[Interview] Jeff Broadbent Talks Composing ‘I Am Alive’

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Tomorrow sees the release of Ubisoft’s downloadable game I Am Alive and BD Music wants to hype it up just a little bit more by bringing you an exclusive interview with composer Jeff Broadbent. Check it out below!
Don’t forget to download the official I Am Alive app on iTunes. It gives you exclusive hints, a list of all the resources and achievements, and also the O.S.T. including six tracks composed exclusively for the app. 


Bloody-Disgusting: I Am Alive has been in production for almost four years now. At what point did you become attached to the project?
Jeff Broadbent: I began working on I Am Alive in the winter of 2011.  I was in touch with the audio director, Zhang Lei, a couple of months prior to that, and had an opportunity to demo on the game music.  They enjoyed the demo I prepared, and in March of last year I began composing for the game.
BD: If you were to describe I Am Alive as an instrument or specific tone, which would you choose?
JB: That’s a tough one!  But if I had to choose, I would describe it as a heavily-reverberated ambience.  One of the goals when composing was to create subtle, almost atmospheric colors and tones that blend well with the visual scenery and environments.  As such, long, drawn-out, reverb-washed ambient tones would be a fitting description.
BD: I noticed that often times the music reflected the environment. For instance, in the subway, there was a sound of a train horn that bled into the music. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
JB: Sure – in that segment of the game, the player is navigating through subway tunnels to reach his destination.  It’s an environment that is very tense, unpredictable, and unknown.  For the ambient/exploration layer of the music, some of the instruments I used were sounds of metal objects being bowed with a double bass (stringed orchestral instrument) bow.  By adding a good amount of reverb and stretching these elements out, interesting sustained tones are created, that in this case sound similar to a distant train horn.  
BD: I Am Alive is the first game in a long time to actually give me a strong feeling of suspense and apprehension. One of the reasons was that as the stamina level burned down, the music became a warning, increasingly more and more frantic. It made the return to full stamina that much more of a relief because the music seriously abated. This, in turn, made the music itself something to fear. Was that your intention or simply a fortuitous by-product?
JB: The use of tense, disturbing music for when stamina is critically low was definitely a purposeful choice.  The audio director wanted me to compose music for this situation that would create a sense of urgency, and feelings of agitation and apprehension.  In composing this music I used some string techniques in which the performers are plucking or bowing their strings in a variety of rapid and random ways.  This random, unstructured musical approach gives a feeling of tension and unrest, which worked very well in this situation.  
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BD: Did you find that scoring for a downloadable title versus a disc-based release limited you in any way? Or, for that matter, do you feel that it gave you some creative freedom?
JB: In the case of I Am Alive, it was such a high-quality downloadable game that I didn’t feel limited at all.  In addition, the developers were very keen for the game to push creative and gameplay boundaries, so I had a lot of musical freedom while composing.  I believe that the fundamental basis of a great game is its conception, the initial idea from which it evolves.  If this creativity is nurtured, then it will result in a great finished work.
BD: I felt that this game pushed the player to explore, to get to know their surroundings. How do you think that the music worked with that sense of exploration?
JB: I gave a lot of care in composing music that would support the environments of the game, as well as the emotional state of the protagonist as he struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  The music is intended to blend well with the visuals to create a unified experience.  Though some distinct themes and melodies are present, the score is largely ambient, and is based upon sound textures and rhythms.  This musical approach allows the score to interact with the visuals and environment in a close relationship, with the two working together to create the overall experience.  That was my goal when composing – to support the game, its scenarios, and emotions through the music.
BD: What do you have planned next?
JB: Very soon I’ll begin composing a score for an upcoming game by a major publisher/developer (I can’t say more at this time, but it’s a thrilling project!)  I’m also slated to compose for another undisclosed title later this year, and am in demo process for a couple of other very exciting video games.  In addition to video game scoring, I’m working on some high-energy trailer and action music for a couple of music production companies.



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