In March 2011, Lev Chapelsky was on his way to watch his friend and client, Marty O’Donnell, give a talk at the Game Developers Conference when he took the most important phone call of his career.
This was a life-changing phone call not just for Chapelsky, but for Halo composer O’Donnell and his colleagues at Bungie, the video game studio where he worked as audio director. Bungie was working on its next big game, and wanted it to be an even bigger success than its genre-defining Halo series.
Destiny was the studio’s most ambitious project to date: the world’s first “shared-world” first-person shooter, where players could drop in and out of cooperative missions set across vast landscapes on various planets. Bungie had released five Halo games between 2001 and 2010, but its bold aims for Destiny involved an ambitious 10-year plan of new content across a single game.
The music for Destiny needed to be similarly ambitious, requiring musical themes that would evolve with the game over its 10-year lifespan. As the game was still in the early stages of development, O’Donnell had started piecing together musical ideas influenced by its themes and artwork. One concept involved the Traveler, a sentient sphere at the heart of Destiny’s story, sending communication signals to Earth that had been misinterpreted as music.
What would that music sound like? O’Donnell had wondered. This question had led to the foundations of Music of the Spheres, a 48-minute orchestral suite that O’Donnell had been working on with the understanding it would be used as a “musical prequel” to Destiny. His melodies would be the musical palette that millions of gamers would use to paint their own imaginings of Destiny’s world before they played the game, with the music set to be released in August 2013, one month before Destiny’s planned launch.
Chapelsky answered his phone. “Lev, you’re never gonna believe this,” he remembers an associate telling him, “but tell Marty he’s gonna have to get a flight to L.A., because we just got an email back from Paul’s people in London.”
His associate was right: Chapelsky couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Sir Paul McCartney wanted to meet them and learn about Destiny. And if that meeting went well, he’d be writing music for the game alongside O’Donnell.
This wouldn’t be the first time a major name from the world of music had worked on a video game. Michael Jackson was involved with the music in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails wrote the gritty industrial music in the PC game Quake, but here we had one of the Beatles, the bestselling band of all time.
No one saw this — or the political and legal battles that followed — coming.
Making big requests
Chapelsky’s relationship with Bungie went back to 2001, the year the original Halo shipped. He was general manager of Blindlight, a company he founded to provide Hollywood production services to the video game industry. In the case of Bungie, this mainly involved casting actors and producing voiceover work for Halo titles.
Over the years, Blindlight had been responsible for placing a lot of celebrities that had appeared in video games. The company brought all five Star Trek captains together in 2006’s Star Trek: Legacy, the only time they’ve worked together outside of the TV series. It also got Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Norton to reprise their roles as Iron Man and The Hulk in Sega’s 2008 games Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Chapelsky even went as far as to ask Bill Clinton if he’d voice president John Henry Eden in Fallout 3 (Clinton’s attorneys politely declined).
Chapelsky was used to making big requests. And asking one of The Beatles to write music for a video game? This was one of his biggest.
“That was always our thing about getting celebrities for games,” Chapelsky says over Skype from his home in Palm Springs. “If we had a role in Fallout for the president of the United States, we’d start with the most unattainable and then draw a long list of 100 or so and work down from there.”
So after O’Donnell’s work on Halo: Reach was finished, the pair started reeling off names of people O’Donnell could collaborate with for the music in the game that would become Destiny.
“I said, ‘Let’s do that list,’” says Chapelsky. “‘Who would be the one person on Earth that you would like to create music with for this?’” O’Donnell immediately said “Paul McCartney.”
“I was gobsmacked by the idea of working with Paul,” says Chapelsky. “I’m a huge fan of The Beatles. It would be insanely beautiful on so many levels. However, as to whether that was the right fit for the product and the market? Honestly, I had some reservations there.
“I said, ‘Well, Marty. I love you, I trust you. Okay, let’s do it.’ But I also thought, This isn’t going to happen. But we can give it a shot, move down, and then maybe find the next Trent Reznor.”
