“I believe in expressing ideas and emotion through music in the simplest of terms. For me, music need not be a demonstration of virtuosity or a mere means of parading the newest technological tools, but more for the purpose of carrying – transparently – an essential message to the listener. Even when there is no message, it can be considered one.” – James Hannigan, Bafta’s ‘Conversations with Composers’ at the Royal Albert Hall, 2012.
Award-winning composer James Hannigan – known in part for his contributions to the multi-million selling Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Dead Space and Command and Conquer series’ – is at heart a minimalist interested primarily in the emotional directness and personal nature of his music.
Even with his foray into the exuberant and sometimes florid musical universe of popular fantasy and sci-fi franchises, Hannigan’s music succeeds in transcending the stylistic expectations and constraints of genre, delivering a compelling and recognisable voice of his own.
Beginning as a composer and arranger for film and television, Hannigan found himself drawn to the emerging world of interactive entertainment at a time when the video games industry was often scorned for the quality of its music. Excited by this relatively unexplored medium and intellectually curious about the function of interactive music, Hannigan leapt into the highest level of game scoring, forming longstanding relationships with publishers and developers such as Electronic Arts, Elixir Studios and Texas-based Digital Anvil – going on to become one of the first composers in Europe bringing acoustic and fully orchestral music to games.
Yet, despite his work with renowned orchestras ranging from the Philharmonia and Chamber Orchestra Of London to the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and Slovak Symphony Orchestra – recording at such prestigious venues as Air-Lyndhurst, Abbey Road Studios, and Skywalker Ranch – Hannigan remains deeply interested in the relationship between sound and music, and his early minimal, ‘textural’ scores demonstrate this: Theme Park World (US title: Sim Theme Park) and Republic: The Revolution earned a Bafta Award and Bafta Nomination, respectively, for their innovative interactive scores, and Hannigan has received a further four Bafta nominations in the years since.
Hannigan’s further credits include Chris Roberts’ seminal space sim, Freelancer (forerunner to the record-breaking Star Citizen); titles such as Red Alert 3 (James’s acclaimed and much-performed theme, Soviet March, recently returned in EA’s Battlefield 4), Terraria: Otherworld, Evil Genius (Bafta Nomination, 2004), Runescape, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Art Academy, Transformers Universe, Brute Force, Warhammer, Super Smash Bros. 4, The Darkening (a pioneering blend of game and film loosely connected with the WING COMMANDER universe, with Clive Owen, Christopher Walken and John Hurt), Command and Conquer 4, Conquest, Reign of Fire, Cutthroat Island, Catwoman, Space Hulk, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (IFMCA [International Film Music Critics Association] Award), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 – and others. His work for TV and Radio includes BBC America’s Primeval, BBC Audio Drama Award 2015-winning Neverwhere, Good Omens, Alien: Out of the Shadows and 2017’s Alien: River of Pain – and his production library music is heard regularly on TV in shows ranging from Top Gear to The Apprentice.
A regular interviewee and contributor for BBC Radio, Classic FM, Bafta Guru, BEEP and others, Hannigan has had his music performed globally by Video Games Live, The Eminence Symphony Orchestra and numerous other ensembles, and he writes using words as well – once penning the first Audio-related cover feature for Develop Magazine. (To read some of these articles, click here.) Hannigan is also Creative Director and Co-founder of sell-out London South Bank-based event, Game Music Connect, supported in its first three years by Sony, EA, Bafta, COOL Music, Classic FM, PRS For Music and others. He also participates as a panelist at talk events, and these have included: The Bafta Interactive Festival, The Edinburgh Festival (with co-panelists Harry Gregson-Williams & Barrington Pheloung), TIGA’s ‘Games Meet Film’ at Pinewood Studios, Musicworks and many others.