Halo Music Outtakes Part 2
By Matt Soell and Marty O'Donnell
June 26, 2002
Last week we brought you a handful of Halo music that had never been heard outside the studios of composer Marty O'Donnell. The response, as you can imagine, was staggering. True, it was a valuable glimpse at a side of the development process that rarely gets the credit it deserves. But it was also a look behind the curtain at a modern composer at work, trying different styles and approaches in order to make powerful music. It's common to find bonus tracks and alternate takes thrown onto CD reissues these days, but in many cases one can tell why they were left off the album in the first place. In the case of the Halo soundtrack, many ideas were not fully developed either because there was no time or because, as development progressed, there just wasn't a spot for them in the game anymore. What was left on the cutting room floor, or in this case the studio hard drive, are relics that are in some cases as mysterious as Halo itself. As you listen, you may find yourself wondering "What level or cutscene was this piece intended for? Why didn't Marty finish this one? Did he opt for something else in its place?" Luckily for all of us, Marty maintains a Question and Answer page at the Marty Army website. If you have questions about any of these pieces, or any of the music that did make it into the game, you can always ask him directly. It's rare to have a composer as forthcoming as Marty, but as our recent interview showed, Marty is the kind of guy who likes to let it all hang out.
We take you now to our second and final batch of outtakes from the Halo soundtrack. The comments in quotes are from Marty himself. All other comments are my own. Remember, these are unfinished pieces, without the spit-shine that Marty normally applies to his released work; nevertheless, they remain the copyrighted intellectual property of TotalAudio.
What?: "The second half is almost interesting but can’t possibly make up for the travesty that is the first half." Well, perhaps the monks-with-a-beat-box combination didn't work – but you can't blame Marty for trying. And he's correct about the second half: his trademark percussion, somewhat muted in this piece, mixes nicely with the eerie atmospherics.
Rhythm Variant Sketch: "I don’t think this one ever had any hope of surviving into adulthood." The drums are back, along with a rather ominous synth riff, but this one definitely feels like a piece that needed further development.
Seriously: "Test of time? I think not." The jaunty hip-hop beat mixes with some subtle bird-and-whale noise while the horns sound cheerful and triumphant in the foreground. A real departure from the rest of Halo's music, this song seems almost too happy.
Club: "So what game is this again?" Another departure, this time to Akron, Ohio, in the late seventies, where Devo created pop masterpieces with primitive synthesizers. Listen as Marty whips it good.
Halo Love Theme Sketch: "Not exactly the Siege of Madrigal but has some interesting moments. Frankly I couldn’t think of any possible place in the game where any part of this would have been of use. The ending is pretty funny too (hey I ran out of gas)." Simple, majestic, and strangely sad for a song billed as a "love theme." I think Marty saved all his hottest material for the soundtrack.
This brings us to the end of our Halo Music Outtakes series; we could only get Marty to cough up ten pieces. On the other hand, that's ten more than we used to have, so perhaps we should just be grateful for what we've received. We'd like to thank Marty O'Donnell for sharing the orphaned byproducts of his creative process with the world. Remember, if you ever want to learn more about the audio in Bungie's games, you can always visit the Marty Army website and get the straight dope directly from the source.