Sean Murray, composer for Call of Duty: Black Ops on Top Score

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
June 9, 2011

St. Paul, Minn. — Composer Sean Murray talks about his music for Call of Duty: Black Ops in the fifth episode of Top Score from Classical Minnesota Public Radio. His music successfully captures an environment fueled by war, undercover Cold War CIA operations and the emotional trauma and tension that must accompany such a life.

Sean speaks of his adoration of a composer perhaps more well-known to Minnesotans than anyone this side of the Atlantic: Einojuhani Rautavaara. Sean also mentions the influence of Arvo Part and Gyorgy Ligeti.

For casual gamers, such as those who might sneak in a game of Free Cell while your boss is off to lunch, November 9th of 2010 probably came and went with little fanfare. But for anyone who games on a PC or a console, it would be difficult to ignore the release of another Call of Duty game, whether you purchased it or not.

And oh, people purchased it.

During the first quarter of 2011, Black Ops became the best-selling game of all time in terms of dollars. Activision Blizzard publishes the game and their first quarter net profits were $1.4 billion. It doesn't hurt that the "Blizzard" side of Activision is the publisher and developer of World of Warcraft.

Their First Quarter Financial Reports include some numbers to help put Call of Duty: Black Ops into context. Here's a good one: since February 1, 2011, players spend about 58 minutes a day playing Black Ops online. That surpasses the average amount of time a person spends on Facebook each day by 3 minutes.

Sean Murray's score adds depth to an already-compelling story. There are plenty of testosterone-charged moments, offset by music full of emotional profundity.

But again, it's a war game. Sean plays a loop of various gunfire in the background while he composes.

"I want to make sure that my sonorities of the music are cutting through the sonorities of the gun-play."

Voice actors for the game include Gary Oldman, Sam Worthington and Ed Harris. Here's Oldman as Viktor Reznov (SPOILER ALERT):

You can hear Sean's interview on Episode 5 of Top Score from Classical MPR. Download or listen here on or on iTunes.


  • INTRO: COD: Black Ops - "Mac-V"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Eagle Claw, Pt. 1"
  • COD: World at War - "Brave Soldat"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Deviant"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Hard Target"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Foe"
  • COD: Black Ops - "The Wall"
  • Einojuhani Rautavaara - Symphony No. 7: Last Movement
  • COD: Black Ops - "Albion"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Pegasus"
  • COD: Black Ops - "The Wall"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Commies"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Dwarka"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Blackbird"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Crash"
  • COD: Black Ops - "Invictus"
  • CREDITS: COD: Black Ops - "Pentagon"


On Now

Listen to the Stream
  • Second Suite 9:19 Gustav Holst
    Dallas Wind Symphony
    Howard Dunn
    Buy Now
  • Kyrie 9:10 Vytautas Miskinis
    National Lutheran Choir
    David Cherwien
    Buy Now
Other MPR Radio Streams
Choral Stream
MPR News
Radio Heartland

You can now listen to Classical and Choral Music on your iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) or Android device.

Classical Notes Blog

Read more