Jason Graves and Tomb Raider on Top Score

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
June 19, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — There have been several Tomb Raider games since the first came out in 1996, and several composers wrote music for the series.

But when developer Crystal Dynamics approached composer Jason Graves for their newest Tomb Raider game, they told him to start from scratch.

So Jason got to write a brand new theme for the series.

In the new episode of Top Score, Jason talks about writing protagonist Lara Croft's theme. He used the notes from her melody to write themes for other characters in the game; even the island on which the game takes place has its own theme.

Much like the way Richard Wagner placed his leimotifs throughout his operas, Jason did so with his Tomb Raider themes.

Thematic writing, as it's referred, isn't a new concept in entertainment - not even in video games. But it's not always an appropriate method for composing a score, either.

Jason mentions that thematic scores don't often work in the horror genre, like his previous music for the Dead Space trilogy.

We also talk about my favorite scene, one in which Lara is climbing a radio tower to send a signal. The scene stood out not only for Jason's music, but also for the, well, "cinematography" of it:

Even cooler, Jason and Crystal Dynamics ended up commissioning a new instrument (simply called, The Instrument) for Tomb Raider. Sculptor and artist Matt McConnell's creation allowed for the island to have a unique sound.

Jason uses only The Instrument for the first 15 minutes of the game.

Hear my conversation with composer Jason Graves on the new episode of Top Score from Classical MPR. Subscribe on iTunes.

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