Friday, November 23, 2012

The ZOEN Talks Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Part 2) - Jack Wall on Learning Music Online

In Part 2 of The ZOEN’s interview with Jack Wall the composer of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the discussion turns to the impact of online video on Wall’s career and the power and potential of online music lessons.

Phil:  Call of Duty: Black Ops II has been a huge project, and it’s been consuming much of your life for the past year now.

Jack:  Yeah, well I have another game I’ve been doing at the same time called Lost Planet 3. I think I wrote two hours and twenty minutes of music for Call of Duty and I wrote another two hours for Lost Planet 3. I’m just finishing that up so by the first week of December I’ll be done with that one. Yeah, it’s been a good year.

Phil:  I know you’ve had some experience teaching an online course, you’ve taken some online courses.  What impact have online lessons had on your career? How does this fit into your world and the proliferation of learning music in general?

Jack:  I’m the poster child for online music...even when there wasn’t such a thing. I didn’t necessarily want to go back to a university to study music after I was a civil engineer, I’d already done it so what I was more interested in was studying/finding the people that I admired in different fields and studying with them. In 1999 I started working with a guy named Brad Keimach, and he taught me conducting.  He was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, so I got to learn from a really great instructor, one-on-one instruction, paying a fee for each lesson and all that.

I discovered during that period that the best way for me to learn was to put a camera on me in the lesson, and also on Brad, so I would see how he would do it and I would see what I was doing and I’d look for the difference and figure out what I was doing wrong by watching myself.

Another thing that happened just a few years ago was that a longtime friend Stephanie Henning, became marketing director for Berklee College of Music. She gave me a call after she went to Boston, and said, “Hey, there’s a lot of people here who are real fans of your work, and we were wondering if you might have any interest in teaching online - something about game music and game audio…”

So I jumped on that to see what they were doing. During that time I learned Finale and Sibelius; I didn’t know those programs and it was becoming really important that I had those for my own work, so I took those classes and saw from the student perspective how valuable that was. That mirrored sort of what I was doing with Brad, right - you can photograph or video yourself, see others’ videos, other people doing things. It just helps you learn a lot quicker on a one-on-one basis.   It’s sort of a modern miracle of photo-education. I just love how fast people learn this way.  I think it’s the fast-track of learning, I don’t think there’s any wasted space, there’s no wasted time.  You get right in there and you learn something really fast and you can just apply it immediately.  It’s such an amazing experience.

Everything is going through a Renaissance right now, and I’m very, very positive on what the ZOEN is doing, and I really dig it.  Especially the fact that you can actually play and hear each other over the Internet - that’s a real revelation. That’s something Berklee doesn’t have.

Phil:  Jack, you’ve so many great experiences—what would you say you love the most about what you do?

Jack:  That every day is different.   There are days when it’s very solitary, just working in my studio…..And other days I’m collaborating with other musicians. For this Lost Planet 3 game, we’re doing extraterrestrial, alien country music so I’ve had really great musicians in a recording studio - we made a whole album of music. I wrote sixty minutes of music just for that part of the game where it’s really just songs and they’re like country songs, made in the future. So it was kind of fun imagining that, but working with the musicians, great drummers, great rhythm section - that was just fantastic.  

And then, I just got back from two trips to Abbey Road in London, recording 86 musicians in the world-famous Abbey Road Studio One where Star Wars was recorded.  And what a great experience that was!  I just pinch myself everyday - I love what I do.

Listen to an excerpt of “Anthem” from Call of Duty Black Ops II
Anthem (Excerpt) by Jack Wall Music

Phil:  Jack - thank you!  I look forward to hearing Call of Duty and more of your music.

Jack:  Definitely! Check out the website.  There are lots of videos and music to listen to there if you’re interested: I just finished polishing that up so people could hear some of this music.

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