The secret life of a 'guitar hero'
How being a classical clarinetist helped Eran Egozy create the wildly successful video game Guitar Hero.
The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
Eran Egozy is an M.I.T.-bred computer geek who co-created the wildly successful interactive music video games, Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Rock Band – The Beatles.
Egozy is also a musician, but it may surprise people to learn that he's more into Haydn than Heavy Metal. He is a classically trained clarinetist and a member of the critically acclaimed, Boston-based Radius Ensemble.
Recently on "Here and Now," Egozy talked about how his passion for both classical music and computers led to the biggest innovation to hit the rock world in years.
A native of Israel, Egozy grew up in Massachusetts and studied classical clarinet at the New England Conservatory. He also studied engineering and computer science with electronic music composer Todd Machover at MIT's prestigious Media Lab.
"I sort of had two parallel interests: one was music and clarinet, and the other was electrical engineering and computer science," said Egozy. "But I didn't really think about combining them until I went to the Media Lab where I realized there was a group and what they did was combined computers and music together."
At MIT, Egozy met fellow student Alex Rigopulos, and two then founded Harmonix, a music technology development company.
Harmonix released a slew of music video games, the latest of which was Rock Band – The Beatles. On that project, Egozy says Yoko Ono helped them refine the Beatles avatars.
"She was particularly focused on John [Lennon], how John looked and how John moved. Does he move and act in the way that she remembered him? In the beginning, we didn't have that right. We had someone who looked like John, but we had someone who didn't feel and move like John. And she told us what it needed to be like, and we did what she said."
At the offices of Harmonix in Cambridge Massachusetts, cubicles are filled with twenty-somethings on headphones, singing and playing air guitar at their computers. Using technology Egozy helped develop studying clarinet sounds at MIT, they take songs apart to reprogram them for the video games.
"We get songs in on a weekly basis, and they're prepared here, and every week new songs come out for Rock Band," said a Harmonix staffer.
Next up for Egozy and Harmonix is a Rock Band network where players are able to put their own music on the game.
"We let the bands themselves create their music and put their music into Rock Band," said Egozy. "And so they can do all the work that's being done here themselves, and upload it to our servers and then people can buy it and play it."
Egozy believes his music background, along with those of the employees at Harmonix, is key to their success: "The reason we can do this, and the reason that we've been successful and people have liked our games is because a lot of us are musicians ... we have a lot of people here who play in bands ... we have a lot of singers, we have people who know what it's like to perform."
He hopes their games inspire players to take up real instruments, and he doesn't mind if people choose guitars over clarinets.
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