Behind a song of Horizon Zero Dawn

We pronounce with composer Joris de Man, prolongation twin The Flight and Guerrilla song administrator Lucas outpost Tol.

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of a many engaging games of 2017, certainly, and presumably of a final few years. So many went in to substantiating a universe that Aloy and a Nora live that any singular fathomable shade was crafted with prudent caring and attention.

One such area of a diversion was a game’s music. We asked a few questions to a teams behind a soundscape – prolongation twin The Flight, Ivor Norvello endowment winning composer Joris de Man and song administrator during Guerrilla, Lucas outpost Tol.

What you’re about to review is a genuine low dive in to a routine of not customarily scoring a diversion nonetheless also how collaberative teams and studios come to make decisions, how The Flight done YouTube videos to uncover a suit constraint artists how to play a instruments in a diversion and a story behind Aloy’s Theme. There might be mild spoilers ahead so we have been warned.


How did we brand a 3 pillars of a diversion to paint musically – machines, tribes, and nature?

The Flight: It wasn’t so many a matter of us identifying a 3 pillars of a game; these were explained to us by Guerilla on day one. It was ours and Joris’ pursuit to interpret these into a low-pitched sound of a game. We focused on a inlet of a universe first, a pleasing place full of colour and space, we can hear this in a lot of a scrutiny music.

The machines are a dim side and many strike with them is when we are fighting, so we indispensable this song to have a hi-tech, lead edge. The tribes were humans, some of them utterly obsolete and naive, some some-more advanced. We attempted to make their song simulate their spin of enrichment during a same time as gripping it all utterly organic sounding.

The juncture of a sensuous world, hi-tech machines and obsolete people is what done this diversion such an sparkling prospect.

Joris de Man: This was one of a hurdles a component organisation faced, and that we spent a satisfactory bit of time reckoning out, both musically and sonically.

The appurtenance universe was a easiest: cold, automatic textures regulating circuit focussed synths, glitching and stretching, and lead overtones that were achieved regulating percussive loops by incentive responses of iron and steel objects being struck.

With a tribes, a initial thing we suspicion of is how genealogical people would play song – it’s expected that a initial things they would do is strike stuff, blow on it or use their voice, so those are ideas we explored. But it was also transparent that as this universe facilities never-before-seen tribes after humankind is some-more or reduction ‘restarted’, that we couldn’t proceed instruments in a normal way.

Guerrilla done transparent we should drive divided from any song or impression of personification that would lift it towards any sold ethnicity, so instead we looked during personification instruments in opposite ways – cellos with plectrums and a behind of a bow, bent guitars and piano strings, that arrange of thing.

Soundwise, Lucas outpost Tol (music supervisor) also suggested we’d go for a many smaller and some-more insinuate sound, and a bit reduction polished, as against to a large blockbuster sound that some games go for, with concentration on solo Instruments and ‘found sound’, rather than bigger ensembles.

Last nonetheless not least, we knew Guerrilla wasn’t overly penetrating on flutes, generally high ones (as detached behind as a initial few Killzones I’d always have to spin a flutes and piccolos down in my demos!), so instead we looked for a lowest shriek we could find; a Contrabass Flute. Even nonetheless it’s a lead instrument, it sounds utterly genealogical and has this splendidly low and raspy tinge that breaks adult in a unequivocally engaging proceed when overblown. So those elements took caring of a tribes’ pillar.

Nature was arguably a easiest – detached pads and ambiences, and wide, widespread out chords seemed to work well. we also combined a pad sound by sampling myself floating unequivocally gently on a Thai bamboo flute, so that it hardly combined a pitch, nonetheless with lots of air. That was put into Kontakt and Omnisphere so that it could be played as a pad sound and in a latter, granulated to emanate some-more textures. 

Lucas outpost Tol: Long before we approached Joris and The Flight, a brief request was put together. Sort of a recipe list of things that Mathijs de Jonge, a diversion director, and a sound organisation wanted to concentration on. Part of that list were those 3 pillars. We utterly literally translated that to robots – electronic, tribes – rough, inapt sounding song with elementary instruments and inlet – organic, sensuous sounding elements. What that meant exactely, was what we wanted a composers to find out by a song test. Joris and The Flight came adult with solutions that seemed to ‘click’.

 Joris de Man

Once we found these inspirations, how did this foreordain what instruments to use in a score, and during what points?

The Flight: We talked in fact to Lucas during Guerrilla, who already had clever ideas about orchestration and feel. We discussed Aloy, a universe she lives in and a story trail that she follows. As a universe was separate into zones for any of a tribes, we suspicion about what instruments might be found in any of them in sequence to give any one a possess auditory stamp.

