I wasn’t sure what to make of this album. I have listened to and reviewed game composers remixing game music before, but I have never reviewed an album of original compositions by game composers, that aren’t attached to any games. I admit I was dubious. Also, looking at the list of composers, I was only familiar with a few of them, most notably Akira Yamaoka, composer for the Silent Hill series. This album raised another question for me. Do I listen to game music because I associate the music with the game, or is the music good in its own right? I personally believe that there are elements of of both and I find an album comprised of original music from game composers to be very interesting. Will the music follow gaming tropes and conventions, or will the composers write music purely for the album and allow their music talents to flourish. Let’s find out what this “East meets West” album had to offer. (more…)
Last month we reported on a lawsuit being filed against the game developer Bungie by composer and audio director Marty O’Donnell. Bungie had fired O’Donnell “without cause” back in April and was refusing to pay money owed to the composer. Much of this pay included unused paid time off, sabbatical time, and other benefits. This past week, the two parties reached a settlement over the matter.
According to VentureBeat, O’Donnell will be receiving $38,385 for his unpaid time, including vacation time, plus another $38,385 for double damages, something that O’Donnell was seeking in his original suit. Adding up all of the legal fees on top of this, Bungie will be paying out $95,019.13 to the Halo composer.
Bungie has still not given a reason for firing O’Donnell and has declined to officially comment on the matter, as of this writing. Bungie’s newest IP Destiny, which O’Donnell was working on, is set to come out this fall. It will be interesting to see what has happened with the music and audio on the game in O’Donnell’s absence.
I feel that I must get one thing very clear before you continue to read this review. My speciality is piano music. I am a pianist, I listen to a lot of piano music, from Mozart to Debussy, and I go to piano concerts in London. I’m also as close to an expert on the use of the piano in games as you might get, from the triumphant fanfare like riff from Halo 3 to the myriad of Final Fantasy Piano albums. As a result, my standards may be unrealistically high. I also have a confession to make: I’ve never played Journey! I know I know, it’s on my to-do list. This is particularly heinous of me as not only is the game supposed to be amazing, but the soundtrack is said to be excellent as well. However, this might not be a bad thing for this review, as I will not be influence by the game or the original soundtrack. I will take the music at face value, in its own right, separate from its related media.
It’s interesting to note that the composer, Austin Wintory, seems to have had little to do with this album. Transfiguration has been arranged by the Laura Intravia, the singer in the last track, and performed by Robert Thies. In general I think this is a good thing because, as a composer myself, I know how hard it can be to separate myself from my own compositions. I prefer to arrange for other people so I can focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the instrument, rather than being influenced by my own work. So with that said, let’s take a look at Transfiguration. (more…)
The creators of MAGFest, the Music and Gaming Festival, have launched another event that will take place from September 12-14 at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Unlike the regular MAGFest event, which takes place in National Harbor, Maryland every January, this event is taking place at the original MAGFest venue this fall. A few years ago, the main MAGFest event was moved to the National Harbor location, when the festival got bigger and required a larger venue. This new event aims to bring back the vibe of the early MAGFest days to current day festival attendees. Essentially a smaller and more intimate setting for game and music fans. MAGFest 8.5 will be happening in addition to MAGFest 13, the latter of which is set for late January.
For those of you not familiar with MAGFest, it’s a festival, as the name implies, dedicated to games and music. The event features tons of concerts from videogame cover/remix bands and guest appearances by some of the top videogame composers in the world. Past composer guests have included Nobuo Uematsu, Yuzo Koshiro, Chris Huelsbeck, and Tommy Tallarico.
Because of the smaller venue size for MAGFest 8.5, the tickets are going to be limited to only 2000 attendees. If you’re interested in getting out to this event, grab tickets and hotel reservations while you still can. Guests and music performers have yet to be announced. Information on hotels and tickets can be found at the MAGFest 8.5 website.
Detune, the company which brought the Korg M01D to the Nintendo 3DS last year, is bringing another synthesizer program to the platform. This latest music program is the Korg DSN-12.
What on earth is the Korg DSN-12? Well, it’s a synthesizer program that allows you to assemble music patterns to create your own songs. There are twelve analog monophonic synthesizers, sixty four sequence steps for building songs, a series of effects that you can use for the synths, and the ability for users to exchange and share data between systems.
One of the main features is a 3D oscilloscope, which gives you a visual representation of the sounds that you are creating. You can see this used in the demo songs below.
