THERE was a defining moment in Inon Zur’s life when he knew that he would have to leave Israel for America for the sake of his career.
Then a pupil at the prestigious Music Academy of Tel Aviv, he realised what he had studied there was not the kind of music he wanted to pursue.
And that decision paid off for, 29 years later, Inon is internationally renowned for his original music scores for film, television and popular video game franchises.
“I understood quickly that what I was studying at the academy was not what I was looking for,” Inon told me from his home in Encino, California.
Newly-married to Osnat, the couple took a leap of faith and moved to America, where he attended film scoring programmes at Dick Grove School of Music and UCLA, where he studied under such luminaries as Henry Mancini, Allyn Ferguson and Jack Smalley.
The 53-year-old has signed to Sony Music Masterworks in anticipation of releasing new original music.
But growing up on Kibbutz Merhavia, in northern Israel, the son of Shoshana and Raphael Zur, he could never have envisaged where his career has taken him.
Inon, who is of Greek and Czech descent, said: “I was attracted to music when I was only two and then, when I was eight, I started to learn how to play the piano.
“Unlike most kids who played the music placed in front of them, I wanted to compose my own pieces.
“I have always been drawn strongly to composition.”
Drafted into the Israel Defence Forces, he served as an officer in its tank unit for four years and saw action in Gaza when the first intifada erupted in 1987.
Advised to move to America if he wanted to progress his career, Inon and Osnat headed to Los Angeles in 1990.
He recalled: “I was 25 and Osnat was 22 when we moved to America.
“It was a culture shock which nothing prepared us for, but, if you work hard and have the right attitude in America, you will be embraced and that is what happened.
“I spent two years in a band which played barmitzvahs and weddings while trying to get a foot in the industry.”
That opportunity presented itself in 1992, after he wrote music for a short student film.
Later, while in shul, he met a TV producer who had made a documentary about the shul’s rabbi — and asked Inon whether he would like to score its music.
That led to him composing the music for a late night soap opera screened in 1993 and then for the Fox Family Channel.
In his six years there, he composed soundtracks for dozens of children’s television programmes, including Digimon and 350 episodes of Power Rangers.
He also won a Telly Award for his work on Power Rangers: Turbo.
But it was Inon’s work on video games that became his hallmark, scoring for hundreds of them, including Prince of Persia, Crysis, Men of Valor, Dragon Age: Origins, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, along with the Fallout franchise.
The father-of-three explained: “Not everything is a conscious decision and I was drawn to something where I found myself musically, which was in the genre of video games and, more specifically, in the genre of role-playing games, so there is a lot of fantasy music and a big orchestral theme, in which I found I tend to thrive.
“It could have been TV or movies, but what is important is that I found my signature.”
It is no surprise that Inon’s scores have an orchestral flavour, as he has been heavily influenced by classical composers such as Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Beethoven, as well as film composers like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.
But how different does a video game score have to be from a film score.
“Scores for video games support its dramatic development,” Inon said.
“In video games, you have to be driven to perform the whole time, so the music has to be active and to serve the player.
“Before I composed the music for Lord of the Rings, for example, the makers just wanted to use Howard Shore’s score from the film, which was great, but it just didn’t work because its pace was too slow for the game.
“I was told to compose in the same style, but I knew I could fit the game better and, sure enough, after a few months my score was the replacement
“It isn’t to say that Shore’s music is anything less than spectacular, but in video games it works differently.”
He is also excited to be working with Sony Music Masterworks.
“It is a great feeling when the score becomes part of a franchise’s signature, it really is amazing,” Inon added.
“I am extremely excited to share a new chapter of my musical journey.
“Throughout the years, I have been yearning to create original content dedicated as a tribute to all my fans and music lovers, and, of course, video game players around the world.
“I really hope the fans will enjoy what’s to come as much as I have in creating it.”
Inon visits Israel once a year and his father still lives on the kibbutz, while his mother is in Petach Tikva.
And he feels strongly about the BDS movement continually telling artists not to perform in Israel.
Inon said: “It is based on misinformation and all these movements are being fuelled by the hate of countries such as Iran, which hates Jews because of who we are.
“They have been successful in fuelling it, even here in America, and they do that by feeding so many lies.
“In some ways, nothing has really changed for us except now we have our own country.”
He added that he still feels Israeli, despite nearly 30 years in America, but is also “proud to be an American citizen”.
Raised on a kibbutz which he described as “almost anti-religious”, he has become more traditional.
“My wife is from a Moroccan family and they are more religious, so I have come to love the Jewish culture and the Jewish religion,” Inon said
“My kids all went to Jewish schools and they are fluent in Hebrew — both writing and speaking — they know their prayers and they feel right at home in a synagogue.
“Because we don’t live in Israel, we are happy that we can give them this heritage and for them to be proud of who they are.”
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