Game Music Connect, the international video game music conference, has announced some new sessions for their third annual gathering to be held in London on September 15th. Chuck Doud, Sony America’s Director of Music, will be the opening keynote speaker for the session “Vision Talk: Emotional Resonance in Video Game Music”.
Having worked on major Sony properties from The Last of Us and Gold of War to Journey, he “brings a unique game music world view [...] as he discusses Sony’s current and future visions for video game scoring and celebrates the vital role music plays in today’s and tomorrow’s interactive entertainment experiences, together with the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.” It will, no doubt, be a great session to step back and take a look at where modern game music is at. With so many games coming to so many platforms it’s harder than ever to get that kind of perspective nowadays.
One of those upcoming platforms for new games is virtual reality and Sony expects music to be supremely important and supremely challenging to incorporate with it. Since beginning development of Project Morpheus, the VR headset for PlayStation 4, Sony’s in-house music team created a series of trials to study the “aesthetics and functionality of scores for VR”. Their goal was to create “implementation systems which harness the inherent power of music without disturbing user immersion”. In the session “Virtual Reality & The Meaning of Music” Alastair Lindsay and Joe Thwaites, two music producers from Sony Europe, will demonstrate their findings. There’s sure to be some insightful (and potentially disorienting) revelations about sound and VR in this one.
You can check out much more on Game Music Connect 2015, its panels and presenters, and how to buy tickets to attend at the official homepage.
The classic, simple sounds of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from the era of 8-bit video game music are for many, including myself, very nostalgic and heartwarming. This is where it all began! Video games have come so far from these original beeps and boops; now there are live orchestras performing this music, sometimes in the game itself, and they even tour around the world to perform. Many people love these sounds and music for the memories they hold, but even so, they may not want to listen to them regularly when they’re not playing these games. And if you play an original NES tune for anyone who doesn’t have similar cherished memories of sitting around playing video games while their mothers begged them to go outside, they’ll probably cringe at the cacophony of fake, electronic noise that you’re subjecting them to. Chances are they will be bewildered that anyone would enjoy such a thing or find value in it, even if they’re too polite to say so.
I am one of the folks who believes that there is a lot to be admired about the music from the 8-bit era of video games, and I believe that there is a lot that contemporary composers can learn from this body of work. If you listen closely, you can hear how composers writing for the NES learned to treat these sounds as instruments, not just sounds, and how they managed to create music, instead of just noise.
Software company Impact Soundworks has launched a weeklong sale on their sample libraries, with products on sale for as much as 40% off. This includes the guitar pack Shreddage, world instrument packs like Sitar Nation, and scoring tools Celestia and Vocalisa. There’s also special 15% sales on software bundles. These include a full Shreddage: Rock Band Bundle, a Complete World Bundle, and an Everything Bundle.
We’ve reviewed a few of these sample libraries in the past. In particular we’ve taken a look at Celestia: Heavenly Sound Design, Rhapsody: Orchestral Percussion, and Pearl: Concert Grand. The sale ends on August 3rd, so be sure to check out the offers before they end. I know I’ll be grabbing some of the music tools that have been on my wishlist. You can check out the full list of products for the Summer Sale on the Impact Soundworks website.
The YouTube channel ClassicGameJunkie just recently started a new video series called How Did They Do That!? which aims to dissect a specific mechanic or effect from a game. Their latest episode focuses on the dynamic music of Rare’s Nintendo 64 classic, Banjo-Kazooie. It’s not a technical deep-dive but the video does a good job of explaining how Grant Kirkhope pulled it off in just under four minutes.
It’s totally worth watching just for the final few moments where they layer six of the game’s tracks over one another. It must be that trademarked Kirkhope genius because it sounds just as good as each track does on its own. Check it out up above.
Of the various subjects that we like to cover on Original Sound Version, we occasionally turn our attention to the music tech side of game music. While our focus is primarily on the soundtracks and arrange/remix albums for game music, we also feel it’s important to review and examine some of the tools available to musicians, remixers, and composers. With that in mind, today we will be taking a look at Pearl Concert Grand, a new piano sample library from Impact Soundworks.
