In a talk for the DigiPen Audio Symposium, legendary video game composer Marty O’Donnell dug a bit into the true story behind the writing and recording of Halo: Combat Evolved’s classic theme.
Many might already be familiar with the story: that it had to be written in less than a week, that O’Donnell took inspiration for the monk chant from the melody in “Yesterday” and wrote it while singing in the car on the way to record it. What is less known, perhaps, is that the other voice part, the higher part that comes in around a minute or so into the piece, is actually Marty himself.
I told one of the [singers] who I thought would be really good at this […] that I wanted somebody to do sort of a [sings an example].
He listened to it [and] said “you should just do it it sounds great when you do it,” I’m like “oh, no, no I don’t want to do it.” Anyway I ended up doing it and I was not happy about it, but here’s what it sounds like if you listen to it all by itself.Marty O’Donnell
O’Donnell also dives a bit into some other little-known-facts about the writing of the piece, including a devastating fire that hit his and Michael Salvatori’s studio shortly before the writing and recording of the Halo theme.
The whole talk is an excellent dive into O’Donnell’s process for writing and building out entire pieces for games, including selections from Destiny‘s prequel album Music of the Spheres, and the latest project he wrote for, Golem. There’s some wonderful and inspiring material here for aspiring composers, as well as some awesome background trivia for fans of these soundtracks. Check it out here (information on second vocal part starts around 21:06):