I write scores for movies, video games and television shows, and we're days away from the release of Titanfall, Respawn Entertainment's upcoming first person shooter for the Xbone, Xbox 360 and PC. Looking forward to answering any questions you have!


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Comments: 173 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

stephenbarton12 karma

I have to run alas, but it's been a lot of fun. Titanfall comes out on March 11th, you can find out more at www.titanfall.com and more about me at Afterlight. Look forward to seeing you in game!

EFJO8 karma

The Titanfall score sounds amazing, good job. The Militia lobby music reminds me of Firefly, was it an influence?

stephenbarton5 karma

Funnily enough no - I've not actually heard the Firefly score! I have to check it out. I think we probably came from a similar place of inspiration and instrumentation, but it's not one I've actually seen or heard!

Bulk_Biceps7 karma

God I love the soundtrack for COD 4! I still have the song that plays in the background for the multiplayer menu stuck in my head. Tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu, turrrrrrrrrrutututtuutu. You're a genius!

stephenbarton14 karma

You're too kind. Thanks. Funnily enough that sound was partially by accident! I was trying to create espionage-esque elements that sounded unstable with an element of that old "modem dial in" sound, and that was an analog synth (I forget which one) that hadn't been cleaned in a while. It did that turrrrrrrr thing just the once, maybe a bit of grunge hit the contact...and I never managed to make it do it again!

Bulk_Biceps2 karma

Yeah that's the sound that I've had stuck in my head since 2007! Can't believe you knew what I was talking about!

stephenbarton7 karma

Funny story - I remixed Eurhythmics "Sweet Dreams" for a movie a few years ago, and the director was a friend of Dave Stewart's, so we had access to the original stems. Except...the original synth bass line stem, they didn't have. Dave recreated it - to pretty much exactly correct on the Oberheim OB-X - but it was not exactly perfect, and a-b'ing it against the original showed there was something ever so slightly different. Analog synths simply don't always do what you want, which can be beautiful...and unbelievably frustrating.

ProfessorCratePHD6 karma

What was used to make the sound when Titanfall occurs? I love that sound. It sounds like a dubstep beat is about to drop!

DocSmoothJew4 karma

Furthermore, can you make a text notification sound of a Titan falling? :D

stephenbarton6 karma

I'd take a text message sound of that in a heartbeat. As to that sound...my guess it's something that Erik Kraber created. It's badass.

Dean0bi5 karma

What do you think of Titanfall? Will you play it?

stephenbarton12 karma

It's awesome, and hell yes. I find if you play it like COD you get killed quickly, and it's been fun learning a new mindset especially for keeping moving. That said everybody is getting too damn good too quickly, the blissful first few hours of picking off new people faded fast...

Kknowsbest5 karma

If you weren't in the music industry, what would you do for a career?

stephenbarton7 karma

I'd be a chef, for sure.

a0adf84 karma

What do you think of the Akira OST?

stephenbarton7 karma

Requiem is epic. Those opening drum hits are huge.

Aonepathan3 karma

Really curious! Is your soundtrack going to be available for download/purchase? What is your favorite piece and what part of the game does it start playing?

stephenbarton6 karma

It will most definitely be available! Finalising the details right now, but the album is mastered and ready.

IAmArique3 karma

Dome or Helix?

stephenbarton5 karma


Dean0bi3 karma

What tips can you give to anyone wanting to get into the composing industry? Specifically in gaming?

stephenbarton10 karma

Keep on writing, every day. You get better really only by doing it. The other side of it is pure business, supply and demand and you have to hunt out demand where ever it exists and make a name for supplying the goods on time and on budget and sounding awesome. You never know where the big break will come from but if you have the chops to get it done when it comes, the sky is the limit.

TheMandrigald3 karma

Assuming you plan to play Titanfall, what is your platform of choice for it?

stephenbarton13 karma

Xbone. But my main workstation in the studio is a PC with crazy amounts of ram and good graphics cards, so I might try it on there with the settings cranked. I've not played an fps with mouse and keyboard for a while, so it'll take time to get back to it....

CootsK3 karma

whats it like working with the god of the FPS industry (vince)

stephenbarton6 karma

One of the most down to earth, pleasant and articulate guys I've worked with, made more amazing by the pressure and expectation on him and the team over there. He could easily have just said "fuck this" after the whole lawsuit debacle, and nobody in the gaming community would have probably blamed him for doing that...he and the whole Respawn team have fought incredibly hard to be where they are today and they love what they do.

livingstoncharles1013 karma

What is the process to write amazing scores like you do?

stephenbarton12 karma

Terror hopefully followed by a good idea! Seriously though, it's all about finding an "in", finding a palette to paint with in terms of themes and instruments, and once you have that then you can start putting pieces together for specific moments and building the score.

