You have just had your book A COMPOSERS GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC published and I can see its selling well, what made you decide to write this and how long did it take to write the book?
It was actually my music producer Winnie Waldron’s idea – she suggested that I should write a book about game music. This was right around the time when I was finishing up work on my contribution to the music of Little Big Planet for the PS Vita, over two years ago. I didn’t take the suggestion seriously at first, but I did think about it for a while. I flipped through some game audio books I owned, to see if I had anything to offer that hadn’t already been said. Game music is a complex subject, with a lot of ground to cover, and it turned out that there were significant subjects that hadn’t really been discussed yet. That’s what made me decide to write the book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. From there, it took me about a year and nine months from start to finish.
Your credits for all types of games, TV shows and movies are numerous, was writing for film etc something that you were always attracted to?
Absolutely! I’ve wanted to be a composer for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always admired the music in films and television shows, so that was what I wanted to do. Composing music for games didn’t occur to me right away, but I’d been an avid gamer ever since I was a kid. Games are so incredibly imaginative and adventurous, and they have always captured my imagination. When the idea finally occurred to me that I could write music for games, I was certain that I wanted to pursue game music as a career.
What if any are the differences between scoring a movie and writing the soundtrack for a game, is the process longer or more complicated when scoring a video game?
Yes, it can be much more complex and lengthy. While a film will last ninety or a hundred and twenty minutes, a game can last for dozens of hours. Often, a game will require music that can adapt to the state of game play, which means that the music needs to be composed in component parts that can be assembled and disassembled by the game depending on what’s happening in the game at the time. Composing for other media (such as film or TV) really doesn’t prepare a composer for the task of composing for games. It’s a completely different process.
How many times do you like to watch a game project before you can start work on the score?
I’ll either watch game play videos many times (I’m not sure how many) or I’ll actually play the game while development is in-progress. The game at this point will be an incomplete version called a ‘build,’ and it usually doesn’t reflect the way the final game will look and how it will play. However, the experience of playing the game that you’re going to be scoring is tremendously helpful. When that isn’t possible, game play video can be a useful substitute, and I’ll watch lots of game play videos to get a feel for what the experience of playing the game will be like.
I think your work on video games stands out so much because it is original and also your music seems to flow naturally with other elements such as the sound design and the fx etc, do you work closely with the sound design department etc to achieve this?
It depends on the preferred working methods of the development team. Sometimes I’ll be able to listen to the sound design and aural fx while I’m composing, but sometimes those elements will be added after I’m finished composing the score. In those cases, I try to imagine what the game world will sound like, what sorts of sound effects may be happening during game play. The documentation created by the development team usually fills in a lot of detail about the game environment, and that provides a lot of fuel for my imagination. I discuss this sort of documentation in my book, as well as the types of communication that a composer has with the development team in order to more fully envision the world that the team is creating.
You have worked on a number of projects for RADIO TALES, is the scoring process any different when you are working in radio and how did you become involved on these?
Radio Tales was my first gig as a professional composer. Winnie Waldron, who was the producer, script editor and host of that series for National Public Radio, hired me to create music for the project. The series adapted classic science fiction, fantasy and horror stories for the radio, so in a way, it was a great training ground for my subsequent work as a game composer. In radio, a musical score needs to accomplish many things that are not required of a television and film score. In the absence of visual content, the music of a radio drama needs to help the listener to create a mental picture of the action of the story. There can’t be anything in the score that doesn’t ignite the correct mental imagery, so a composer has to be especially careful regarding instrument choices and musical structure. It’s a fairly exacting standard, and that helped to prepare me for the artistic and technical challenges that I’d face when I crossed over into video game composition. Both disciplines are complex and challenging in ways that distinguish them from music for more traditional entertainment media such as television and film.
You have worked with Winnie Waldron on numerous projects, has she produced all of your video game scores and did you both move into the video game world?
We started working together on the Radio Tales series, and when the opportunity came to join the music team for God of War and compose some tracks for the game, I asked Winnie Waldron to come with me and produce my music for the video game industry. We’ve been working in the game industry ever since. It’s been an exciting and tremendously fulfilling career, and I’m glad that I can now share what I’ve learned over the years in my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.
Winifred’s book A COMPOSERS GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC is a fascinating read that is filled with so much information.
it is available now.