Journey composer discusses “Wild West” nature of game soundtracks

Monday, 10 December 2012 09:49 GMT By Dave Cook

Journey composer Austin Wintory is up for a Grammy award for his soundtrack to thatgamecompany’s PS3 title, and has discussed the nature of game compositions and the perception of the non-gaming public to videogame tunes in a new interview. He even calls the scene the “Wild West”. Find out why below.

Speaking with Gamasutra, Wintory stated that games offer composers a “Wild West”, in reference to the challenges that come with scoring complex titles, and compiling all tracks into a smartly-arranged, nicely flowing album.

“I didn’t create an album to stick into a game,” Wintory stressed, “I had to create a game score, and then figure out how to reverse-engineer it into an album,’

“That is what took three years to do, that’s what I desperately wanted to happen, that it would feel like I am sitting right behind you composing in realtime and matching everything to your experience.”

“That’s why I get so excited about games. It throws everything you know about music up in the air. Music is one of those art forms, like theatre and only a couple of others, that is bound by time; you’re at the mercy of the passage of time.

“So to create music for a game is to apply a nonlinear aesthetic onto something that is fundamentally linear, and it’s like… holy shit, this is really kind of insane. To think of not just having the audience’s emotional input, but to have them directing the flow of events in the music is as far from traditional classical music as possible.”

Wintory’s Grammy nod solidifies gaming’s aesthetic prowess among the non-gaming pubic, the composer explained, and recalled an experience that confirmed to him the widespread appeal of game compositions.

“A week ago in Colorado, the Boulder Symphony played a piece of mine from Journey in a concert of otherwise all classical music”, he explained. “It wasn’t a game night or a pops concert.

“I got up and spoke to the audience before they played, and as I was explaining the thrill of nonlinear music and why, as a composer, that’s so exciting… the audience was the expected orchestra audience, but they were really interested.

“That dismissing, as soon as they hear the word ‘video game’… I didn’t sense any of it. The idea that they were receptive to what they were going to be hearing, to me, it was one of those humanity-affirming moments.”

What do you make of game soundtracks and their increasingly widespread album releases? What are your favourite soundtracks? Let us know below.

Thanks Develop.