Nitroussoda2 karma

This may not be your department but how substantial will the difference between the 360 version and the One version be?

stephenbarton4 karma

Not played anything but the One version yet! The guys have high standards in terms of visuals, frame rate and overall gameplay experience, so I'm sure it'll probably be great fun on either. I'll be on the One though, getting slaughtered repeatedly, most likely.

tinufaz2 karma

How did you get started in scoring soundtracks?

stephenbarton2 karma

I was noodling around scoring little documentaries for Channel 4 (UK) that nobody likely watched, and a mutual friend introduced me to Harry Gregson-Williams. I came out to Los Angeles to work for him for a few weeks on a Dreamworks Animation project, and have been here ever since - 13 years! I'd always thought it'd be a great avenue of work and was looking around for opportunities (I was a pianist but playing for a living can be a lonely, tough world) - but I fell backwards into it somewhat.

karmanaut2 karma

What game (not done by you!) had a great, original soundtrack?

stephenbarton7 karma

recently...Journey was particularly great. But I still think Super Mario Bros is still up there, especially given the resources the guy had to do it. And the Command and Conquer theme is a favorite.

Dean0bi2 karma

Have any NPC characters been named after you in Titanfall? I know the developers Respawn have NPCs named after them.

stephenbarton8 karma

I don't know! I think it's not just the characters but some other things are named after people. I'll be looking on day 1 though :-). I didn't spot Sgt. Barton in COD4 until months after release, but at least my SAS character survives. :-)

renovatio422 karma

In your past work, what was it like working with Hans-Zimmer?

stephenbarton3 karma

I never really worked with him, but when I worked with HGW we were in his studio complex in Santa Monica. He's extremely articulate and a master of putting directors and producers at ease, which is really one of the most elusive arts in this industry. I hope he does some more stuff like Thin Red Line, that's his best work for me.

fidgetbudgie2 karma

What was it like working on Motorcity's soundtrack? Did you have any specific musical influences you drew on for it?

stephenbarton3 karma

The best fun ever. Chris Prynoski, Juno Lee and co. at Titmouse are awesome and it's a shame it was just a touch too cool and edgy for that market, but we're so proud of the one season we made.

haldun19032 karma

What goal did you have when you decided that you want composing to be your career? Did you intend to compose for video games?

I am currently studying filmmaking but I have recently decided that I want to pursue my dream of having music as one of the main aspects of my life. What advice would you give me if I wanted to take on composing?

stephenbarton2 karma

Write, write, write, write, write and write some more. 95% of what we do each day is going to be average, but then you hit on a nugget of good or great and it's incredibly satisfying, and makes it all worthwhile. Listen objectively and always ask how you can make a melody more distinctive, a sound stronger and more powerful, an arrangement clearer. And have fun, be it filmmaking or music. It's hard work but working on entertainment should be...entertaining, at least some of the time!

Sin1042 karma

What is your favorite soundtrack that you have composed? And why?

stephenbarton5 karma

Very tough. I'm really pleased with a little score to a film I did just before Titanfall called "Last Weekend". It's only 10 minutes of music in a small budget indie movie but it came out really nicely. Titanfall is definitely up there very high though, it's turned out with a weight and scale that I think meshes really well into the experience as a whole.

Fatmonkey842 karma

How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth?

stephenbarton6 karma

Depends what size marshmallow. Are we talking the jumbo ones?

Fatmonkey842 karma

Oh, sorry, the large ones of course.

stephenbarton5 karma

I'm going to say three. Though I saw these mega-jumbo ones at Cost Plus World Market some time ago, and I think you'd be hard pushed to get even the one in of those....

acidRain_burns1 karma

I have listened to a lot of the music from the Titanfall Beta and love it - especially how you gave distinct personality to each faction while maintaining a unified theme....

Can you tell us how you came up with the theme and feel of the factions?

Its beautiful music and you have a new fan here!

stephenbarton2 karma

The IMC we were looking to find what Erik and Steve (Fukuda) termed "the big fuzzy wall of distortion"...an almost uncontainable sound that felt like it was just about to burst out of its surroundings, with a grittiness that's more about fuzzy weight and less angry grime. For the Militia...that was all about the Frontier, the wild untamed organic edges of the galaxy married to the technology required to defend it.

