- May 01, 1955
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Martin O’Donnell (born May 1, 1955) is an American composer known for his work on video game developer Bungie’s series, such as Myth, Oni, Halo, and Destiny. O’Donnell collaborated with his musical colleague Michael Salvatori for many of the scores; he has also directed voice talent and sound design for the Halo trilogy. O’Donnell was Bungie’s audio lead until April 11, 2014.
O’Donnell began his career in music writing television and radio jingles such as the Flintstones Vitamins jingle and scoring for radio stations and films. O’Donnell moved to composing video game music when his company, TotalAudio, did the sound design for the 1997 title Riven. After producing the music for Myth II, Bungie contracted O’Donnell to work on their other projects, including Oni and the project that would become Halo: Combat Evolved. O’Donnell ended up joining the Bungie staff only ten days before the studio was bought by Microsoft, and would be the audio director for all Bungie projects until he was fired.
O’Donnell’s score to the Halo trilogy has been called iconic, earning him several awards, and the commercial soundtrack release of the music to Halo 2 was the best-selling video game soundtrack of all time in the United States. He went on to compose the scores for Halo 3 (2007), Halo 3: ODST (2009), and Halo: Reach (2010). His final work for Bungie was composing music for the 2014 video game Destiny that went unused. He successfully sued Bungie for firing him from the company due to unpaid wages. Subsequently, he co-founded Highwire Games and composed the score for their debut virtual reality game Golem, which was released in late 2019. […]
In 2013, O’Donnell began composition of an eight-movement symphonic suite entitled Music of the Spheres. Collaborating with Paul McCartney as well as Michael Salvatori and C. Paul Johnson, the symphony contained music to be implemented in the 2014 video game, Destiny, as well as any future installments of the franchise. On April 11, 2014, O’Donnell announced via Twitter he had been fired from Bungie “without cause”. In June 2014, he filed a lawsuit against Bungie president Harold Ryan, claiming he was terminated without cause and that Ryan withheld pay for vacation and sabbatical time. In a response filed in Washington’s Superior Court, Ryan denied wrongdoing. The suit was settled in June 2014, with a final arbitration ruling decided September 4, 2015, in which the court stated that “[…]Bungie breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing when it caused the closure of O’Donnell’s stock and denied him any participation in the Profit Participation Plan”. At the 2015 D.I.C.E. awards, Destiny was awarded Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition and Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design. […]
I never in a million years thought I’d be able to just call him ‘Paul’Martin O’Donnell – from Edge Online, August 1, 2013
A little concept piece I made back in April of 2011. I showed it to Sir Paul to see if I could get him interested in Destiny. It worked.Martin O’Donnell – From Youtube
Our longtime partner in LA, Lev Chapelsky, came up with the idea of collaborating with somebody new. He says “what do you think about Paul McCartney” and I’m like “well, yeah”. Most of what I first showed to Paul was some tracks from “Halo: Reach”, and he was completely on board with trying something he’s never tried before and he wanted to do it. he actually really wanted to collaborate. He said something like “Take some of my some of my bits of melodies and combine it with your spooky music and it becomes our music”.Martin O’Donnell – From Youtube
What was it like working with the actual Paul McCartney on Destiny?
That was the absolute high point of my career. We had a guy, Lev Chapelsky, who would always be getting us connected with good actors, like Ron Perlman or Nathan Fillion. Lev called me and said you should try working with Paul McCartney, and I said sure. He didn’t have a connection with Paul so I didn’t think it would ever happen. But he figured a way to get in touch with Paul’s people and he said ‘Hey, if Paul is interested in working in games, he should work on this game called Destiny with Marty O’Donnell.’ I think they looked at the offer and thought it was an interesting way to go.
So we had a meeting in Los Angeles and Paul came in. He was excited about meeting with us. We spent a little over two hours talking about writing music for games and what’s unique about it, and then we spoke about kids and grand kids, which was great.
I had several sessions with Paul. I met him at Capitol Records when he was recording there, and we had the room to ourselves. I had a piano there, so I could show him the stuff we were doing and he showed me the stuff he thought would be interesting.
We started combining melodies. I worked with him at Abbey Road. Then we worked with him and his band at New York City at Avatar studios, which used to be the old power station, it’s a famous old rock and roll recording studio in New York. We had all that. Giles Martin was there, one of Paul’s producers, an engineer, and the son of George Martin. So we worked with him.
We had Paul and the orchestra at Abbey Road studios in November of 2012. And that’s when we had the whole orchestra together and did the entire work, most of which in Destiny. It was originally going to be in this product called Music of the Spheres, which was going to be the musical prequel to Destiny. It would be the soundtrack to Destiny, but it would come out before Destiny, to get people excited.
Through various circumstances, it did not come out, but most of it is in the game. One of these days, I’m still hoping that music of the spheres will come out as a standalone work. It’s 50 minutes long, it’s 8 movements, and it’s all of one whole. It’s a thing that should be heard together. I think. I know Paul wants it to come out; I want it to come out. We’ll see what happens.Marty O’Donnell – from an interview with DIY Magazine, January 7, 2016
Editor Bungie demoed their new game “Destiny” at the E3 in 2013, but this demo didn’t contain the music O’Donnell was working on with Paul McCartney.
I’m certainly working on [the music for Destiny]. It’s hard for me – and some of the guys get impatient about it, like ‘hey Marty, quick just write an iconic theme and show it to us’. But that’s not what I did with Halo. I like to write music. And now getting to work with Paul McCartney it’s just great to work on a whole bunch of music with a lot of themes. So we have this really great start on many, many pieces of music that all seem to work together well. Most of it hasn’t been heard yet. Exactly which element will rise to the top and become the iconic thing? I think that happens over time, organically. I feel like we have really iconic stuff that at some point will rise to the top and become the iconic theme. It probably hasn’t happened yet.Martin O’Donnell – from Edge Online, August 1, 2013
I came up with this idea of the music of the spheres. I came up with eight pieces, a suite, it turned out to be 50 minutes long, we’re going to be releasing it before the game. And that’s the thing that I got Paul interested in working with us on.Martin O’Donnell – from Edge Online, August 1, 2013
I’d rather have it just be that people listen to the whole they can sort of make up their own minds about what they think is Paul and what is Mike and what is me, and if they figure it out I’ll tell give them a prize but I don’t think they will.Martin O’Donnell – From Youtube
Last updated on November 30, 2020