McCartney may have seemed like an unconventional choice to score a sci-fi shooter, but you could have said the same thing about Steve Vai, Nile Rodgers, Incubus, Breaking Benjamin, Hoobastank, and John Mayer contributing music to Halo 2. Not only were Halo’s soundtrack releases commercial successes (Halo 2: Volume 1 sold more than 100,000 copies in the U.S.), they helped these bands and artists reach a new audience for their music.
Chapelsky was confident that this could be an enticing offer for McCartney, especially coupled with the opportunity of writing music in a new genre. McCartney had written music in more styles than most musicians could ever dream of, spare one: interactive music for video games. Chapelsky threw himself into extensive research on McCartney to help provide a rationale for his pitch.
“I pulled up some articles and gathered this massive body of information that evidenced he’s a guy that wants to keep working and does not want to sit back on his laurels. Amazingly so, like no one else his age,” says Chapelsky.
“He wants to try and do everything at least once. He wrote an opera. He’s done classical music. Every subgenre you can imagine, he’s done. He’s ticking off all the boxes of music that exist in the world, but he hasn’t done anything [for] games — and that spells incredible opportunity.”
The document below is the original letter that Chapelsky sent to McCartney’s people. Chapelsky says getting in front of McCartney was a two-year process, featuring numerous dead-ends, meetings, emails, and this letter spending a year being circulated through offices in LA, New York, and London.
“We spoke to various people in his camp who said Paul gets an infinite volume of this stuff and the rule is if he sees something he likes, you’ll hear back from us. Otherwise, sit back and there’s nothing you can do!” Chapelsky says.
The first meeting
A few weeks after GDC 2011, the wait was finally over. McCartney arrived at the Blindlight offices on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood on April 13, pulling up at the wheel of a bright yellow corvette.
“He knows how to break the ice,” Chapelsky says. “Because he knows when you see him you’re going to say, ‘Fuck, it’s Paul McCartney,’ and then you’re going to freeze. When he arrived, we sent my assistant Poppy down to greet him and show him in. Paul pops out of the car and says, ‘It must be the world-famous Poppy,’ and goes up and kisses her.
“His people said we [had] half an hour with him and he was there for two-and-a-half, maybe three hours, because we really hit it off. My job was to connect him with Marty. I just kinda sat back and let Marty do most of the talking.”
[Ed. note: Through a representative, McCartney declined to do an interview for this story, and while O’Donnell initially spoke to us about many of these details at the beginning of 2021, he declined a follow-up interview due to an ongoing legal case relating to his dismissal from Bungie in 2014.]
According to Chapelsky, it was him, his assistant, O’Donnell, McCartney, and one of McCartney’s team in that initial meeting. The meeting was largely led by O’Donnell, who gave a presentation on how interactive music works with examples from Halo: Reach, a topic that Chapelsky says excited McCartney to no end.
“There was nobody better to make that pitch than Marty,” Chapelsky says. “The demonstration that he put on the screen, all of these visual representations of the music and how they came together in Halo whether you were in a fight or driving to your next destination — the [musical] themes carry, but all of the other layers come in and out.
“Part of the hook here was, Paul has worked in every musical genre that exists but everything [he’s written] has always been linear,” Chapelsky continues. “If you could intrigue him with interactive music — the whole process and composing for that — how could he say no to that creative challenge? He’s gotta take an interest in that, and surely he did. He kept asking Marty more and more questions, like ‘How do you use these stems [individual music recordings]? How does the software bring it together live to the gameplay?’ while saying ‘This is blowing my mind; it’s great!’”
Of course, McCartney had done some research in advance of the meeting and had questions about the scale of violence in Destiny. He didn’t want his name associated with anything that could damage his image.
“I saw that question coming,” Chapelsky says. “I knew that my first answer to Paul had to be honest. ‘Yes, Paul. This is a game where you, the player, engage in killing. That’s a fact. However, there are no humans that you kill. They’re only aliens, and these aliens are trying to destroy not only you, but all of humanity. It’s your job to save humanity from extinction. You’re the person that enables hope for the future’ –– and I threw that [out], and he actually said, ‘Hope for the future’ … I can work with that!”