[deleted]1 karma


stephenbarton3 karma

Cubase 7 as sequencer with several Vienna Ensemble slaves running the sound libraries, as well as a bunch of hardware synths (nord, moog voyager, virus etc.). I'm a big Reaktor and Kontakt fan too, couldn't work without either of those. I mix my demos in Cubase to give to the guys to review and comment on, and then once we're done and finished on each piece I output that into a master Pro Tools session, into which we record orchestra/solos/ethnic/percussion/guitar elements live...and that gets handed off to the music mixer to do the final mix down and stems. That's how it usually goes down, but each project is a little different and you adapt as you go....

jtsone1 karma

Have you been approached into making any new scores for future games after Titanfall?

stephenbarton2 karma

Some ideas in the pipeline, but not sure what will be next!

walruswithwings1 karma

What inspired you to create the music used in the Pripyat scenes in COD 4? Ghillie in the mist is still my favourite mission of all the time and I still listen to the music from that mission! Always send shivers down my spine Cheers!

stephenbarton1 karma

Kind of the sadness of this barren landscape that used to have schools, parks, families. That's something I've loved about working with this team - the guys at Respawn really think about the bigger picture on an emotional level and writing music for that is just great - there's a subtext to be found and that can only help create characters with greater depth and dimension.

PandoraBlackBox1 karma

What r ur future plans?

stephenbarton2 karma

I'm looking around at a few possibilities right now. Part of the fun (and part of the challenge) of this business is you really never know what's coming up next musically.

Minifig811 karma

What kind of music do you listen to? Anything like Moonlit Sailor, Because of Ghosts, Message to Bears? etc?

stephenbarton1 karma

I'm a radio guy as I tend to like the unpredictability of it, but I flit around and do like listening to albums top to bottom. The art of putting together a good album that is a listening experience seems to be resurging a bit of the last year or so. I'm relistening to the last Bon Iver record right now. I don't know of the last two to be honest, I'll check them out. Thanks!

Minifig811 karma

You know of Moonlit Sailor! That's AWESOME! :D

stephenbarton1 karma

A half-swedish director friend put me on to them some years ago...must dig it out and relisten.

Minifig811 karma

They just put out a new album. We Come From Exploding Stars.

Highly recommended. :)

stephenbarton1 karma

Got to download that. Thanks!

Woag571 karma

Who is your favorite musician/vocalist.

stephenbarton2 karma

Too many to pick. We live in an era where music is so easily accessible and we have so much to choose from that it's impossible not to get excited daily by what's happening. If the music industry could figure out that that's a good thing and not be scared of it, that'd be useful. I like stuff where I can't figure out how it was done. If I had to pick someone though - the best band I've seen live in a while is probably Of Monsters And Men, who my wife and I saw with a dear friend in a free concert in Reykjavik a few years ago before they really became huge here in the USA. There's something about a band like that, who have an awesome record put together but haven't yet quite blown up, playing to a home crowd that knows they're watching something special...can't beat that. Couldn't understand a word they said between songs (since it was in Icelandic) but I've never seen a band so genuinely happy and excited as they were to be in that moment.

d0nkatron1 karma

Which faction is your favorite theme of the two? :)

stephenbarton3 karma

Close one, but possibly the IMC side. We were going for a "not overtly evil but what exactly are they up to?" kind of feel....trying to evoke this feeling of a huge unstoppable machine driven by technology, and it was one of those ones when we mixed it, it sounded the way I had hoped and more. Sometimes that doesn't happen and you end up remixing over and over again but this one just fell into place.

Highsenbong1 karma

CoD 4 got a lot of praise for the intro, (it deserved it) and much of the praise was directed towards the music. Is that a process where you have the idea in place from story boards and discussions? or does seeing the game in action have an effect on your composing?

stephenbarton2 karma

That was a cutscene, so it was easy to score to just like a film - it was fully animated when we started it I think. I can't take credit for that fully, Harry G-W wrote the majority of the opening montage and I worked on part of the arrangement and recorded it in London. It's a stunning piece, and the distorted hurdy-gurdy lead sound is a wonderful musician by the name of Nigel Eaton.

KingKuranes1 karma

How hard was it to work your way up and get the career you have today?

stephenbarton4 karma

You keep plugging away at it! I'm always flattered and honored when a client wants me to write for them. Good communication is key.

