On September 6, the Utah Symphony is excited to present Video Games Live! During this concert you’ll be able to listen to some of your favorite video game scores like Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man, and the WORLD PREMIERE of Lord of the Rings Online!
We have come a long way since Super Mario or Donkey Kong. Music in the world of video games has drastically changed thanks to the help people like Chance Thomas. He is a local guy who has composed many different scores throughout his career; his most recent is the “Theme for Rohan” which is the main theme for the expansion pack of the Lord of the Rings Online called The Rider of Rohan. We had the privilege of having a phone conversation with him about his career and his inspiration as he was composing for the Lord of the Rings game.
Music has been a big part of his life. At the age of 10, he was in musicals and in different theatrical performances, then it progressed into his own rock band while he was in high school. It was during that time with his band that he began composing his own music. After serving a mission for his church in Italy, he attended Brigham Young University (BYU) where he was set to get his business degree. In the back of his mind, though, he kept wondering if he could make a career out of music. It wasn’t until he realized that BYU had a recording studio that it was even a possibility. The more he was in the studio, the more he loved it. By the next semester he switched to the School of Music.
While attending the school, he discovered a new program called Recording Engineer and Production, which he absolutely loved because his course work consisted of composing songs and then performing them. It is through this program that he learned and acquired many new skills that have helped him throughout his career.
In the late ‘90s, he applied to work for Sierra Entertainment as the composer of music for their video games. Since he was new he wanted to do things differently, so he pioneered the idea of having a live orchestra perform the music for the games. Many people thought he was crazy and didn’t think it was possible or worthwhile. Even the musicians in the orchestra were skeptical, but he persisted and it was a grand success. The first video game he composed music for was Quest for Glory V, which is a landmark achievement still being talked about today. He told us that Utah has had a big impact in the video game community—not only was Quest for Glory V recorded in Salt Lake City at the L.A. East Chapel Studios, but many other well-known games like Dungeons and Dragons, Doda 2, Avatar, and the Oscar winning animated short The ChubbChubbs have also been recorded here. For a complete list of all the music he has written for video games, you can visit his website.
Fast forward to present day, Chance has composed many different scores for video games and has become world-renowned for his complex musical scores. “When given the task of composing for the Lord of the Rings Online, I was very aware of the loyal fan base, and I wanted to make sure I did it properly,” he says.
His main goal while composing was to create the music in the manner that Tolkien would have envisioned it to be. In order to achieve that, he read through all the books taking notes where Tolkien mentioned the different types of instruments used by the characters.
“These are the [copies] I researched for 5 years: locating, collating and interpreting every reference to music, sound, instruments, voices and effects of music on the world.” The difficult part was taking all that data and combining it into a musical score.
In the end, he composed a unique and beautiful score that he is proud of. He wanted to let people know that his version of Lord of the Rings is slightly different from the theatrical score. “It is more rustic,” he says. “I wanted to capture the heart of the books and story lines. Instead of an over the top powerful epic Hollywood type score.” You can listen to the song here.
Don’t miss the chance to see Chance guest conducting his composition on Sept. 6 at Video Games Live! For more information, please visit our website.
~ Gabriel Cabal