After hours of McCartney and O’Donnell discussing everything from their favorite bands and interactive music to family life and the role of music in films and video games, McCartney started to ask questions about what his role would be as a composer for Destiny.
“Towards the end of the meeting, [McCartney] asked very specifically, ‘Tell me what you want me to do,’” Chapelsky says. “Marty replied and said interactive music composition requires very strong thematic elements that iterate and repeat and that really becomes the basis of the score for a game like this.”
O’Donnell started discussing the idea that he’d been working on since 2009 called Music of the Spheres, an orchestral suite inspired by C.S. Lewis and based on a model of the universe proposed by Pythagoras and Aristotle called Musica Universalis (Universal Music), in which the movement of the planets creates musical harmonies. This idea spans 2,000 years of history, but O’Donnell wanted to put his own twist on it with Destiny’s lore.
“I’ll never forget Marty saying, ‘I have this thematic idea that has this planetary theme going on and I look back in the history of literature and art and there’s this old canon of mythology around Music of the Spheres,’” says Chapelsky. “And he started trying to explain the concept to Paul, which is very complicated and abstract, but he didn’t have to. Paul just said, ‘I love Music of the Spheres!’ He knew everything about it! They started comparing authors and books on it; it was a creative mind-meld.”
O’Donnell suggested to McCartney that in addition to writing music to accompany the game, he could also write an original song, which ended up becoming “Hope for the Future.” According to Chapelsky, this idea came from wanting to give Destiny Bond’s Live and Let Die treatment after McCartney asked if video games ever had original songs that played over the end credits.
While work on Music of the Spheres was already well underway by the time of this meeting, McCartney began sending musical ideas and phrases to O’Donnell and his longtime friend, collaborator, and Halo co-composer, Michael Salvatori, that could be incorporated into the album.
“Paul would send us demo tapes of the ideas that he had, and it was on us — mostly me — to find the moments where we could weave his stuff into our music, because we were already so far along with writing Music of the Spheres at that point. In some songs, it’s kind of subtle, and in others, we used full sections of what he did,” Salvatori says.
McCartney’s contributions ended up shaping five of the eight tracks that feature in Music of the Spheres, which was released years later on June 1, 2018, as part of a limited-run collector’s edition box set: The Music of Destiny: Volume 1. McCartney is also credited on numerous tracks in the Destiny OST due to his ideas being incorporated within the main soundtrack.
A lot of the music players are familiar with in Destiny was rooted in Music of the Spheres.
“It’s in all kinds of places [in the game],” says Jay Weinland, former audio lead at Bungie. “[Music of the Spheres] was the basis of Destiny, coming at it from a musical standpoint. [Ex-Bungie composer] C Paul Johnson wrote some great stuff for various things — and there were definitely different colors that we put in and got other composers involved in — but the music that we recorded for Music of the Spheres was the heartbeat of what was going on with Destiny at the time.”
One of McCartney’s prominent contributions was a three-note horn melody that O’Donnell discussed in a 2016 IGN interview. This became one of Destiny’s main musical phrases, and was used in a variety of tracks including “The Path,” “The Prison,” and “The Hope.”
“Every song that Paul did have an input on, it’s not minor,” Salvatori says. “If you look at any of the old Destiny trailers, that [horn melody] was the thing that would always play at the end, so that was pretty important. We put it there and I think that made him really happy, and it made us feel like we were tied together. As the pieces go on, in some cases, there’s just a little bit of Paul, and in others, there are whole sections that were arrangements of a little bit he sent us where we blew it up, made it fully orchestral and played it for eight bars or something.”
Some of the ideas that McCartney submitted were also experimental in nature, according to Salvatori, including tape loops created using the same vintage material on old Beatles tracks.