MMX21 karma

Since you're a big music guy, who's your favorite member of The Traveling Wilburys? (For those who don't know, they were George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison.)

stephenbarton2 karma

Damn. Hard one. Hmmm.....I'd go for George Harrison. But Dhani Harrison's pretty talented too, I love the guitar rework he did for Wu Tang

MMX2-1 karma

Incorrect answer; all the members of The Traveling Wilburys are your favorites (but I'm giving you get partial credit for mentioning Dhani Harrison).

D+, I know you can do better. Apply yourself.

stephenbarton6 karma

So anybody know how to hack in here and change my grade? :D

MMX20 karma

(But in all seriousness, thanks for playing along. :D )

stephenbarton3 karma


PandoraBlackBox1 karma

Hello Stephen, R u excited for the titanfall exit?only 5days!!!

What did inspire u to compose the music? R u a videogames addict? What do u like to do in ur free time? Any phobia? R u a positive man?

Describe u in a few words

Thanks xoxo

stephenbarton3 karma

We're all pretty stoked for it! I play games when I can but it can be the best (and worst!) time vampire and when deadlines are looming....dangerous! I like to fish when I can. Phobias? Off the top of my head a (probably irrational) fear/hatred of peanut butter. I suppose that's not really a phobia but I can't be near the stuff!

PandoraBlackBox1 karma

U must be kidding me!?right? Maybe u r allergic to,because having a phobia of peanut butter....i think u have just created a new fuckin awesome phobia or disease!!! Congrats!!!!!(sorry it s so cute and funny) Thanks Stephan! If i had the power to give u a special price for this, i ll do


stephenbarton1 karma

Alas someone beat me to it. Apparently (so my email now tells me!) Arachibutyrophobia is a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth...

Aonepathan1 karma

How in depth did you work with the Respawn team? Did you have to coordinate with the art/design team or the development team in some parts?

stephenbarton2 karma

Absolutely - everything goes into the game build to get reviewed, so the whole team sees it all. I had little quicktimes of example gameplay on loop in the studio with the sound down, so the visuals were a big inspiration in terms of scale and size, and I had the concept art on any spare screens in the studio to refer to.

shadybonesranch1 karma

Can you talk about some of your influences for the instrumentation choices you made on the Militia side of the score? (The earthier, less digital sounding pieces.)

stephenbarton2 karma

Ennio Morricone (the baritone guitar elements) was high up there! The militia faction main theme (the one with Paul Cartwright's electric violin) was originally something that was way slower and sparser, and just led by Kim Carroll's awesome guitar parts, but a few months of trying out different version we sped the whole thing up and it was way, way better and that's broadly the version in game (with some tweaks). I listened to the original sketch the other day and couldn't believe how ridiculously slow it was. It's funny, sometimes when you write a piece, at the time you think it might be working great, but you listen back a while later - sometimes even hours, or the next morning - and shudder. The ear and brain can play tricks on you, which is why having a good dev team with objective ears always helps.

Blue_trombones1 karma

First off, i"m really excited for both Titanfall and its music!

What education do you have, and what does your musical background look like?

stephenbarton2 karma

I studied piano and composition at music school in England (high school), and then all the rest of my background was on the job, as I started working on my first major film when I was 19. I was a singer when I was young (most definitely not now though! ha) and got a lot of great early experience into what life and work as a professional musician is like.

TheOnesie1 karma

What would you say is the Game Changing difference this game has from others in its category?

stephenbarton2 karma

I'm yet to see anybody successfully camping! :-) I think it's got a three dimensionality and pace that's fresh and different. Sure, there's familiar aspects such that it's not a complete departure from the standard FPS genre, but I've never played another FPS multiplayer where I didn't have a round that was kind of 'meh' in terms of the experience. Titanfall I find constantly entertaining, constantly fun and I've not found that strategies I would use playing other FPS games work too well.

tomorrowistomato1 karma

Did you study composition in school or did you learn on your own? And do you have any advice for modern, aspiring composers?

stephenbarton2 karma

To some degree, but most of the reeeeally useful stuff you figure out by doing. Nothing like a mix not balancing and a director with notes to fix to make you figure out how to rework something. To aspiring composers I would say really work on presentation - be it in demo form. Most clients these days want to hear something pretty close to final for a demo, you have to be able to present your ideas, themes, pieces in the best possible light and it's hard for other people - especially non-musicians - to fill in the blanks and articulate what they want. Our job as composers isn't just to write what we want but also what works for everybody else in the creative team, be it games, movies, tv...it's not that hard to have an opinion about music but it's hard to verbalize, so interpretation and demonstration is a big part of the job.