We attempted to use existent instruments in opposite ways, roughly devising how they would have been played by people only rediscovering them. One of a pivotal sounds were bent resonator guitars layered adult with opposite sizes of harmonicas. We called this a ‘Horizon orchestra’!

Joris de Man: The palette on my song staid on analog synths, cello, contrabass flute, found sound and Circle Percussion, who Niels outpost der Leest (diegetic composer) had introduced to us. The final square of a nonplus was Julie Elven, who, after a initial E3 trailer’s music, perceived such an extraordinary response, became some-more or reduction a low-pitched voice of Aloy.

So for a cutscenes, if a scenes signaled an romantic spin for Aloy, her voice and permutations of Aloy’s Theme (as listened on a categorical menu) seemed like a good choice.

Anything action-based benefited from Circle Percussion, as that would give we an present assertive and genealogical sound, and if a growth of a story focused on a appurtenance universe or record of ‘the aged ones’ (the prior civilisation), circuit hook or glitched analog synths were used. 

Lucas outpost Tol: In a early stages of Horizon’s development, we asked Niels outpost der Leest, someone we had met a confederate of months progressing and a veteran perccusionist and diversion composer, to put together a display about genealogical instruments. We knew where a diversion would be set approximately, and we had a bit of information about a tribes. By mixing that information, we could so remove what kind of materials tribes would have to their ordering and how they would play that.

For instance, a Nora have unequivocally elementary low-pitched knowledge, so their song had to be comparatively simple. The Carja were many some-more worldly so we could put whole choir pieces there, for instance. By regulating Circle Percussion, a Dutch epic drums entertainment group, we could mix all kinds of pitter-patter sounds in a diegetic song as good as in a soundtrack – and all composers could ‘use’ Niels, who used to be partial of Circle Percussion, to record live percussion tracks.


The magnitude during times feels like it’s referencing a in-game past and a magnitude of sorrow, while also gripping a harder, some-more movement filled pace. How did we change this?

Joris de Man: Part of this was rubbed in a cutscenes, where there was many some-more room for thematic development. The past, a definition of Horizon Zero Dawn and Aloy’s backstory is a critical partial of a storyline, so there was copiousness of range to try that musically and we unequivocally enjoyed essay thematic element for that, with motifs we could reuse in opposite situations. 

But a change between movement and some-more ambient scoring during a diversion was also mostly commanded by a several regions and a form of encounters.

Lucas did an glorious pursuit describing a several regions to us, a tribes that inhabited them and how they differed. Some tribes had not nonetheless gotten into steel forging, and so focused on leather and wood, since others were some-more advanced, so a song indispensable to simulate that.

Lucas outpost Tol: What worked unequivocally good is that we talked a lot with all a composers. We sent over as many information as we could. Entire clan guides, playthroughs, artwork… we have a table in a building where a diversion is indeed developed. we see a diversion solemnly entrance together.

That is information that an outmost composer unfortunately doesn’t have. So a large partial of a organisation purpose is to make certain they get as many information as possible. To feel as many as a partial of a organisation as we can. The some-more a composers know a diversion and a story, a some-more simply they can play with that and find a nuances in that. And from my side, we knew how and where we wanted to book a song in and how a transitions should work. So in a end, a composers didn’t have to worry about where a song should go or how it should work technically, we was means to brief them on that utterly clearly so that they could concentration on essay a tangible music.

The Flight: The categorical thing for us was gripping a clarity of loneliness. Aloy is alone on a query to learn her mom and her origins. She has so many she doesn’t understand, and many hardships along a way. This diversion is not only a story diversion though, there is a lot of movement too, and so a lot of some-more uptempo music. The change between a dual wasn’t unequivocally a subtract – it is down to a arc of a story and a diversion designers. We only indispensable to make certain that a dual sides worked together to emanate a awake sonic experience.


Aloy’s thesis has a bittersweet tinge with a progressively busier and busier crescendo. How did we proceed component for her character?

Joris de Man: we was propitious that John Gonzalez, a lead writer, combined such a splendidly abounding and low story, with well-rounded characters. Aloy is a formidable character, who meets many adversity via her story arc; nonetheless she has this peaceful strength and attraction that we wanted to execute in a theme.

The categorical thesis was creatively combined for a initial E3 trailer, and so to work to design it indispensable to build to a crescendo…but Guerrilla shortly realised that it would work good as a categorical menu thesis also. For a longest time it was deliberate placeholder, with me potentially essay something else for a categorical menu, nonetheless saying how people responded to it and how good it set a tone, it would have been ridiculous to try and reinstate it. 

Lucas outpost Tol: we remember that primarily we were a small bit uncertain about Aloy’s Theme. It was so different, and so outspoken. We desired it, nonetheless would ‘the players’ like it as well? That was a large training impulse for me. Don’t make anything for ‘the players’, there is no such thing. Make something that intuitively we consider works, and that is what Joris did.

