Martin O’Donnell is to the Halo franchise as John Williams is to Star Wars: His masterful understanding of narrative music added scope, energy, depth, and an exotic eeriness that played a critical – and largely underrated – role in making Halo one of the most memorable games on the market.
In an unexpected tweet three days ago, O’Donnell remarked that he unearthed footage of Bungie’s recording session with Steve Vai – in which the two collaborated to create the opening theme for Halo 2.
Recorded on October 15, 2003, this behind-the-scenes footage gives a thrilling insight into the professionalism and camaraderie that went on during this stage of the game’s development. The epic orchestral backing had already been completed, and Vai graced the studio with his trademark shredding and improvisational virtuosity. That’s right – Vai’s part was improvised in-studio on the day of recording. They played him what was already there, and asked him to layer on an awesome guitar solo.
So he did.
Here's the whole thing. Wow, I forgot how fun and amazing that session was. Steve and Nile – thank you. http://t.co/2q00EbcVdv
— Marty O'Donnell (@MartyTheElder) August 26, 2018
“The original thing is so well-known,” we see record producer and fellow guitarist Nile Rodgers explain to Vai. “Just play along, let’s just vibe. I just want to see what the sound is feeling like.” At the 8:55 mark we get chills as Vai leads into the famous melody that makes it to the final cut. The piercing whine of the electric guitar creates broad smiles and nodding heads around the room, and O’Donnell looks on beaming from behind him. It’s magical getting to witness such a historic moment in gaming.
If you’ve forgotten what the Halo 2 opening ended up sounding like, it went a little something like this:
“For all you youngsters out there, did you notice how much of Steve’s first take I used?” remarks O’Donnell. “And how much work it took to get the rest?”
There’s no questioning the legacy that O’Donnell helped to create in the Halo franchise, and we’ve got our eye on him, Bungie, and Halo, and are excited to see what they give us next! In the meantime, check out O’Donnell’s twitter feed here to see and support more of his awesome work.