“Those early tapes that he sent us were interesting because they were very raw, unpolished ideas just sorta strung together,” Salvatori says. “It was a little bit surprising that he didn’t polish his stuff more at first — but that also shows that he trusted us.”
According to Salvatori and interviews with O’Donnell that took place in 2013, McCartney was very happy with the collaborative working process and had his own special way of describing their relationship.
“He used to say, ‘When you put my bits along with your spooky bits, then they become ours,’” Salvatori laughs. “I take the word ‘spooky’ as a badge of honor!”
“In terms of permissions to do crazy shit, [Paul’s team members] were amazing,” says Chapelsky. “They were like, Just run it by us. Everyone else in Hollywood is like, Oh, you wanna do something with marketing? We’re gonna fuck you on that! These guys were the opposite.”
Once the musical trio was happy with what it had, pre-production, recordings, and production of Music of the Spheres and “Hope for the Future” took place across a variety of studios, including Abbey Road in the U.K. and Avatar Studios in the U.S. It was the recording session of “Hope for the Future” at Avatar Studios in September 2012 where Salvatori met McCartney and his band for the first time. As a lifelong fan of the Beatles, Salvatori says it was a dream come true.
“At the time we walked in, Paul and his band were on the other side of the glass and they had just finished a take, and Giles Martin [son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin] was running the session. I remember feeling almost a surreal type of, What am I doing here?” Salvatori says.
The band finished its take, and afterward, McCartney walked into the room with some of his band members, introduced himself to Salvatori, said hello to O’Donnell, and then asked Giles to play the recording back.
“Paul turns around and says, ‘Well, what do you think?’” Salvatori says.
“And it was at that moment when he said, ‘What do you think?’ that I thought, Oh, wait a minute. We’re at work. We’re here working. So, I said, ‘I think it sounds great, but it feels kinda slow to me. Have you considered picking up the tempo, maybe by five beats per minute?’ And Paul said, ‘Yeah, I think you’re right.’ So, they went out and did another version. It was faster. That was the one that ended up being the release — the faster version — so I feel like I contributed a little something there!”
The majority of Music of the Spheres was recorded across four sessions at Abbey Road studios in November 2012, featuring a lineup of 106 musicians that included eight percussionists and the Libera all-boy choir, a spokesperson from Abbey Road Studios says. American film composer Mark McKenzie served as the orchestrations and music supervisor, while Emmy-winning English conductor and composer Gavin Greenway conducted the sessions. Many of the musicians that performed for Music of the Spheres had just finished recording the music for 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
“I remember comments coming through from musicians who had just finished recording The Hobbit the week before for the London Philharmonic, and they were saying how amazing [Music of the Spheres] was to record,” Jay Weinland says. “It’s just magical music, and that’s what I heard from so many people.”
Jonty Barnes, who was the general manager of Bungie Publishing until recently, was responsible for overseeing the production of Music of the Spheres. Working on the project was a “career highlight,” he says.
“We were looking at top conductors — celebrity conductors — the best orchestra we could find, the best room dynamics to record in,” Barnes says. “While we had a budget, having done a lot of research on other large recording sessions, we were able to put aside a generous amount to allow those goals to be realized. I’m not sure I know of a recording session that has reached those heights in terms of costs since.”
Barnes didn’t attend the original pitch meeting, but was part of a group of Bungie employees who were invited to watch McCartney play at Wrigley Field in July 2011. Barnes also remembers being blown away by how well McCartney and O’Donnell had hit it off.
“When Marty was talking about how music dynamically changed in the game based on players’ actions, Paul was talking about tape sampling and how things used to turn around together,” Barnes says. “Marty leapt on that and said it would be great if you could put some stuff to tape. [...] It was very clear, as an observer of just two incredibly talented composers, it was just great to see them talking in the same language about how they could work together creatively.
“I think the great thing about the entire album is that it was never compromised by any outside forces. It truly was a creative endeavor, and I think that shows in the final results.”
