Cool and Inspiring Ideas for the Game Music Composer

As game composers, we need a little inspiration now and then.  This blog will share some fun thoughts and ideas that have the potential to stir our creative juices, or just help us to think about game music in a different way.  First, we’ll get a perspective on what the classical symphony performance has in common with the act of playing a video game. Then, we’ll learn about a method of turning a video game into a musical instrument for performance art.  And finally, we’ll hear about a sonic toy that lets us trigger game sounds and music as a spontaneous aural performance to accompany roleplay gaming. I hope these ideas will get us thinking about the relationship between game music and live performance. At the very least, some of these ideas may tickle our creative fancy, so let’s get started!

Andrew Norman’s Play (Boston Modern Orchestra Project)

andrew_normanFirst, let’s consider the viewpoint of acclaimed symphonic composer Andrew Norman (pictured left), who is currently nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” for his symphonic work entitled Play. The nominated recording was performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, as conducted by Gil Rose. As a composer, Andrew Norman is no stranger to accolades, having previously achieved the finalists list for the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2012 for his string trio The Companion Guide to Rome.  What’s most fascinating about his symphony Play, aside from its bold and experimental approach to musical composition, is the philosophy with which it was created. As it turns out, video games played a key role.

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VR for the Game Music Composer – Artistry and Workflow

Since the game audio community is abuzz with popular excitement about the impending arrival of virtual reality systems, I’ve been periodically writing blogs that gather together top news about developments in the field of audio and music for VR.  In this blog we’ll be looking at some resources that discuss issues relating to artistry and workflow in audio for VR:

  • We’ll explore an interesting post-mortem article about music for the VR game Land’s End.  
  • We’ll be taking a closer look at the 3DCeption Spatial Workstation.
  • We’ll be checking out the Oculus Spatializer Plugin for DAWs.

Designing Sound for Virtual Reality

In these early days of VR, postmortem articles about the highs and lows of development on virtual reality projects are especially welcome.  Freelance audio producer and composer Todd Baker has written an especially interesting article about the audio development for the Land’s End video game, designed for the Samsung Gear VR system.

Here, you see me trying out the Samsung Gear VR, as it was demonstrated on the show floor at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in 2015.

Here, you see me trying out the Samsung Gear VR, as it was demonstrated on the show floor at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in 2015.

Todd Baker is best known for his audio design work on the whimsical Tearaway games, and his work as a member of the music composition team for the awesome LittleBigPlanet series. His work on Land’s End for Ustwo Games affords him an insightful perspective on audio for virtual reality. “In VR, people are more attuned to what sounds and feels right in the environment, and therefore can be equally distracted by what doesn’t,” writes Baker.  In the effort to avoid distraction, Baker opted for subtlety in regards to the game’s musical score. Each cue began with a gentle fade-in, attracting little notice at first so as to blend with the game’s overall soundscape in a natural way.

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A Composer’s Guide to Game Music in 2015

A Composer's Guide to Game Music, photo from the article by game music composer Winifred PhillipsHappy Holidays, everyone!  2015 has been a really memorable year for me, and a successful one for my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.  Writing this book not only allowed me to express my excitement about game music, but also opened up my world to a huge community of game music enthusiasts that I’m now proud to call friends.

I’ve been delighted to meet so many people who have read my book – from aspiring composers, to scholars and educators, to game audio pros.  It’s been tremendously gratifying!

I’d like to spend this blog recapping the events of 2015 as they related to my book, and I’ll also be sharing some book-related resources and tutorials that I created in 2015 (in case you missed them).  Happy Holidays, everyone, and thank you so much for your tremendous support this year!

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AES Convention: Interactive Music of the LittleBigPlanet Franchise

Winifred Phillips - Audio Engineering Society ConventionI was very proud to speak at three events during the Audio Engineering Society convention last week!  My hour-long presentation last Sunday was entitled “Interactive Music of the LittleBigPlanet Franchise: Dissecting a Complex, Multi-Component System.”

In addition, I spoke as a panelist during a game audio panel presentation on Saturday, and I also participated on Saturday as a game audio mentor in the awesome AES Speed Mentoring session, sponsored by the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services.  Attendees got a chance to ask loads of terrific questions of the assembled professional mentors, and it was great fun to answer game audio questions during the mentoring session!

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Happy Birthday, LittleBigPlanet!

birthday-7thThe LittleBigPlanet franchise is 7 years old today!  On October 28th, 2008, the very first LittleBigPlanet game was published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.  In the seven years since that auspicious day, players have explored the whimsical world of LittleBigPlanet in countless awesome adventures.  I’m very proud to have been a part of the music team for this famous franchise.  So, to celebrate the game franchise’s seventh birthday, let’s go for a tour through the history of LittleBigPlanet!

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139th Audio Engineering Society Convention Schedule

AES139_NYC_Banner

The Audio Engineering Society’s annual convention is next week, and the entire schedule is now available, so I can now share the dates and times for my presentations!

Sunday, Nov. 1st, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (Room 1A22)  Interactive Music of the LittleBigPlanet Franchise: Dissecting a Complex, Multi-Component System.  If you can only come one day, then pick Sunday, because I’ll be presenting an hour-long talk on the music system of six games in the LittleBigPlanet franchise. It should be a fun talk!

Saturday, Oct. 31st, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm (1A22)  Game Audio Education – New Opportunities for Students.  I’ll be a panelist answering questions and participating in discussion of the role of education in a game audio professional’s career. Fellow panelists include Steve Horowitz, Scott Looney, Leonard J. Paul and Michael Sweet.

Saturday, Oct. 31st, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm (Room 1A07)  SPARS Speed Counseling with Experts – Mentoring Answers for Your Career.  I’ll be acting as a mentor and answering career related questions to participants in a speed group mentoring format. Game Audio mentors for this event will include myself, Tom Salta, George Valavanis and Gina Zdanowics.

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Arrangement for Vertical Layers Pt. 2: A Game Composer’s Guide

music-sepiaWelcome back to my three-part blog series on the art of arrangement for dynamic music systems in games! In this series of articles, I’m discussing the techniques of arrangement as they pertain to interactive game music by exploring examples from the music I composed for video games from the LittleBigPlanet franchise.  In part one of this series, we went over the role of the arranger, the importance of an interesting and creative arrangement, and the relationship between arranging for traditional linear and non-linear interactive music. We also reviewed arranging techniques that apply to melody, and how these should (or should not) be applied in an interactive composition.  If you haven’t read part one, please click here to read that entry first, and then return here to continue reading part two. Okay, are you back now? Ready? Here we go!

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