Magnus Birgersson AKA Solar Fields talks creativity, computer games and Omnisphere

Magnus Birgersson AKA Solar Fields talks creativity, computer games and Omnisphere

Swedish based electronic music producer Magnus Birgersson is best known for his work under the moniker ´Solar Fields´. He has released a total of 9 solo albums which all combine different elements to create evolving, dreamlike music that many describe as ambient downtempo. Along with his artist releases, Magnus also composed the music for ´Mirror´s Edge´, a multi-award winning video game released in 2008 by Electronic Arts/Dice.

Always on the lookout for true innovators, we caught up with Magnus to find out more including includes his views on Spectrasonics Omnisphere, an instrument which is an integral part of his sonic arsenal...

How did you come to start producing your own music? 

I have always been interested in synthesisers and composing music. I started with some basic machines with MIDI in the mid 80´s and then hooked them up to an Atari with Steinberg Pro 24 and have been creating music ever since.

In the late 90’s the Solar Fields project was born which has kept me very busy. I have produced 9 solo albums, 3 collaborative albums under the name H.U.V.A Network, numerous compilations and playing gigs around the world.

What are your main musical influences and how have they changed over the years?

I do not actually have any direct musical influence, it is more what the music tells me when I  listen to any musical genre. I have always listened to different music and I think this is a real benefit to me. Today there is an incredible amount of good music that is coming out but I’m looking back in time at the moment and revisiting some artists that I have missed out over the years across different genres. It is mostly a feeling or emotion that influences me.

You have produced music for video games as well as numerous artist solo albums, are there any major differences in how you approach creating for these mediums?

It is a big difference. When I create music for my own solo albums I don’t have to think about anything, no deadlines, pure musical freedom and directions. I can sit for days hooking up machines into each other and try out new things that haven’t been explored before, code my own effects that is really time consuming but necessary sometimes for the Solar Fields project.

For video games it is different, then it is not so much time for playing around in the same way. The music has to reflect the environment, the game-play, the mood. Manuscript reading to fully understand the story and the individual characters. Also meetings with game studios and playing through game levels and discussing with level designers.

For the Electronic Arts/Dice game ´Mirror´s Edge´ I had a lot of freedom when composing since they wanted the Solar Fields sound. The idea for the music in Mirror´s Edge was that there should be no gaps while playing, which meant I had to compose all parts for each level so they worked together even if there was a tempo change or a different chord structures.

The game contained 9 Levels with 10-15 different parts in each. One challenge was to get the music to play seamlessly in the game and get the music to interact with the player. Since there is so many different parts on each level that should reflect the mood and story, it was a big effort to get it to work smoothly together. My goal was that the player shouldn’t hear the changes between the different parts, rather feel the musical changes. In the end it all went really perfectly.

It´s interesting how you incorporate your playing of real instruments into your music. Do you usually start a piece with real instrument performances and then add other computer-based elements or is it the other way around?

It really depends, for example the track Bigger Stream the whole idea started of with a looping effects and a acoustic guitar, then I added the bass and the synths and the vocal, but it all started with this small and simple riff that open up the idea to the whole track. Other times I might just play-around on a piano and come up with ideas of chord structures, harmonies and then I go over to the studio with the machines and give it a try with different sounds.

I started to play piano in the 70´s, so that instrument has been with me for a long time. I really enjoy playing different stringed instruments and also experimenting with them. A couple of years ago I bought an e-bow and that open up some new doors allowing me to make big soundscapes with just layers of strings.

You have also released collaborative album projects, do your creative processes change much when you are working with another artist?

Not really, just that I have someone to change ideas with and get another point of view of what is going on. When it comes to the creating part it is basically the same as when I´m on my own. Sometimes it can be a lot of sending files over the internet and then we get together and listen to our different ideas, but when it comes down to the creative process it is basically the same. I´ve been lucky enough to learn most of the DAW´s out there so when I go to a new place I can feel home with the tools that they work with.

We know you use Spectrasonics Omnisphere in your music, can you tell us a bit about your experience with this virtual instrument?

I knew before it was released that something was coming, I have a friend that worked on the Omnisphere project, but he couldn’t tell me anything except that something special was coming out. This is a beast, and it screams sonic quality. The possibilities are incredible for sound design. I really like to use it for weird sound effects, ambiences and sonic adventures that haven’t been explored before. The possibilities are almost endless in this software. I’m looking into to getting Trilian which seems to be an equally powerful tool, especially when combined within Omnisphere.

What can we expect from Solar Fields in 2011?

Right now I´m 24/7 in the studio to get my creativity going, working on my next Solar Fields album that should be released later on this year, still a lot of work to be done but it´s going well. Also, the second chapter of the newly released Origin series will see the light in 2011.

Some secret sonic surprises are on the way but to early to talk more about. :)

Ultimae Records