Running into trouble
Music of the Spheres was wrapped up by the end of 2012, but the same couldn’t be said for Destiny. Bungie had planned to publicly release Music of the Spheres before it released Destiny, but that didn’t happen. Destiny’s planned release of September 2013 was pushed back to March 2014 and then to September 2014, following substantial rewrites of the game’s story, eventually leading to the departure of its head writer Joseph Staten and later O’Donnell, after he was fired by Bungie in April 2014.
With Destiny postponed, Music of the Spheres ended up getting caught in the crossfire, and its planned release date of August 2013 was scrapped, too. To make matters worse for O’Donnell and Salvatori, what the pair considered their magnum opus ended up at the center of one of the messiest divorces in video game history. The album was also caught in the middle of growing tension between Bungie and Destiny publisher Activision over the direction of Destiny and the use of Music of the Spheres in its marketing plans.
“The strain between the Bungie and Activision marketing teams was getting fairly noticeable,” says one source close to the project, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity so as to not burn bridges at Activision and Bungie. “Some people at Bungie had very specific ideas about what they thought worked and what didn’t. They thought everything Activision wanted to do was just make [Destiny] Call of Duty. Sometimes their points were fair points, and sometimes they’d say things like, ‘We know you guys think this story thing is a real problem, but we’ve got our guy who’s worked on the Halo stories forever, and what the fuck do you guys know about stories anyway because the Call of Duty stories all fucking suck.’
“The Bungie guys had very clear ideas about what they wanted to do. The Activision guys had very clear ideas about what they wanted to do. They both had very good reasons from all their past experiences about why they should do these things and also why the other side’s ideas were batshit crazy.”
After O’Donnell was fired, he sued Bungie for forfeiting his shares in the company and for refusing to pay wages he was owed. The arbitration dragged on for over a year, and while O’Donnell won his case in 2015, it wasn’t much of a victory. The mounting legal costs of the arbitration due to last-minute counterclaims filed by Bungie “exceeded any possible recovery by Marty or exposure to Bungie,” according to Tom Buscaglia, a personal attorney to O’Donnell who is also one of his friends, in an editorial written for Game Developer.
Throughout this period, the future for Music of the Spheres was uncertain. Both Destiny and McCartney fans were well aware of the collaboration and that the entire suite of music was complete due to previous PR efforts. And while the album leaked in December 2017, it wasn’t until June 2018 that Music of the Spheres was officially released, but only alongside other music from Destiny as part of a collector’s edition vinyl box set, Music of Destiny: Volume 1, which carried the hefty retail price of $99. Less than 2,000 copies were made available for sale.
Even today, Bungie hasn’t made listening to Music of the Spheres easy. While the Destiny soundtrack is easily accessible on most music platforms, Music of the Spheres has not been distributed through streaming music services, so the only official way to own or indeed listen to Music of the Spheres is if you were one of the lucky few to grab the now-unavailable Music of Destiny: Volume 1 box set.
To understand why it took so long for Music of the Spheres to get released, it’s important to understand how the events surrounding Destiny’s troubled development, the rift between Activision and Bungie, and O’Donnell’s departure from Bungie resulted in the music essentially being stuck in limbo. According to court papers, “Activision had little enthusiasm for releasing Music of the Spheres on its own.”
Bungie declined to comment on Music of the Spheres for this story, and multiple emails to those with knowledge of the project who have since moved on to other studios remain unanswered, although a number of people close to Music of the Spheres agreed to speak with us anonymously.
Their accounts, along with evidence from court papers seen by Polygon, suggest that O’Donnell was becoming increasingly frustrated with the creative control that Activision was trying to exert over marketing materials related to Destiny.
O’Donnell’s frustrations arose from a lack of creative control over the audio and marketing of Destiny. As audio director at Bungie, O’Donnell, along with Bungie, had always had creative control of how music was used in trailers, so when he and Bungie weren’t consulted on a 2013 E3 trailer for Destiny, O’Donnell was furious.
