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Journey composer discusses “Wild West” nature of game soundtracks

Monday, 10th 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.

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7 Comments

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  1. SlayerGT

    Well since you ask Dave, personally I love a good soundtrack. Music has an effect on me in that it’ll often take me back to time when I was enjoying it. So when a game is good, and a soundtrack that accompanies it is good, when I listen to the music by itself I’m reminded of the fun I had had. Or the experiences I had. I think it’s great that a game soundtrack can be recognized as great music . It should be. Just like games should be celebrated for its own medium and what it provides (which is why I took great offense to the Games Live performance..but that’s a whole other topic).

    As far as my favs go, I think Journey obviously is my latest one. Skyrim and Infamous 2 before that. MGS5 has some good tracks. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are great. Back on the PS1 I absolutely loved the original Warhawk soundtrack. You could listen to it right off the disc :D Also on PS1, Black Dawn, Treasures of the Deep, Final Fantasy VII, Jet Moto 1&2. I turn the music off in most games. It has to be a good soundtrack for me to leave it on. All of The Elder Scrolls. Uncharted I would leave the music on also. But I probly wouldn’t just listen to those casually. But a game like Farcry 3 I turn the music off. I want to be immersed in that instance.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. SlayerGT

    OH! And Red Dead Redemption. That’s a great soundtrack also. I still haven’t purchased Max Pain 3′s but plan to. I wish they’d release it on PSN.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @1 very good list of iconic soundtracks there. I like it :)

    FF7 has to be up there for me also, know most of it off by heart now. Streets of Rage 2 is probably my favourite soundtrack, and Castlevania 4 on SNES. There are so maay good soundtracks out there though. It’s good that game composers now get more recognition in their field.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. SlayerGT

    I think it’s just because it’s more music..e? I love me some bit music, and its crazy how good of a composer you had to be to work with it and make it sound good, but personally I can’t sit and enjoy Mega Man while having a drink or something :) I believe that’s why PS1 got me into soundtracks to begin with. The fidelity of the music was there..being cd based and all.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Beta

    Favourite Game Soundtracks? All of the thatgamecompany releases, I was a huge fan of Greg Edmonson’s work on Uncharted.

    The Halo music’s always been a high point, though I haven’t listened to Neil Davidge’s score for Halo 4 yet.

    I also quite enjoy Joel Corelitz’s score for The Unfinished Swan, Shadow of the Colossus is brilliant, FF XIII; though mildly disappointing game wise, had a very enjoyable score. Also Rayman on PS1; LOVE!

    I could go on. ;)

    #5 1 year ago
  6. SlayerGT

    Beta is Unfinished Swan’s soundtrack on PSN? I have the game downloaded but have yet to sit down and play it. Saving it for a rainy day.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Beta

    @6 I actually don’t know sorry, I would check but I’m not at home at the moment. I got it from itunes :)

    #7 1 year ago