conducted by Wall.[14] Video Games Live was intended to take the idea of a symphonic video game music concert, which was popular in Japan, and combine it with a rock concert to make it appealing to western fans.[15] The series is international and ongoing, with more than 70 shows planned for 2009.[16] Wall composed the soundtracks to three games released in 2005 including the award-winning score to Jade Empire, and some of his works released since then have been 2007's Mass Effect and 2010's Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect's score earned Wall several awards and nominations,[17][18] as did Mass Effect 2.[19][20]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Wall in 2010

Although many of his works are orchestral, Jack Wall has worked in a wide variety of styles, including "heavy metal meets orchestral" and "tribal percussion".[21] For Jade Empire, he focused on using Chinese instruments and Taiko drums.[22] When writing a video game score, Wall prefers a collaborative approach with the game designers to creating the music, as he feels that the "tug back and forth of ideas" makes the music stronger. He notes, however, that he has to be flexible, and willing to create his own vision for the music. As part of this, he prefers to be able to see illustrations and game design documents before beginning, as they provide insight into the feel of the game so that his music can mesh in with it.[23] He also believes that a good video game music composer needs to have a lot of technical sound production skill to be successful.[21] Wall has said that the Myst and Mass Effect soundtracks are his favorites that he has created. Wall stated that he was primarily interested in scoring games that are "interesting", and that his main concern was creating something original.[15] Although he has worked with live orchestras and synthetic orchestras, Wall recommends that game developers use a live one, despite the expense, as he feels they add a much more dynamic sound to the music and allow the composer more freedom than synthesizer samples.[24] He also wrote the book Legendary Bim Bang, the man who invented music. A picture book for ages 1 to 7[25]

Discography[edit]

Video games[edit]

Video games
Year Title Developer(s) Publisher(s) Notes
1998 Vigilance PostLinear Entertainment SegaSoft N/A
10Six SegaSoft SegaSoft N/A
Flying Saucer PostLinear Entertainment JoWooD Productions Software AG
Software 2000
N/A
2000 Animorphs: Know the Secret Gigawatt Studios GT Interactive N/A
Evil Dead: Hail to the King Heavy Iron Studios THQ N/A
2001 Ultimate Ride Disney Interactive Studios Disney Interactive Studios N/A
Myst III: Exile Presto Studios Ubisoft N/A
Disney's Extremely Goofy Skateboarding Krome Studios Disney Interactive Studios N/A
2002 The Mark of Kri San Diego Studio Sony Computer Entertainment N/A
2003 Ben Hur: Blood of Braves Microïds Microïds N/A
Unreal II: The Awakening Legend Entertainment Atari N/A
2004 Wrath Unleashed The Collective LucasArts N/A
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Ubisoft Shanghai Ubisoft N/A
Myst IV: Revelation Ubisoft Montreal Ubisoft N/A
2005 Rise of the Kasai Bottlerocket Entertainment Sony Computer Entertainment America N/A
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie Idol Minds Sony Computer Entertainment N/A
Jade Empire BioWare Microsoft Games Studios N/A
2007 Mass Effect BioWare Microsoft Games Studios Composed with Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques, and David Kates
2010 Mass Effect 2 BioWare Electronic Arts Composed with Jimmy Hinson, Sam Hulick, and David Kates
2012 Call of Duty: Black Ops II Treyarch Activision Main theme composed by Trent Reznor
2013 Lost Planet 3 Spark Unlimited Capcom N/A
2015 Call of Duty: Black Ops III[26] Treyarch Activision "I Live (Electronic Version)", "Ignition" and "Safehouse" composed by Brian Tuey in soundtrack album
2016 Into the Stars Fugitive Games Iceberg Interactive Additional music composed by Jim Lordeman
2017 Dota 2 Valve Valve The International 2017 Music Pack
LawBreakers Boss Key Productions Nexon One of 7 artists, responsible for "Axel", "Bombchelle", and "T.A.S.C Theme"
2018 Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Treyarch Activision N/A
2020 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Treyarch
Raven Software
Activision N/A
2021 Call of Duty: Vanguard Sledgehammer Games
Treyarch
Activision Composes the main theme of the Zombies mode, "Damned 5", alongside Kevin Sherwood and Bear McCreary

Film and television[edit]

Film and television
Year Title Production company(s) Distributor(s) Notes
2016 Hard Target 2 Universal 1440 Entertainment
Living Films
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment N/A
2017–2019 Shadowhunters Constantin Film Disney–ABC Domestic Television
(United States)
Netflix
(International)
Composed with Trevor Morris

Awards[edit]