We all fell in adore with Julie Elven’s voice, and it arrange of transitioned into a suspicion that Julie would turn Aloy’s low-pitched voice. Any time something romantic happens to Aloy, Julie will be there to support her. The addition lane is one of my favorites, and we unequivocally consider it is since Joris and Julie have taken we on a tour that concludes there. It’s since of Aloy’s Theme and all those other pieces that that impulse lands so well.


This magnitude sees a bit of a depart from your prior works in being such a singular and immeasurable universe that’s a lot some-more open to creative interpretation. How do we feel this has differed from your prior work in coming scoring a game?

The Flight: We are propitious to have worked on such sundry projects. Before we started Horizon Zero Dawn we had only finished a magnitude for Alien: Isolation, that is dark, claustrophobic and flattering terrifying, nonetheless also coincidentally a story about a sole lady acid for her mother.

Whilst operative on Horizon Zero Dawn we also scored a Channel 4 documentary array about children with mental health disorders. Though these are all unequivocally opposite projects, in a finish we are only essay music, we still customarily lay down, collect adult an instrument and start playing.

Joris de Man:Horizon Zero Dawn was hugely severe on many levels – carrying had story with Guerrilla Games on a Killzone franchise, where a song had to compare a heated gameplay and was an auditory attack on a listener with a large live harmony orchestra, Horizon Zero Dawn couldn’t have been serve divided from that form of scoring and sound.

It compulsory a unequivocally opposite approach, and we had to concede myself to write simple, effective themes and credentials song that had a unequivocally opposite gait and intensity. The palette too, couldn’t be serve apart, with only a few soloists and found sounds, so a plea was to do a lot with comparatively little, and concede a song to breathe though wanting to take centre stage.

At times it was utterly severe and a bit outward of my comfort zone, nonetheless we relished a event of sonically traversing this singular landscape, and finished adult in places we wouldn’t have had if we’d taken a some-more traditional, blockbuster-style approach. 

Lucas outpost Tol: This was my initial plan supervising a song – luckily we had a lot of assistance from a sound organisation and a producers, and people within Sony. However, we did confederate a song for Killzone 2, 3 and Shadow Fall, so we was flattering informed with a routine and Joris his work.

But we wanted something totally new here. we was meddlesome in saying what would occur if we would force Joris to go into a instruction he had never been in, during slightest not for Guerrilla, to see what would happen.

A confederate of things happened. He nailed a style, nonetheless he also accidently supposing a resolution for a outrageous volume of song calm we wanted to have. His initial pieces were unequivocally rich, unequivocally full. we shortly satisfied that nonetheless it was beautiful, it would be too many to hear all a time.

So instead we asked for all a stems of a songs, and we started to emanate some-more calm out of these stems. Often we would find wholly opposite sounding songs by selecting a right stems. As a bonus, we now had a low-pitched soundscape that could take a spotlight or kind of dawdle somewhere in a background. There unexpected was a healthy upsurge that worked unequivocally well.

… And Finally.

Joris de Man: There’s a good instance on a soundtrack of how, during a march of a game, some of a song grown over time.

The initial is a Prologue – there’s a demo on a initial front called Papoose that was a strange demo for a opening cutscene, stoical to only a territory from a script. It became clear, once a stage was storyboarded and put into an early animatic, that a gait and vibe was utterly different, nonetheless thematically there were a few pieces in there we suspicion worked well. You’ll hear some of those pieces (like a categorical shriek melody) behind in small snippets in a final Prologue piece.

Secondly, The Flight and we collaborated on a few pieces, that started as a piano blueprint from myself that a Flight worked into a full production. we suspicion it was unequivocally engaging to hear a opposite approaches to sound and prolongation and how it played to a opposite strengths.

Lucas outpost Tol: A fun thing to note is that a composers also did a suit constraint for a diegetic song vignettes. The 3 musicians in Meridian are Joe, Alexis and Niels, as are a priests and a pitter-patter contingent during a Nora festival. We played a song on set and they synced their mocap to it.

Talking about a song organisation in Meridan, there’s also a fun story about that. We creatively were confronted with 3 judgment art pieces of instruments. We had no suspicion what they would sound like or how they would be played. So we approached The Flight with a doubt if they could ‘sell’ those instruments to us, to make a small Youtube educational video to uncover us what these instruments were about.

They did an glorious job, a video was both interesting and informing, and from that indicate on we knew we were traffic with a Kuna Bass, a Braumdrum and an Iron Pendulum.

The Flight: We always consider song is best when combined by groups of people. On Horizon Zero Dawn it was illusory to be means to combine with Joris, Niels and a extraordinary audio organisation during Guerrilla. We are unapproachable to have worked on what we feel is a pleasing and honestly singular game.

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