Marty O'Donnell: The Origin Story Of Music Of The Spheres

Feb 1, 2018

Early Destiny concept art: Sphere Over Earth

More than four years after it was finished, Music of the Spheres, the prequel suite for Bungie Studios' game Destiny by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, was released in its original form – by a pair of devoted fans on Christmas Day 2017. 

Now that the authentic version of Music of the Spheres is out in the world, for the very first time Marty is able to talk about the theme-rich suite he and Mike wrote to put the creative wheels in motion for Destiny's development team.

Once Bungie had shipped Halo Reach, the studio went dark while they worked on their new game. The developers asked Marty (and later Mike) to compose music with themes that would help the creative team brainstorm what direction the new game would take. Early in development, everything was on the table, even straight-up fantasy.

Early Destiny concept art

Eventually Marty decided to organize the suite based on the pre-Copernican idea of the Earth being at the center of the solar system. He wrote music to represent the moon, the sun, and the planets that could be seen with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. He created a key structure in which the key for each of the eight pieces would follow an eight-note scale, beginning and ending with C, so hearing the last piece, The Hope, would feel like a homecoming.

Medieval French solar system diagram

Marty told me one of the biggest thrills of the whole project was working with Sir Paul McCartney. It was a true collaboration, with Paul providing musical ideas that Marty and Mike incorporated into Music of the Spheres, culminating in a song Paul wrote especially for the game: Hope for the Future.  

Music of the Spheres was intended to be released as a stand-alone preview to generate excitement for Destiny. Marty left Bungie in the spring of 2014, a few months before Destiny was released, and Music of the Spheres remained with Bungie, which chose not to release it, although 40 of the original 48-minute suite was incorporated into Destiny's original soundtrack.

Working for years on putting together a version that included Marty and Mike's music, Owen Spence, one of Marty's biggest fans, and Tlohtzin Espinoza came very close to creating what would have been the original release in the fall of 2017. Finally, an anonymous source gave them one of the recordings Marty had made in advance of the release so they were able to make that definitive version available. 

For his part, Marty says he's glad that it's finally available for everyone to enjoy, and hopes to someday perform the entire suite in concert.

Episode Tracklist

Martin O'Donnell with Michael Salvatori and Sir Paul McCartney:

Music of the Spheres

Performed by London Voices, Libera Boys Choir, Caroline Dale, solo cello, Orchestra conducted by Gavin Greenaway

The Path; First piece; The Rose; The Union; The Prison; The Ecstasy; The Ruin; The Tribulation; The Hope (incl. Hope for the Future written and performed by Paul McCartney, with Rusty Anderson, lead guitar, Brian Ray, guitar, Paul Wickens, keyboards and Abe Laboriel, Jr, drums)