Michael Z. Land (born 1961) is an American video game composer and musician best known for his scores for various games produced by LucasArts.

Biography edit

Early life and career edit

Michael Land was born in the North Shore area north of Boston, Massachusetts. His parents enrolled him in classical piano lessons when he was five, and he continued in these until he chose to stop out of frustration at age twelve. He started to play the electric bass guitar a couple of years later.[1] He focused more on improvisation, and he played with several bands throughout high school.

In 1979, Land enrolled in the music program at Harvard University, where he concentrated on electronic music. He also rekindled his interest in classical music, particularly that of Ludwig van Beethoven. After graduation, he entered Mills College in Oakland, California to further study electronic music. He broadened his study to Renaissance polyphony, and he also studied computer programming.

When Land graduated from Mills in 1987, he took a job as a digital technician at an audio signal processor manufacturer called Lexicon. Land worked for the company for three years, a period he spent honing his programming skills and writing operating system software for the company's MIDI remote controllers.

Career with LucasArts edit

By 1990, the home video game market was beginning to blossom, particularly for personal computers. In April of that year, Land obtained a job at the fledgeling Lucasfilm Games (today known as LucasArts), a software company owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas. Land became the first in-house audio programmer and musician at the company, which had mostly outsourced its sound production duties to third-party developer Realtime Associates in the previous few years. Land's first project with LucasArts was The Secret of Monkey Island. The soundtrack of the game gave the composer a chance to show his flexibility, as it is almost entirely made up of Caribbean-flavored themes, something different from anything Land had composed before. His music from Monkey Island has been performed live by a full orchestra at the Symphonic Game Music Concert in 2004. The event took place in Leipzig, Germany.

The sound engine used in Monkey Island bothered Land, however. He found it nearly impossible to synchronize music with action in the game. Land began work on LucasArts' iMUSE interactive music system to solve this problem.[1] The project was more daunting than Land had anticipated, so he brought in his friend, Peter McConnell, to help. The two designed the iMUSE system as an advanced MIDI sequencer, but over the years, it has come to be, as Land describes it, "a methodology" that allows game producers greater control over in-game music, transitions, etc. Land also headed the company sound department, and since he was preoccupied with iMUSE, he hired another friend to the company, Clint Bajakian, to take over some composing projects.

With iMUSE completed, Land returned to work as composer. He worked on several titles, including more Monkey Island games and various projects based on Lucasfilm properties.

Land continues to widen his repertoire, and he is currently studying classical cello and violin. He plans to release an album of music he has written outside of LucasArts sometime in the future.[citation needed]

Michael Land also worked on the Telltale installment of the Monkey Island series, Tales of Monkey Island, and reprises his role in the new Return to Monkey Island with Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell.

Musical style and influences edit

During his teen-age years, Land consciously studied and emulated the styles of performers such as Yes, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. To this day, he cites Hendrix's mellow style as a great influence on his own music, and he claims that the Dead's style is deeply rooted in his own work.

In his adult years, he also studied classical composers, particularly Beethoven, a composer whose accomplishments he describes as "a mountain in the distance … no matter how much ground you cover, it's always just as far away." He also developed an interest in Renaissance polyphony[citation needed].

Land's work shows great variation, a common trait for video game composers. He begins each project by reading over production notes for the game and then deciding on a musical style with the game's producers. Once this is decided, Land listens to different examples of that style. His soundtracks are as varied as the games they accompany. The music of the Monkey Island series is Caribbean in style, tunes performed on light woodwinds and marimbas. On the other hand, his soundtrack for The Dig is cinematic, with dark, brooding themes played out slowly. Land himself cites The Dig score as the work that comes closest to his own personal style. Another trait Land has in common with other video game composers is his ability to compose music that remains listenable when played on a continuous loop.

Land's music also tends to be more ambient in style. This allows him to compose fairly complex pieces but to keep them from being obtrusive to gameplay or spoken dialogue. Each project tends to feature at least a few louder, more melodic pieces, however, usually in the title theme and end credits.

Land's work on The Curse of Monkey Island soundtrack simultaneously marks a compositional coming-of-age, and the advent of digital audio compression meaning that MIDI audio of the past could be replaced with hi-fidelity live audio and live voice recording. This allowed for Land to record the soundtrack with real instruments or high quality patches, which added a warmth and emotion to the music not present in earlier MIDI music.[citation needed]

Land's skills as a composer and arranger are no more evident than in his choice of timbre; bringing together European folk and classical instruments with Caribbean and Central American instruments, weaving a texture that combines steel-pans, accordions, and afro-Cuban percussion amongst others. On one hand, heavily influenced by European nationalist music and nautical shanties and horn pipes, and on the other incorporating Caribbean and Brazilian styles.

Discography edit

Video game soundtracks edit

Title Year Notes
The Secret of Monkey Island 1990 With Barney Jones, Patric Mundy, and Andy Newell
Night Shift Music adaptation
Masterblazer With Chris Hülsbeck
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe 1991
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge With Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 1992
Star Wars: Rebel Assault 1993 Sound advice
Star Wars: X-Wing With Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell
Day of the Tentacle
Sam & Max: Hit the Road
Star Wars: TIE Fighter 1994
Star Wars: Dark Forces 1995 iMUSE Interactive Music System
The Dig
Full Throttle iMuse Programming
Afterlife 1996
The Curse of Monkey Island 1997 With Hans Christian Reumschuessel
Ballblazer Champions Sound Consultant
Outlaws Manager of Sound Development
Herc's Adventures Music Composition/Manager
Star Wars: DroidWorks 1998 Sound Manager
Grim Fandango Sound Production Supervision
Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Mysteries of the Sith Production
Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance 1999 Music editor
Star Wars: Episode I: The Gungan Frontier Music Editing and additional composition
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace Sound Department Manager
Star Wars: Yoda's Challenge - Activity Center
Star Wars: Episode I: Racer
Star Wars: Anakin's Speedway
Star Wars: Force Commander 2000
Star Wars: Episode I: Jedi Power Battles
Escape from Monkey Island With Clint Bajakian, Anna Karney, Michael Lande and Peter McConnell
SimCity 4 2003 With various others
The Bard's Tale 2004 With Tommy Tallarico, Clint Bajakian and Jared Emerson-Johnson
Psychonauts 2005 Performed bass
Thrillville 2006 With various others
Tales of Monkey Island 2009 With John Marsden and Jared Emerson-Johnson
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Special thanks
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge - Special Edition 2010
Wak-a-Rat 2014
Grim Fandango: Remastered 2015 Sound Production Supervision
Day of the Tentacle: Remastered 2016 Original music
Full Throttle: Remastered 2017 Mr. Big Music Guy
Psychonauts 2 2021 Played electric bass
Return to Monkey Island 2022 With Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell

Other works edit

Title Year Notes
POWER GAME HITS - Best of adventure and action computer game tracks 1992 Compilation of music from various LucasArts games
The Best of LucasArts Original Soundtracks 2002
Video Games Live: Level 3 2014 Played keyboards

References edit

  1. ^ a b "GSoundtracks - Interview with composer Michael Land". Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2016.

External links edit