taultunleashed logoEQ2 Laura Karpman interview : EverQuest 2 General Discussions
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EQ2 Laura Karpman interview : EverQuest 2 General Discussions

Posted: December 19th, 2006, 9:31 am

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Laura Karpman has done a fantastic job on many great projects, including:
Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom
EverQuest 2: The Fallen Dynasty, Kingdom of Sky, Prophecy of RO, Splitpaw Saga and Everquesst 2 EQ2
In Justice, TV series
Fathers and Sons
Carrie, 2002, TV
and of course Laura Karpmans own site at Laura Karpman if you want to see more.
Thanks so much to a very busy lady for taking the time to answer these questions, now without further ado here is the interview.

What is your educational background?
Laura Karpman: I have a doctorate from Juilliard in music composition. At Juilliard I studied with Milton Babbitt, who was hugely important for me personally, and for my musical development. His love of music and great analytical mind stays with me with every note of music I write. My time at Juilliard included not only studying and assisting Milton Babbitt, but also in depth studies of conducting, piano, music theory, and analysis. Juilliard is also well known for its rigorous ear training this ended up being an incredibly useful skill for my musicianship. I also used to earn a bit of money on the side playing the piano and singing jazz in local nightclubs.

Who most influenced you musically?
Laura Karpman: I have a wide range of musical influences, mostly based in 20th century modernist music as well as jazz. As a child I was exposed to everything from bebop to Bartok. Every time I go to the symphony I hear something new that finds its way into my music. If I had to choose one musical influence, it would be my major composition teacher, Milton Babbitt.

What album/CD do you listen to most at home when you're relaxing?
Laura Karpman: I never listen to music at home. When I am done creating it for the day, silence is best. I do like to listen to the radio in the car always jazz or classical music.

Out of all the equipment you use in your studio what is the one piece you could not live without?
Laura Karpman:Probably Protools, or my Genelec 1031's, or my 1927 Steinway grand piano.

How and where did you get your first break?
Laura Karpman: I don't know that there is one break, but there were significant events and opportunities that lead to major new roads in my life. In terms of opening doors into commercial music, I would have to say that my fellowship at The Sundance Institute was hugely important. I had never worked with music technology or film, and I was able to really get my hands on a lot of sophisticated equipment and instruction.

With your previous credits in film and television scoring, what prompted you to start scoring for games?
Laura Karpman: I got EverQuest II directly as a result of having scored TAKEN for Steven Spielberg. The head of music at Sony Pictures recommended me to John Blakely at SOE, and I got the gig,

How do the tasks differ, and maybe your approach to them, between composing for film/television and games?
Laura Karpman: With picture there are specific timing markers that you have to hit. This is true of course with game cinematics, but doesn't drive the games that I have scored, work. Because players can spend hugely varying lengths of time in different levels, zones, etc., the score's timing is not as fixed. A musical cue for a specific environment or event can be anywhere from thirty seconds to four minutes long. In gaming, there are voices, but dialogue is not as big an issue. Gamers love lots of audio.
In game music, I'm thinking about an individual's larger experience through a game, rather than a specific moment. One of the things I love about writing game music is that the music can have its own integrity, its own speed of unfolding, and can stand on its own either within the context of a game, or even for symphonic performance.

Do you actually need to play the game somewhat to get a feel for what you're going to add musically or do you just see a storyboard and start writing?
Laura Karpman: I am a terrible gamer. Most often, I am instantly killed or maimed in some way. I love to watch an expert gamer play whatever exists in a new game I am to score, so I get a real feel for the action. Often I am working off screen shots, scripts and descriptions of the game.

How did you approach this latest project Untold Legends Dark Kingdom, what steps did you take in creating the score for that title?
Laura Karpman: It's really important to get to know a project at many different levels before I start working on it. I believe in thinking conceptually about work before I begin thinking about what the ideas are behind the story, the way that players are approaching the game, what ways the music can interact with the story and game in interesting ways, etc. Before I started writing ULDK I read all of the scripts and texts associated with the game development. In asking questions and doing research, I happened upon the middle Scots text "William Wallace" by Blind Harry. This is the same text that "Braveheart" is based upon. This text and the ULDK text had a great deal in common, so I decided to set it for chorus and orchestra. I contacted a fantastic middle Scots scholar named Anna McHugh, a professor at Oxford University in the UK. I met with her, learned the pronunciations, and clarified the settings so that even if the player gleaned faint words, there was an essence of the ULDK story being told both through the game visuals and music.

What, if I can ask, do you have planned for the future?
Laura Karpman: I have a lot of great things coming up. I was nominated for an Annie award for an animated film I scored. Coming up I have a movie, a game expansion for SOE, a concert music commission, as well as a performance by the Detroit Symphony, teaching at UCLA, and a bunch of other fun projects.

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