xs3ro1 karma

Hey there, is there anything special you can tell us about the game which isnt already leaked or well known? :)

stephenbarton1 karma

Heh - it's funny to see what gets out early, and I think as gamers, we're worse than any group for wanting to unwrap our christmas presents early. But knowing what's coming, I'll say this....on this occasion, it'll be worth the wait, and hold on tight! Plenty of good stuff coming next week :-)

MySlackerMind1 karma

What is your opinion on The Last of Us soundtrack?

stephenbarton2 karma

Not heard much of it yet but what I've heard is awesome. Gustavo rarely disappoints. Spent a very happy few hours in Cafe Den Turk, a bar in Ghent, Belgium years ago with him at a film festival there, and he's one of those immensely interesting people that's done so much and seen so much. He's pretty much the Dos Equis man of composing.

renovatio421 karma

I'm sure it's hard to classify, but what would you call your genre of music in Titanfall? I think of Symphonic Industrial, but I made that up.

stephenbarton1 karma

That's better than anything I've come up with!

Klager1 karma

Amazing job on everything I've heard in Titanfall so far. What is the inspiration for all your incredible buildups and crescendos? Do you watch scenes from the game in question, or does it just come to you?

stephenbarton3 karma

Largely from the game on this one! Though you never know where inspiration will strike. The cool thing is that the beta was a fraction of the visual awesome you'll be seeing next week. Some of the visuals are just mind-blowing, and in a couple of maps in particular I got killed - quite frequently - whilst admiring the view. :-)

Pocket_Dave1 karma

Was it different doing a soundtrack for a multiplayer-only game compared to when you create a soundtrack to be used in a singleplayer campaign?

stephenbarton3 karma

A little different for sure - no rails like we had in COD4 (for example in the end jeep chase). I worked in a lot more of a modular way, creating different levels of tension and trying them out with the team to see what worked. We have lots of medium and fast action pieces and other modules of differing paces and scales. The only thing there's not an enormous amount of is quiet stealthy stuff, because once the Titans get unleashed in the round, you're not going to hear that any more!

JeremyDylan1 karma

Are you related to Phil?

stephenbarton1 karma

Only via mitochondrial Eve I think!

I_Am_Wolf1 karma

How has your other work influenced your approach to composing the score for Titanfall? Edit: What other games would you love to score?

stephenbarton1 karma

I'd kinda like to try a MMORPG, but something not traditional. Although something of biblically epic proportions would be fun to try!

xScruffMcgruffx1 karma

Will your music accompany the gameplay so well that I'll find the need to rip my pants off?

stephenbarton1 karma

If it does, and you're in a "compromising" location at the time, I'll come testify for you in the court case. I'm pretty sure "musical nirvana" is a legitimate and accepted defense for public exposure... :D

xScruffMcgruffx1 karma

Haha! Ill let my lawyer know.

Music is one of the most important aspects in overall gameplay quality. Honestly, many composers get over looked. You've graced some of the greatest games I've ever had to privilege of playing. The soundtracks captured every emotion of the games tremendously.

I definitely thank you for that and look forward to Titanfall.

stephenbarton1 karma

Thanks - it's an honor. Enjoy!

Oneofus881 karma

Why soundtrack for CoD 4 werent be available anywere? Now the only one chance to listen, its selection tracks on your site. This soundtrack a masterpiece, besides. Thanks for work.

stephenbarton2 karma

Now there's a mystery! We mastered it and had it all ready but then for no particular reason it didn't get a release. Most of it is on youtube, I believe! :-) Someone sent me a guitar cover of the track Don't Call Me Shirley a few months ago, which was very flattering!

Thelastofhiskind-3 karma

Do you enjoy contributing to mediocre games effectively ruining the standard that used to exist for games in america or is it just about the money?

stephenbarton5 karma

Kudos for the ballsy question, but I - and I think most people - would simply disagree with your premise. Right now the technology we have at our disposal to make games would have blown our minds just a decade ago, and whilst not every game is for every person and quality is measured largely by our own changing expectations, it'd be churlish to say that we're anything less than an extremely privileged generation when it comes to entertainment. Beyond that, if you like what we do, awesome, if you don't...well, vote with your feet and don't buy what we make! That's the luxury of a free consumer society and not living in North Korea.