It's always fun to hear composers talk about their favorite musicians. This past weekend at PAX, I sat down with a group of the biggest names in AAA video game music to talk about all things musical and video games. Fresh from their panel at PAX, I chatted with Dragon Age composer Inon Zur, Assassin's Creed's Jesper Kyd, Halo's Marty O'Donnell, Mass Effect's Sam Hulick, and Deus Ex's Michael McCann.
Right when we sat down, O'Donnell (who, no longer on Halo, is now working at Bungie on an unannounced project) was talking about a musican they'd brought in to record some Jew's Harp. It wasn't any old musician, it was Howard Levy, a Chicagoan best known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Check him out in the video above. Hot damn. Gotta love when he pauses shredding and goes into "'Round Midnight" in the middle there.
"He's probably the single best musician I've ever met," O'Donnell was telling the other composers as we all sat down to chat. "He can play a regular diatonic harp in any key, spot-on intonation, so he chromaticizes any diatonic harp. It's just that he's so good as a harp player that he can play counterpoint…with his lips, his tongue, all sorts of stuff. The guy is incredible. Anything, pennywhistle, any sort of obscure instrument that you want to have him play, he knows it. And so we said hey, we need mouth harp, jew's harp for this thing, and he came in with this giant tacklebox, opens it up, and he goes 'Well, I have a Tibetan version…" [everyone starts laughing] "Every version of the mouth harp. It's one of the most common instruments to every indigenous culture, and he starts playing it and I'm like… 'This guy is insane!'"
So, you heard it here, folks: If you ever need someone to play obscure indigenous instruments (or blow chromatic lines on a diatonic harmonica), Howard Levy is your guy. You can find out more about Levy on his official website.
I'll have more (much more!) from my round-table interview later on Kotaku.