Even under the terms of the publishing agreement, the plan was that the E3 trailer should never have been worked on without Bungie’s close involvement. Bungie’s board of directors was in agreement and issued a veto letter in protest of the trailer, but Activision overruled it. Bungie, as much as it didn’t agree with the decision, respected it. O’Donnell did not, which resulted in him posting a now-infamous tweet that set the gears in motion for his eventual departure.
“[O’Donnell] was pissed,” one source tells us. “That was the E3 when we announced the game, except for Marty’s tweet, and Activision immediately found trends on the internet that traced back any negative feelings about Destiny to Marty’s comment, so you can understand they were decidedly pissed about that. And shit just went south from there.”
According to court papers, “O’Donnell’s conduct hurt the Bungie team” and was “driving negative online discussion,” which undermined their professional relationship and agreement with Activision. In his defense, O’Donnell argued that “the band of brothers ethos that had inspired Bungie’s earlier work was being damaged by Activision.”
O’Donnell began neglecting his audio duties for Destiny, something confirmed by multiple sources and backed up in court documents related to his departure. With Activision pushing to meet deadlines, it became apparent to O’Donnell that releasing Music of the Spheres was the last thing on the company’s mind.
It was the only thing on O’Donnell’s mind.
“There were some practical things [around Music of the Spheres], and some of the conversations were just as simple as, ‘Is this really the right shit to be focusing on right now? Don’t we have bigger fish to fry?’” one source tells us.
Barnes, who was also O’Donnell’s manager while he was working on Music of the Spheres, declined to comment on the events surrounding the composer’s departure.
But if O’Donnell was slowing down his pace in a bid to pressure Bungie and Activision into prioritizing Music of the Spheres, it had the opposite effect.
Court documents state that senior management believed “O’Donnell was elevating his interest in publishing Music of the Spheres over the best interests of the parties’ contract.” Harold Ryan, Bungie’s CEO, recommended to board members that O’Donnell’s contract with the company should be terminated, which happened on April 11, 2014.
In the middle of all of this, Bungie and Activision were still deciding what to do with Music of the Spheres. Despite O’Donnell, Salvatori, and McCartney composing the suite as a trio, this was still a significant project for Bungie, not least for the fact that Paul McCartney was involved, but also due to the amount of time, resources, and money that had been pumped into it.
While all of this was taking place, McCartney’s “Hope for the Future” single was released to the world on Dec. 8, 2015. With it presented in an article on Wired without the context of Music of the Spheres behind it or the Destiny lore that inspired it, and with little support from Bungie in the press, the reception from Destiny fans was mixed at best.
Things get stranger during this timeline of events. With knowledge of Music of the Spheres out there due to interviews and Bungie publicizing the project but no official release, one Destiny superfan spent over a year painstakingly trying to create Music of the Spheres by piecing together various snippets of the music from conference talks alongside existing knowledge of the album’s layout.
Following the leak of Music of the Spheres, a Bungie community manager announced on Reddit in April 2018 that the company was pursuing an official release for the album, which became The Music of Destiny: Volume 1. Following its release, O’Donnell took to discussing Music of the Spheres in numerous interviews with press and content creators, while also sharing videos about the creation of Music of the Spheres on his YouTube channel.
While there was nothing in the 2015 injunction relating to O’Donnell’s firing that prevented him from talking about Music of the Spheres publicly, he was ordered to return Bungie property (all materials related to Destiny and Music of the Spheres), and was prohibited from sharing any materials or assets relating to Music of the Spheres online.
But over time, O’Donnell became more reckless. Slowly, assets relating to Music of the Spheres started appearing on O’Donnell’s YouTube channel and his other platforms. Bungie gathered these materials as evidence, and in April 2021, the company sued O’Donnell for contempt of court. O’Donnell was found guilty in September 2021 and ordered to publish a statement announcing that he never had permission to share those assets. (Videos relating to Music of the Spheres on O’Donnell’s YouTube channel have been deleted.)
