Solar Fields

Today, DICE is happy to reveal that one of our most prominent collaborators from the original Mirror’s Edge™ is making a return. Solar Fields, creator of the Mirror’s Edge soundtrack, is composing the score for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, making the elegant city of Glass come alive with iconic, electronic soundscapes.

Solar Fields, or Magnus Birgersson as the synthesizing Swede really is called, has spent the day composing themes for the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst characters when we meet up for a chat. Figuring out how someone like Faith “sounds” - in a musical and ambient sense - is challenging. Apologizing for “the tech talk”, Magnus explains that he has approached this by diving into the music on a molecular level.

 - Today I’ve been experimenting with the Mirror’s Edge theme by dissolving that piece of music using what’s known as granular synthesis. I’m playing around with these particle clouds to see what sounds are recognizable and iconic even when the music is dissolved, and to see if there are any new aspects in there I can work with. 

What was your initial reaction when you were approached about composing for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst?

- My first thought when I got the offer was simply that it would be great to continue where I left off; to continue building new worlds, new feelings, and new landscapes of sound based on what Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will contain.

- My job is recreating these game environments musically and enhancing moments in the game. Setting the story to music, getting things like tempo changes perfect, and making everything sync with the gameplay is really challenging.

 You’ve been living and breathing Mirror’s Edge Catalyst lately. What’s it like to be part of a project like this?

- That’s right, I feel I’ve literally been living in the city of Glass for 11 months now – and it’s a place I truly enjoy. The entire process from day one to where we are now – not that far from launch – has been incredibly exciting for me. The amount of material I’ve recorded during this time is huge. I think there’s 70GB in my Mirror’s Edge Catalyst folder now.

You’re doing backups, right?

- Haha, don’t worry – everything is very safe!

How does your overall collaboration and individual sessions with DICE look like?

- I’m in daily contact with DICE, and Audio Director Magnus Walterstad in particular has been giving me tons of information on Mirror’s Edge Catalyst to help with the composing. I’m looking at the script, the biographies on all the characters, and of course the design of the city of Glass.

- When I’m on-site at DICE I go through each of the missions with the level designers and producers. Sometimes I already have a demo of a theme with me that we can try out and discuss. I get all kinds of feedback, like whether the tempo is right or if the musical themes are too positive, for instance. This input is incredibly valuable to me.

Making music for a Mirror’s Edge Catalyst mission where both calm and hectic situations occur - how’s that done?

- It all ties into the missions of the game. I’m composing a theme for a specific mission or act. Based on that theme, I’ll create different variations that fit situations like exploration or combat. For changes in situations and moods, I’ll do things like tempo changes or switches between major and minor, but still hang on to the basic feeling of the theme. And all these changes need to happen without gaps.

- In the first game we had one stereo channel, but this time we're able to real time mix four different stereo channels based on what’s going on in the game, allowing us to create an even deeper and more dynamic musical experience than we hoped for. This requires some extra thought in creating the music stems since each layer needs to work and sound good on its own. If you’re currently playing the mission in a certain way, you might only hear the base part, and that needs to sound attractive.

Would you say this music is more subtle than your other work since so many other things are going on at the same time?
- In some areas of the game it’s very subtle, much more than what I produce normally. But again, that depends on how you’re playing the game. Other times it can be very in-your-face, especially when running around rooftops in action-packed sequences. As a runner, we want the music to help you keep moving. After all, your momentum is key to the game.

For the synthesizer fans out there, what gadgets are you playing with this time and how does technology help the creative process?

 - I combine old, analogue technology with modern synthesizers and equipment. Modular systems, lo-fi synthesizers, VHS tape recorders and so on – it’s a mixture of many things. Basically my studio is like a big modular setup, where all the devices are hooked up to each other.

- A lot of the material is actually born out of chance and randomly playing around with these instruments. As an example, I’ve discovered a lot of new sounds listening to the reverberation of other sounds. When a note is fading out I can find new things to build upon and almost hear new melodies.

How was it like to receive the awesome feedback for the music from the first game and what do you think your fans are expecting from the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst soundtrack?

- I’m actually still somewhat overwhelmed from all the great feedback. But it’s fantastic that my work has resonated with so many. I really appreciate the praise, and I take that as a sign that I’ve done something well. For Mirror’s Edge Catalyst I think fans are expecting ambiences that will immerse them even more in the mood and overall atmospheres that the game will be full of. And there’s a lot of that coming.

Enjoy the thrilling soundscapes of Solar Fields when Mirror’s Edge Catalyst releases on May 24, 2016. To learn more about Solar Fields, visit his Facebook page.