Some people enjoy composing music as a personal hobby, but others carry with them the dream of composing in the big leagues. Norwegian composer Kristin Burdal is one of the many working to gain a foothold in the industry and create story-driven music for film and, in particular, games. Her music, which can be found at her Soundcloud page FruLuna, is unmistakably her own with a distinctly interesting, unique sound and, with many personal music projects under her belt, including the ongoing “Stegosaurus on Marshland Acidic Trips”, it is safe to say that she has a strong dedication to her craft.
In this interview Kristin tells a bit about herself and her compositions, as well as her musical career and plans for the future.
Kristin discovered her interest in music at an early age, and plays several different instruments. “I’m mainly a classical singer” she says, “but I also play piano, guitar and bass. I’ve been singing all my life, but the first instrument I started getting lessons for was the piano, and I started taking lessons when I was 8 years old.”
She did not only practice music on her own, but with her sister as well. “During my teenage years, I had various ‘band’ projects with my sister. I usually made the music, recorded guitar and vocals and programmed drums, bass and whatever other instruments we needed. ” Kristin says that her sister would write the lyrics as well as record some of the vocals.
However, she did not wait long to start composing on her own, and she began her first album under the project tag “Stegosaurus on Marshland Acidic Trips” already as a 16-year-old. ” It started out as an experimental project, where I for the most part just tested out different musical methods that I’d learned. It gradually grew into a more serious project over the years.”
Stegosaurus on Marshland Acidic Trips
The “Stegosaurus” concept album Are you AnyWhere? features ten songs that make up a compelling narrative. In Kristins own words, “Stegosaurus sets out on a quest to save The Green Goddess. After a while, he finds himself lost without direction, and no clue as to where The Green Goddess is. This is when he calls upon the ancient Syrian God Ba’al Shamin (the Sky God), hoping he’ll be able to show him the way.”
The style and genre of the album, and the project in general, is predominantly electronic, with many industrial overtones, such as the prevalent use of electric guitars and metallic, synthesized sound. An eerie and mysterious vibe acts as the emotional baseline of the album, and tells a tale of uncertainty mixed with a purposeful drive. Gradually, a distinctly Middle Eastern influence becomes more dominant, starting halfway through the album with the track “Calling Upon Ba’al Shamin”.
About this track Kristin says, “This piece I composed during a time when I was really into the music and sound of the Middle East. I still love the sound of this part of the world – a lot of my music is inspired by Middle Eastern music – but at that time I could sit for hours just listening to different folk music I came across. With this song, my knowledge of typical Middle Eastern scales was crucial. I also wanted to add a section that used the twelve tone scale.”
The name of the project as well as the naming of each track hints at what the story is about, and when put together, the tracks effectively engage the listener, making them active participant in the creation of the story as they interpret the music. At the same time, the individual tracks easily hold their own, and Kristins personal favorite of her own works is the track The Green Goddess, being the track that she has enjoyed working on the most.
The tracks Passage to Adversity and Terra Industrialis pick up from where the first album left off, and while they retain the electronic, eerie mood and feel of their predecessors, they also experiment with new themes and combinations of instruments, in turn making them even more cinematic. “Terra Industrialis is inspired by a Norwegian poet named Rolf Jacobsen,” Kristin says, “and one of his collection of poems “Jord og Jern”, which means “Iron and soil”. So there’s a play between the organic and the industrial that I’m trying to catch in the music.”
Kristin says that the inspiration for her music comes in many forms, and that it is hard for her to pinpoint exactly from where. “I can get the idea for a melody in my head, and the rest just develops from that. Sources that might inspire me are sounds around me or things I see. It can also just be a mood I’m feeling. It’s difficult to be specific about what it is.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KYEtJVEsi0]
Apart from the “Stegosaurus” project, Kristin has worked with the creators of the car business simulator “Gear City”, composing the music for the game, and she has also composed the music for the student short film “1-2-3 ATB”. Curiously, the intro music for the student short became a part of both projects when the game director of “Gear City” requested she make a longer version of it for the game. This would then become the track Vannliljen.
Composing For Games
The music project for “Gear City” gave Kristin the opportunity to create music for a computer game – something she had always wanted to do. When asked what the best thing about composing for games is, Kristin says, “The music for a video game is of such great importance, and the music is in many cases what takes the game from good to great. The best thing about composing for video games, I think, is how the music can affect the players experience of the game. It’s a great thing to be able to give other people an experience, and to be able to affect them on an emotional level.”
Kristin is currently writing her master’s thesis on the subject of music for games, specifically the score for the game Dark Souls, one of her favorite video game scores, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. Her other favorite is the score for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, composed by Jeremy Soule.
“Like music for movies, the music for video games is such a big part of the total experience.” Kristin says. “Often the graphics of a game can be limited, and then the music can help bring the game to life. The music will often manipulate how the different part of game is received emotionally, it can make an intense moment of the game even more intense, it can make the images and the experience more beautiful, more sad and so on.”
Part of the Crowd
Like many musicians these days, Kristin uses various websites to upload and promote her work.
“The internet is a great platform for promoting music, I think, because it makes it possible to reach out to many people from all over the world.” she says, “But in a way the internet might also make it more difficult, because there are so many people promoting themselves, and that means it’s very easy to just disappear in the crowd. Because there are so many people promoting themselves, making good music isn’t enough, you also have to work non stop to receive attention. The ones that “scream the loudest” will get the most attention, no matter how great the talent. That being said, I don’t think it’s more work now than before the internet, it’s just on a much larger scale.”
For future projects, Kristin would like to make more ‘epic’ music. “The term epic in music is usually referred to when talking about really big orchestral works for dramas, film, games and so on.” she says. “Wagner’s musical dramas can be called epic, also the work for a film like Lord of the Rings can be called epic.” Kristin says that she would like to score a more story-driven game and write more orchestral music, too.
Kristin’s advice to anyone wanting to get into making music is to never give up. “You never know when you get that one life changing opportunity, and well, believe in yourself and your own skills. Don’t be afraid to show your music of. Getting feedback is probably the most important thing in order to get any better. ”
Top banner art by Inna Hansen.