Because this is on the 3DS, users can make use of the touch screen to configure note patterns, sequences, and other attributes. With these tools you can create real time changes in a live performance or simply build a sequence for a static composition. The Korg DSN-12 will be coming to the US and Europe on the Nintendo eShop this fall for the 3DS and 2DS. Be sure to check out Detune’s main site for more information.
Anyone who is a fan of game music is probably familiar with game composer Austin Wintory. He’s written music for games including flOw, Monaco, Journey, and more recently The Banner Saga. The writing and recording of the The Banner Saga soundtrack in particular has sparked a fight between Wintory and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
The problem that the AFM has is that Wintory composed music for the game as a non-union job. Despite the fact that Wintory wrote and recorded the music in Texas, a state that has right-to-work laws that would allow even union musicians to do non-union work, the AFM is threatening to fine Wintory up to $50,000, claiming he violated union rules. Wintory and other composers have been unable to write game scores through the union due to the horribly written contract by the AFM for game music projects.
Wintory has gone public, criticizing the union’s contract on twitter and more recently in a Youtube video (seen below). In the video, he details the massive issues with the contract that the union heads created for working with game developers and publishers, as well as their recent action against him. The contract, titled the AFM Video Game/Interactive Media Agreement, was written back in 2012 and has been universally rejected by every game studio and criticized by many composers and musicians. As a result, this has forced any composers or musician looking to do work in games to do so outside of the union.
Because he has spoken out about the mess that the AFM has created for its own members, the union is retaliating by fining him. Wintory feels that the AFM is trying to use him as an example to keep other union members in line and frightened. It doesn’t look like Wintory will be backing down any time soon. In his own words, “I refuse to live in fear, and I especially refuse to live in fear of my own union.”
It’s unfortunate to see that there are so many talented musicians and composers being prevented from doing work in the games industry because of the AFM’s contract. Worse still is that instead of listening to the concerns and criticism from their own union members, the heads of the AFM have chosen to threaten and bully people, like Austin Wintory, who are speaking out. Personally, I think it’s great that Wintory has chosen to speak up about these issues. Hopefully this is a problem that can receive more attention and be resolved. Be sure to check out Wintory’s video and spread the word.
Back in April, the game development studio Bungie fired Marty O’Donnell from his position as audio director. It was reported at the time, and stated by O’Donnell, that he had been terminated “without cause.” It now appears that this matter is not going to end quietly. Before being fired by Bungie, O’Donnell was working on Bungie’s upcoming and highly anticipated game Destiny. Many people are no doubt familiar with the composer’s work on the original Halo soundtrack.
According to a report from VentureBeat, a suit was filled against Bungie and its chief executive, Harold Ryan, by O’Donnell back on May 1st. In the suit he claims that Bungie failed to pay him for several benefits, including paid time off and unpaid vacation time. As of May 27, Bungie has denied that O’Donnell is due any compensation.
O’Donnell is also pursuing claims of additional grievances against the company and Harold Ryan, which have not been revealed at this time. We will update on this once more information becomes available.
Source: Venture Beat
A new Humble Bundle has launched and is focused on providing funding for music education. Money raised from the Music In Schools Bundle will all go to the Alameda Music Project to provide music classes to underserved communities in Alameda, California. The Alameda Music Project is a free after school program that provides music education in a community where there previously has been no existing music program. The project offers the tuition-free music program to any child in grades K – 5 who wishes to participate.
The bundle includes videogame soundtracks, movie soundtracks, and a handful of games. The tiers on this bundle are a bit higher than what you’ll be used to seeing on the Bundle Store, but what you’re getting is quite a massive collection of music. The first tier at $20 will get you 15 albums and 2 games, while the $50 tier will get you an additional 52 albums and 4 more games. That’s a grand total of 67 albums and 6 games! It’s probably more music than you’ll know what to do with and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Alameda Music Project.
There are several game music artists contributing to this bundle including Ben Prunty, Zircon, Chris Rockwood, Jessica Curry, and Disasterpeace, just to name a few. The collection features the videogame music of FEZ, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, FTL, Mass Effect 3, Spelunky, and many more. This is an incredible collection of music and it’s all for a great cause. Be sure to check the Music In Schools Bundle out and spread the word.
If you frequently explore YouTube for videogame music covers, chances are that you’ve encountered the videogame rock arrangements by Jules Conroy, aka FamilyJules7X. If you haven’t, then today you are in for a treat. For the past three years Jules has been arranging and performing music from videogames and uploading videos of these arrangements to his YouTube channel. He’s covered games including Donkey Kong, Pokemon, Binding of Isaac, Final Fantasy, and Elder Scrolls to name just a few.