To date, Bungie’s plans for a broad release of Music of the Spheres as a stand-alone project have not happened. This has left many people, particularly McCartney and Beatles fans, with knowledge of the project but no official or viable way of purchasing it now that the box set is out of print.
O’Donnell’s relentless pursuit of a release for Music of the Spheres and his attempts at helping more people discover it seem to have had the opposite effect, due to the legal storm it’s kicking up in the process. Court papers for O’Donnell’s arbitration say that “there is evidence that Bungie management believed withholding release of Music of the Spheres gave them ‘leverage’ over O’Donnell,” and that “Bungie now claims the non-release of Music of the Spheres was due to the pendency of arbitration.”
There’s a mountain of video footage that’s currently hidden away in the Bungie vault. Bungie filmed video content during the recording sessions for both Music of the Spheres and “Hope for the Future,” snippets of which appeared on O’Donnell’s YouTube channel before they were removed.
“Only Bungie can comment on what they plan to do with that,” Barnes says. “But they have some incredible material, so it would be exciting to see that surface one day.”
Finding new life
When McCartney was asked by Rolling Stone in 2016 if he was disappointed with the reception to “Hope for the Future,” he said it was something he “thought would do really well. It didn’t.” But “Hope for the Future” has grown on Destiny fans as it has found new life within the series.
The track was initially used in the end credits of Destiny, and has since been featured in multiple Easter eggs for Destiny 2, where it plays as a jukebox track in one of the Tangled Shore’s Lost Sectors. The song has also been incorporated into series lore, which states that Brother Vance, a character in the game, wrote the song.
As trivial as these placements might seem, they’ve made more Destiny fans check out “Hope for the Future” on YouTube and, going by the latest comments, many are enjoying it. And as more people discover McCartney’s involvement with Destiny, they’re also learning about Music of the Spheres in the process, as well as the collaborative compositional prowess of McCartney, O’Donnell, and Salvatori.
“I’m absolutely proud of it,” says Salvatori, who is still a full-time composer working on Destiny 2 at Bungie. “There’s a lot of stuff in there that I wrote. I’m proud of it, but at the same time, the waters have been so poisoned that it’s hard for me to think about it without having some negative feelings associated with it.
“But yeah, I can look back. I remember that day at Avatar Studios. I remember the day at Abbey Road Studios. I remember mixing in Santa Barbara for five days. That was a magical time, man. No one can take that away from us. It was beautiful.”
The collector’s edition box set, The Music of Destiny: Volume 1, which went out to 2,000 people, has a note on its inlay. It’s unattributed, but reads:
“We also hope that our music can serve as the soundtrack for your everyday life. We hope that this score can be just as meaningful and just as wonderful as an accompaniment to a proud, personal moment, to a lasting friendship, or that it can provide a way to help you through a tough time…”
There is no doubt that for both O’Donnell and Salvatori, Music of the Spheres has been an accompaniment to proud, personal moments and lasting friendships. And while it may have guided them through tough times, it’s also been the root cause of them.
Colleagues say O’Donnell is one of the industry’s best composers. Yet throughout his career, he has frequently clashed with the corporate beast. O’Donnell and Salvatori are currently in the process of suing Microsoft for unpaid royalties relating to the Halo series, with Microsoft arguing their music classifies as work for hire, while the pair claim it was licensed to Microsoft.
Now, over a decade since work on Music of the Spheres began, there’s still hope that it could one day get the stand-alone release it was promised, according to Barnes, who wants others to experience the music in the same way he did when he first heard it.
“I’d like to believe that if there’s enough fan interest in having a digital edition of Music of the Spheres, Bungie would put it on their store alongside the rest of Destiny’s incredible soundtracks,” he says.
“I have a reminder in my calendar on my phone from the first day I got to hear the music. I got to take it home and listen to it in the darkness of my office. And I enjoyed it so much — it was such an amazing achievement by the creative team — that I put a reminder in my calendar that this was the first time I got to hear Music of the Spheres. I hope, one day, everyone else has that opportunity.”