James Hannigan and Dead Space 3 on Top Score

by Emily Reese
August 29, 2013

Listen James Hannigan and Dead Space 3 on Top Score
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Composer James Hannigan (Courtesy of the artist)

Composer James Hannigan wrote music for Dead Space 3; an ominous score for a terrifying game.

"I actually feel that the less you say with music the scarier it can be. I think that the less you state the more you leave the player to imagine," Hannigan says.

"I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and I wouldn't say a horror fan exactly, but where horror meets sci-fi. You know Dead Space just gave me a great opportunity to get further into that kind of material.

"I like bleak music, you know — well, I wouldn't say entirely bleak — I like music that has a sort of hopelessness. I like to feel that you can gradually introduce hope — so you're going from a very dark place to somewhere a little lighter in the course of a piece of music."

Hannigan captures that bleak sound well in the first piece on the album. It's called 200 Years Ago on an Icy Planet.

"With that piece in particular, I was trying to capture a sense of being up against the odds and the elements, but still trying to suggest that Isaac — the protagonist — was going to essentially win through and save the day. So there's an element of heroism there, but it's sort of darkly heroic music, and that really suits me. I don't know why — I'm not a heroic kind of person at all.

"That track was the first track that I composed for the game so everything sort of flowed from there, the sound world, and the style of composition essentially flowed from that track."

Hannigan loves the sound of a full symphony orchestra, but Dead Space 3 sometimes goes beyond that.

"It is one of those sort of hybrid scores though, where you're never quite certain what you're hearing, you know, how it was generated, there was a lot of synth work in there."

In September, Hannigan is leading a group of composers in a series of events designed for fans and aspiring writers of video game music, called Game Music Connect.

Hear James Hannigan and his music for Dead Space 3 on the new episode of Top Score from Classical MPR, also on iTunes.