Awards
Year Award Category Work Result
2001 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition[8] Myst III: Exile Nominated
2004 GameSpot Best of 2004 Awards Best Original Music[27] Myst IV: Revelation Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Interactive Score[12] Myst IV: Revelation Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Vocal Song: Pop[12] Myst IV: Revelation ("Welcome") Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Live Performance Recording[12] Myst IV: Revelation Won
Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Vocal Song: Choral[12] Myst IV: Revelation ("Main Theme") Won
Game Audio Network Guild Music of the Year[12] Myst IV: Revelation Won
2005 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition[28] Rise of the Kasai Nominated
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition[28] Jade Empire Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Live Performance Recording[29] Jade Empire Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Instrumental Song[29] Jade Empire ("Main Theme") Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Soundtrack Album[29] Jade Empire Won
2007 Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Instrumental Song[17] Mass Effect ("The Citadel") Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Original Soundtrack Album[17] Mass Effect Nominated
IGN Best of 2007 Awards Best Original Score[18] Mass Effect Won
GameSpot Best of 2007 Awards Best Original Music[30] Mass Effect Won
2010 British Academy of Film & Television Arts Best Original Music[19] Mass Effect 2 Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Best Soundtrack Album[20] Mass Effect 2 Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mass Effect 2 Takes 14th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards' Game of the Year". VegasNews.com – Las Vegas News. February 13, 2011. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  2. ^ Information obtained from Intelius Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Get Your Game Music On". The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 22, 2006. pp. W22. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f D., Spence (October 4, 2004). "Jack Wall Interview". IGN. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
  5. ^ Shapiro, Cindy. "Cindy Shapiro – The Artist's Website". cindyshapiro.net. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  6. ^ "Vigilance (PC)". CNET Networks. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  7. ^ Wall, Jack (January 2010). "Jack Wall – The Composer's Website – Blog – Someone is Turning 13". jackwall.net. Archived from the original on January 28, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "AIAS Annual Awards > 5th Annual Awards". Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. February 28, 2002. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  9. ^ a b Wall, Jack. "Jack Wall | The Composer's Website | About Jack". jackwall.com. Archived from the original on April 24, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Game Audio Network Guild – Our History". Game Audio Network Guild. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
  11. ^ Dobson, Jason (February 5, 2007). "G.A.N.G. Names New President, Tallarico As CEO". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on November 13, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Game Audio Network Guild – 3rd Annual Gang Awards". Game Audio Network Guild. March 10, 2005. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  13. ^ Eberson, Sharon (July 7, 2009). "PSO presents 'Video Games Live' to turn on new generation". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  14. ^ Jean, Grace (July 2, 2007). "It's All in the Playing At NSO's 'Video Games Live'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  15. ^ a b Wilson, Josh (June 30, 2008). "Interview – Tommy Tallarico & Jack Wall". Square Go. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  16. ^ Graser, Marc (May 29, 2009). "Video Games Live's global success". Variety. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  17. ^ a b c "Game Audio Network Guild – 6th Annual Gang Awards". Game Audio Network Guild. February 21, 2008. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  18. ^ a b "IGN Best of 2007 – Best Original Score". IGN. 2008. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Video Games Awards Winners in 2011". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on July 1, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  20. ^ a b Marie, Megan (February 8, 2011). "9th Annual G.A.N.G. Nominees Announced". Game Informer. Archived from the original on February 12, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  21. ^ a b Minnick, Doug (May 2003). "Jack Wall Composer/Producer Sr. Director Game Audio Network Guild". TAXI. Archived from the original on January 7, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  22. ^ D., Spence (April 18, 2005). "Jack Wall's Jade Empire". IGN. Archived from the original on April 19, 2005. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  23. ^ D., Spence (November 19, 2007). "Jack Wall Feels The Mass Effect". IGN. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  24. ^ Wall, Jack (May 20, 2002). "Using a Live Orchestra in Game Soundtracks". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on November 9, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  25. ^ [1][dead link]
  26. ^ "Behind The Scenes Of 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 3's' Orchestral Soundtrack". Forbes. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  27. ^ "Gamespot's Best of 2004 – Best Original Music". GameSpot. 2005. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  28. ^ a b "AIAS Annual Awards > 9th Annual Awards". Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. February 9, 2006. Archived from the original on October 23, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  29. ^ a b c "Game Audio Network Guild – 4th Annual Gang Awards". Game Audio Network Guild. March 23, 2006. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  30. ^ "Gamespot's Best of 2007 – Best Original Music". GameSpot. 2008. Archived from the original on June 19, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2010.

External links[edit]