Norwegian music sampled for new fantasy video game

Nordic sounds and instruments used in new video game soundtrack

Skrevet av Tina Brodal 16.07.2021

Helena og Espen av Kasia Kowalczyk
Musician Helena Falk Botolfsen and producer Espen Ramsli Fredriksen. Photo: Kasia Kowalczyk

In close collaboration between Los Angeles and Norway, new music has recently been written for an international computer game where the client wants a Nordic sound using old Norwegian instruments.

A sample library of folk music instruments from Norway has been recorded for the project, which has been named «Nordic Sounds».

Film composer and producer Jamie Christophersen, based in LA, has been responsible for writing the music for the game. For the last 20 years he has worked as a film composer and he composes and produces music for all sorts of media, from video games to film and television to branding.

The collaboration between Christopherson and Norwegian musician Helena Maria Falk Botolfsen on the project Nordic Sounds happened due to their previous work together in LA.

- I was hired to write music for a big fantasy video game (I can’t say the name of the game yet) and have been friends with Helena already. So when the game called for some Nordic type sounds I contacted her right away to set up some recording sessions. I always love to work with different musicians and so I thought it would be a fun opportunity to explore various Nordic instruments to shape the sound, Christopherson says.

Komponist Jamie Christophersen engelsk beskrivelse
Film composer and producer Jamie Christophersen.

When Falk Botolfsen was contacted, she joined forces with producer Espen Ramsli Fredriksen, Petter Stubberud Tysland and Nicolai Herwell, in addition to involving several different musicians.

- Our contribution consisted of finding the right musicians and instruments for the soundscape Jamie described for us, as well as conducting a studio session with them. We recorded hardanger fiddle, harp, different buck horns, several different flutes and wooden organ/harmonium, says Espen Ramsli Fredriksen and Helena Falk Botolfsen.

When they began the project, there was almost no composed material that was ready, neither in the form of melodies nor themes, and they made recordings very early in the composition process. They only had different tempi and keys to relate to.

- The sessions therefore became a kind of creative dialogue between Jamie, us and the musicians, were we had to come up with expressions that could inspire and set guidelines for the music that would later be written, says Falk Botolfsen.

Nordic Soundsnyttformat til engelsk sak
From left: Espen Ramsli Fredriksen, Petter Stubberud Tysland and Helena Falk Botolfsen. Photo: Kasia Kowalczyk

All recordings done remotely
The pandemic and geographical distance between those involved was no obstacle for the project. Helena and Espen took care of the technical responsibility for the recordings, and one aspect of this was to do all the recordings with Jamie "remote" from Los Angeles.

- The process of recording with Helena Espen and Petter was great. They are all really great professionals, and we’re open to experimenting with the traditional instruments. Basically, I had them explain to me how the instruments worked first and then I would ask the players to shift their way of playing a little bit to match the vision that I had in my head for how the game should sound. I think they got a chance to play their instruments in ways they have never thought of. That is one of my favorite parts of the project, and really brings new life to the music, says Christopherson.

- In addition to the Nordic instruments, we were fortunate enough to have a full live orchestra and choir which is always a fun thing. Scope of the game is very massive and epic. So I tried to bring a unique sound to this project like I do with all of my projects.

Praised during Nordic Oscar Weekend
The project received a lot of attention at the American conference Nordic Oscar Weekend this spring, where the Nordic industry meets Hollywood.

- We participated with Jamie in "Nordic Oscar Weekend" in April 2021 and talked about our collaboration. The response that we received was very good. We had made a small "behind the scenes movie" from the project and written a small soundtrack to it based on the instruments we recorded, as we did not have the opportunity / rights to use the finished composed music yet. This, combined with the fact that Helena had a hardanger fiddle with her, made a strong contribution to engaging the online audience, says Ramsli Fredriksen.

The founder of DO Less Management and host of Nordic Oscar Weekend, Christiana Sudano, says that the American music industry is a beast, but that Nordic Oscar Weekend does a great job of connecting the dots.

- I personally have worked in the industry for the last 9 years at both Universal Music Group and Concord and can be the first to tell you that the barrier to entry is extremely hard to reach. Nordic Oscar Weekend lowers that barrier and allows attendees to learn from the best in their fields. There is so much talent coming out of the Nordics that the American music industry should be in the know about as well. I believe as these music sessions grow the opportunities for collaboration will grow with it, Sudano says.

Increased interest in use of Nordic sound
Christopherson has seen a growing interest in the use of Nordic instruments in productions in the USA in recent years. There are many shows on Netflix and things that capture the sound and it adds an exotic and rich flavor especially when used in unique ways.

- I definitely think the sound will persist and keep growing. Myself I have the intention of actually working on Nordic productions and maybe even living there part time to explore the rich cultural and musical heritage. Descendent wise I am half Norwegian and so drawn to it organically, he says.

Nordic sample and audio library
- The work with Nordic instruments in a cinematic setting was very inspiring. In 2021, we took this concept a step further by recording several traditional Norwegian instruments in Ormøy church. The goal of the recordings was to give us further inspiration and to start the work of creating our own sample / sound library of unique "Nordic Sounds", says Falk Botolfsen.

- We are now well on our way to curating the recordings and in the initial phase of creating new music based on these. The plan for the late summer and autumn is to compose music for use in trailers, films and series, she concludes.

In 2020, the Nordic Sounds project was grated NOK 50,000 in support from Music Norway’s temporary grant scheme AD HOC-COVID19.

Apply for grants from our Kickstart 21 scheme now, application deadline 15 August.