This year, to celebrate the three year anniversary of his videogame cover projects, Jules put together a seventeen minute long medley of game music. As the title suggests, “Replay: A Metal Tribute to the History of Video Games” is a guitar cover tribute to videogame music and covers the medium’s more than thirty year history. The medley starts off at the year 1972 with the original Pong, works it’s way through classic Nintendo and Sega games, and proceeds to go through every year up to 2014.
As if the size and scope of this medley alone wasn’t impressive enough, Jules completed this project, start to finish, in just eight days and during the same week as his college finals. According to his video description, he only had four days to record the guitars, one day to do the arranging, one day for the drums, one day to mix and master the music, and only one day to edit all of the video footage. He set it up as a challenge for himself and the results are quite amazing. It’s an impressive feat to get all of that done in such a limited time frame. If you’ve never seen or heard his arrangements before, definitely give the FamilyJules7X channel a look. Metal fans and videogame enthusiasts will not be disappointed.
The people behind the web series Extra Credits have started a new weekly video series titled Extra Remix. For those of you unfamiliar with Extra Credits, it’s a weekly show, narrated by Dan Floyd and written by James Portnow, that covers topics on how videogames are designed and how they can be improved. Over the past several years they’ve covered a wide range of topics including Free to Play Games, Combining Game Genres, Graphics vs Aesthetics, and many others.
Starting back in April, the Extra Credits team has been adding new types of content to their weekly rotation, including Extra Remix, James Recommends, and the just recently announced Design Club. Extra Remix is focused on discussing and promoting the work of videogame remix artists. Host Dan Floyd introduces viewers to a new artist each week, giving some background information on the artist and playing some examples of their work. Each episode ends with a full remix track to showcase the artist’s abilities. So far they’ve dedicated episodes to artists like Big Giant Circles, Zircon, and CarboHydroM. They even dedicated an entire episode to the site Overclocked ReMix (seen below).
It’s an interesting web series that highlights the work of some very talented remix artists. This is a great way to get introduced to some new music remixers, or to become more familiar with the people behind some of your favorite VGM remixes. A new episode of Extra Remix goes up every Tuesday. Be sure to check this web series out.
Final Fantasy is a series that has always had a special place in my heart. Part of this is due to the memorable moments of gameplay that I’ve experienced throughout the years, but a big part of what has kept me coming back to the games is the excellent music. Nobuo Uematsu’s music in particular is some of the most memorable music in the franchise. When I first started getting into game music, his tunes were some of the first pieces that I attempted to learn at the piano. The creation of the Piano Collections albums and the later Piano Opera albums were something that I could enjoy both as a gamer and a pianist. After an almost two year hiatus, a brand new Piano Opera album has finally emerged.
Piano Opera: Final Fantasy VII/VIII/IX is the third album in the Piano Opera series. Despite the name, there is no opera involved in these arrangements. The Piano Opera series focuses on arranging the music of the Final Fantasy games for solo piano. The previous two entries focused on the music from Final Fantasy I through VI. The first album featured music from Final Fantasy I, II, and III, while the second covered the music of Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI. For this third installment, Hiroyuki Nakayama returns as piano arranger and performer for the music of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. The pieces for this collection where selected by Uematsu himself, choosing only four entries from each game. What pieces made the final cut and how did Nakayama approach arranging these pieces for piano? Read on to find out. (more…)
It’s finally here! The third and long awaited installment of the Piano Opera: Final Fantasy albums has been unleashed to the world. As we reported a few months back, this newest album from Square Enix features piano arrangements by Hiroyuki Nakayama of the Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX soundtracks. Pieces featured on this arrange album include “Liberi Fatali,” from Final Fantasy VIII; “Rose of May,” from Final Fantasy IX; and “Those Who Fight Further,” from Final Fantasy VII.
Each album in this series has covered selections of music from three Final Fantasy games. The first of this album series focused on Final Fantasy I, II, and III, while the second entry contained selections from Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI. It should be noted that these piano arrangements are different from the previously released Piano Collections albums. Nakayama’s interpretations of Nobuo Uematsu’s music on these arrange albums are all completely new.
The Piano Opera: Final Fantasy VII/VIII/IX album is currently available on iTunes. For those of you looking for a physical copy of the album, it is currently available on CD Japan. However, it appears that the first press versions of the physical disc, a version that usually comes with a special sleeve case, has already sold out. We will have a review for Piano Opera: Final Fantasy VII/VIII/IX on Original Sound Version in the coming days. Be sure to check back for our full coverage of the album.