Lorne Balfe and Beyond: Two Souls on Top Score

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
October 10, 2013
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Composer Lorne Balfe wrote music for the game Beyond: Two Souls, which just came out on Tuesday. Lorne and I spoke before the release, which meant he was sworn to secrecy on the plot, and certain details of his music.

It made our conversation challenging. By now, I've had the opportunity to play the game for a couple of hours. It's magnificent.

Beyond: Two Souls stars Ellen Paige and Willem Dafoe, through state-of-the-art motion picture technology pioneered by Quantic Dream.

Quantic Dream is the innovative studio behind the game. Quantic is a game developer, but it also provides motion-capture services to the film industry. The studio is on the cutting edge of that technology, and its games are always visually impressive.

Balfe's music helps to tell the story of the game, which is centered on a character named Jodie. The story follows her birth into adulthood. The music is brilliant.

The head of Quantic Dream, David Cage, is a huge fan of the piano. It's all over the score to Quantic Dream's previous game, Heavy Rain. In Beyond: Two Souls, Balfe also mixed in solo cello and voice.

"David loves the piano. He loves the piano. What was interesting was when we first started working, he talked in great passion and love for the piano because of something that I had forgotten about — the fact that you can simply have two notes and it can be either very scary or very emotional that hits straight to the heart. It's an old trick, but my goodness, you can't beat it."

Beyond: Two Souls is far from a traditional game. In fact, people have been arguing about what to call it since it was first announced. Interactive film? Game?

"When the first trailer came out, some of the comments on YouTube, some of them were saying, 'I don't understand; is this a game or a film?', and long threads of discussion were occurring about it. It was infuriating some people. Which I think is kind of quite astonishing, how somebody can get worked up over what medium this is. Why does it matter?"

I'm with Balfe on this one — it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what you call it, because when I pick up a game by Quantic Dream, I know it's going to buck the trend.

This is what matters to me: Am I engaged?

The answer is an emphatic yes. The only reason I shut off the PlayStation last night was, well, because I'm an adult and I have a job. If it had been a Friday night, I would've finished it all in one sitting.

Oh, and the last time I played a game all the way through without stopping?

Heavy Rain.

Balfe comes from the film-scoring world. He's working on eight projects at the moment, including movies and games. But Balfe has noticed a shift in the rhetoric of game developers who hire him to write music.

"When you started working on the game, they'd always say, 'Well, now we loved Dark Knight,' and then two years later, 'Well, we love Inception,' and now in the last year and a half, I've never heard anybody to do with a game ever mention the music for a film. Because now, it's its own merit."

Hear Balfe's music for Beyond: Two Souls on the new episode of Top Score from Classical MPR, also on iTunes.

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