Hi! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and today let’s spend a little time discussing the allure of composing music for virtual reality. There are a lot of reasons why we video game composers might be excited about creating music for VR games. The technology of immersive virtual experiences has the potential to offer an intensity of emotional involvement transcending most other forms of entertainment. What game music composer wouldn’t be inspired by that? However, it’s tough to be inspired by something we may not have experienced yet. Becoming a VR gamer can be a fantastic rush, but the financial barriers to entry can be pretty high. The top VR headsets and gear require a VR-ready computer, and purchasing the computer and the VR hardware together can easily exceed two thousand dollars. While there are lower-cost VR options (such as headsets designed to work with mobile phones), the virtual experience provided by these economical VR systems can offer only a fraction of the spectacle delivered by the high-end models. If we want to take our first steps into a dazzling virtual world, but we don’t have a bucket of cash on hand, what do we do?
This week I thought we’d check in with some of the top orchestral video game music concert tours currently underway. We’ll take a look at some reviews of 2015 performances from the respective tours, and we’ll also take a look at video from some of the most recent concert performances.
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses
Originating as a simple four-minute overture performed at a Nintendo press event in 2011, Symphony of the Goddesses kicked off as a full-fledged concert tour in January 2012 and currently has 33 dates scheduled for 2016 that will take the popular tour all around the world. The concert’s program lineup focuses exclusively on famous music from the Legend of Zelda games. In a review of the September 25th 2015 performance at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island, Broadway World critic Andria Tieman wrote, “Overall, this was a night of fantastic music, excellent people-watching and a fun, visual performance. This is something that Zelda fans should certainly seek out.” Here’s a video clip from the Oct. 30th 2015 broadcast of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which the Symphony of the Goddesses tour performed their Legend of Zelda Medley:
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)
First, 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.
The holiday season is in full swing, with the New Year right around the corner, so here’s some more game music that’s perfect for the holidays…and one bonus track that I composed for LittleBigPlanet 3 (I’m told it makes most everybody think of Christmas!)
Happy Holidays, everybody! It’s become a tradition in this blog to share some holiday tunes from some awesome video games, so here’s a selection of holiday cover songs to fuel your festive spirit (and one bonus cover song with a very different take on the holiday spirit). Enjoy!
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.
I’m happy to share that I’ll be a speaker again this year at the Audio Engineering Society’s annual convention! Last year, the convention took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center – a familiar stomping ground from my many visits to the famous Electronic Entertainment Expo over the years. However, this year will take me somewhere entirely new: the Jacob Javits Center in New York City!
I imagine that most futuristic metropolitan buildings look best when the sky is purple. Since it’s impossible to capture natural purple skies in the wild, I assume that someone helpfully photoshopped a purple firmament for this promo picture. The convention center looks very impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in person!
At this year’s AES, I’ll be speaking more specifically about my role as a member of the music composition team for the LittleBigPlanet franchise. It will be fun to share my experiences as part of that wonderful music team at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of the interactive music techniques of the LittleBigPlanet franchise!
This is a photo from the LittleBigPlanet 3 display in the Sony booth at E3 2014. My presentation at the Jacob Javits Center will include lots of my music from the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and Sackboy will be making many appearances!
I’m also looking forward to seeing what’s new and hot in audio gear on the AES exhibit floor. Last year’s show floor was crowded with humongous mixing desks like the one above, along with enough glittering gear to make a full-grown audio engineer cry tears of joy. I’m looking forward to a similar spectacle this year. In addition to the expo floor, the convention will include a comprehensive program of presentations, panels and workshops, and the popular Live Sound Expo will be returning this year to spread knowledge about audio solutions for live events.
Despite this minor disappointment, I had an awesome time at last year’s AES, and I’m very excited about this year’s event! The convention will take place from Oct. 29th to Nov. 1st at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Hope to see you there!
Winifred Phillips is an award-winning video game music composer whose most recent project is the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution. Her credits include five of the most famous and popular franchises in video gaming: Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Total War, God of War, and The Sims. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. As a VR game music expert, she writes frequently on the future of music in virtual reality video games. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.
Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans! This is a day to celebrate all the best, most awesome things we enjoy about being Americans – and that includes our love of video games! So to celebrate, I’ve gathered together some of the top patriotic songs of the USA as they appeared in popular game soundtracks. Enjoy!
Guitar Hero 5 – My Country, Tis of Thee
Civilization V – America the Beautiful
Fallout 3 – Yankee Doodle
Civil War 2: Generals – When Johnny Comes Marching Home
BioShock Infinite – You’re A Grand Old Flag
Fallout 3 – Hail Columbia
Civil War 2: Generals – Battle Hymn of the Republic
Civilization IV – Marines’ Hymn (The United States Marine Corps)
Winifred Phillips is an award-winning game music composer with more than 11 years of experience in the video game industry. Her projects include Assassin’s Creed Liberation, God of War, the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and many others. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.
Classic FM is the only 100% classical music radio station in the UK. Every year, they hold a poll to select Britain’s favorite pieces of classical music, listing the top 300 selections on their web site. Over 100,000 people voted in this year’s poll. The final results include music from video games – 11 out of the 300 compositions are pieces of video game music, including three pieces that won places in the top 20. To celebrate, I’ve gathered together some YouTube videos presenting the famous video game music that was voted into the top 300 in Classic FM’s poll. I hope you enjoy it!
#9. Final Fantasy Series (Nobuo Uematsu)
#11. The Elder Scrolls Series (Jeremy Soule)
#13. Banjo-Kazooie (Grant Kirkhope)
#30. Kingdom Hearts (Yoko Shimomura)
#41. Viva Piñata (Grant Kirkhope)
#53. World of Warcraft (Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Jason Hayes, Tracy Bush, et. al.)
#59. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Grant Kirkhope)
The Game Developers Conference was a fantastic experience for me this year! I gave two presentations — “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems” at the GDC Audio Bootcamp on Tuesday, and “LittleBigPlanet 3 and Beyond: Taking Your Score to Vertical Extremes” during the main conference on Friday. I had a great time! Here are a few of my photos from GDC week. Just click on the first thumbnail image to open the full-sized gallery.
Starting a GDC day the good old-fashioned way… at Mel’s Drive-In!
That’s damn fine coffee!
Always get excited when I see that big GDC banner!
The audience for the GDC Audio Bootcamp begins to fill up on Tuesday morning.
I’m getting ready to begin my speech on “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems”
My speech on adaptive music begins!
Allow me to introduce myself…
Here, I was discussing the horizontal resequencing music system of the Tron 2.0 video game from Buena Vista Interactive and composer Nathan Grigg
A discussion of the interactive music system of the Sound Shapes game, using the “Cities” track by Beck as an example.
My speech included some discussion of music data, including MIDI, MOD and generative systems, and then there was a Q&A. Such a great audience!
The next day, I participated in the GDC Flash Forward, which allowed a select group of GDC speakers the chance to each present a 30-45 second preview of their presentation for the main conference. These are the fantastic MCs of the Flash Forward, Brenda Romero and Laura Fryer!
Before the Flash Forward began, all the Flash Forward speakers were gathered on stage for a briefing. The lights were blinding! 🙂
After the Flash Forward, the main GDC sessions and expo began in earnest.
Favorite memories from this year’s GDC include meeting with the awesome Robert Workman, game journalist extraordinaire!
This is Yerba Buena Gardens, a beautiful park just a few steps away from the convention center. Great place to unwind after the sessions!
The weather in San Francisco was gorgeous for GDC this year!
On Friday, the big “Conference At A Glance” display went up for that day’s sessions, and I had to get a photo showing my morning talk, “LittleBigPlanet 3 and Beyond: Taking Your Score to Vertical Extremes”
There’s my talk! Bright and early on Friday morning!
I was tremendously proud to have been chosen as a GDC speaker this year!
Under the imposing mask is Jesse Lofton, one of the GDC conference associates. He’s guarding Room 3006, where my Friday session took place.
This is the sign that stood outside Room 3006, where my session took place. My talk kicked off the last day of the conference.