Pearl Concert Grand initially caught my attention because, being a composer myself, I’m always on the lookout for more realistic sounding piano libraries to use on my projects. Due to my classical music background, I have some very high standards for the quality of orchestral sample libraries. Piano sample libraries in particular have always had shortcomings in my experience. After years of performing on real pianos, I’ve never been able to find a decent substitute when using digital pianos or samples for performance or for composing. Technology for samples and digital sounds have certainly improved over the years, and Pearl Concert Grand is one of the more recent attempts to capture the true sound of the piano in a sample library. So with my high standards and a healthy dose of skepticism in mind, let’s take a look at this new piano sample library from Impact Soundworks. (more…)
I first started writing music on a computer in 1987, and nearly 30 years later I realized how important simple, fundamental things really are. My youngest son is five, and was taken by a 25 key synthesizer I recently acquired (the Korg Triton Taktile 25). He wanted one too, and I told him “you can have one, but you need to learn at least a little music first. This is no toy.” And with those words I realized the same words were just as true for me.
So with that in mind, with this bit of writing I’m going to talk about MODs, and the Demo Scene.
As part of the backer updates on the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter project, the game’s development process has been documented in a video series by 2 Player Productions. The multi-part documentary includes interviews with the staff, at various points of Broken Age‘s development cycle, and behind-the-scenes footage of the creation process. A select number of episodes feature content about the game audio side of Broken Age‘s production. The first fourteen episodes of the documentary are now available to non-backers on the Double Fine YouTube channel.
(The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing “Battle at Shellmound”)
Part of Episode 11, “Ship It,” takes viewers to Peter McConnell’s studio as he writes music for one of Broken Age’s cutscenes and explains his process for composing and finding inspiration for his music. There’s even more game audio covered in Episode 13, “Crash Landing a Plane.” This episode features Camden Stoddard and the rest of the Double Fine audio team working on foley and sound design, while McConnell works with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to record some of the larger orchestral pieces for the soundtrack.
If you haven’t had the chance to watch the Double Fine Adventure documentary, it’s a fascinating look at the development of the first part of Broken Age. The episodes mentioned above are highly recommended viewing, especially if you’re a fan of the game’s music and audio. Be sure to check those episodes out, and the complete documentary itself.
It’s just a few more days until the Game Developers Conference kicks off in San Francisco. Like the professionals they are, the website’s nifty shortcuts can direct you to the Audio Track Sessions listed for the event. The Audio Track is comprised of the panels dealing with game music and game audio production.
The Audio Track brings the industry’s top professionals to share their knowledge and experience from the real-world, addressing these unique problems: aesthetic, technical, business, logistical and then some.
The highlighted sessions for 2015 feature panels such as “Soundtracking Hell – The Music of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls” and “Women in Game Audio” (Something that should interest any fans of our “Matron Maestras” articles), amongst others. An entire session schedule can be found of GDC’s website with dates, times and other pertinent details. It’s a pretty expansive list, showcasing just how technical the world of video game music has become.
I’m quite jealous of our own Michael Hoffman, who will be attending the event for OSV. For anyone else making it to the conference who’s a fan of the audio side of gaming, this is something you’ll want to browse through.
GDC 2015 – Audio Track
Creators of a new game documentary have launched a Kickstarter. The project titled Beep is intending to take a look at the history of game music and sound. Everything from the old school sounds of arcade games all the way to the games of today. The focus isn’t just on the music of these games. The documentary will also be an exploration of audio design, voice work, and the use of chiptune and other game sound technology outside of the gaming medium. A book will also accompany the documentary to supply more detailed information about the various subjects covered in the film.
There are already plans for interviews with major members of the game audio community. Raising money through Kickstarter will aid the creators in being able to travel and interview composers and sound designers. Several composers have already been named for interviews including Tommy Tallarico, Winifred Phillips, Shota Nakama, Peter McConnell, and many more.
Rewards for backers include copies of the documentary, book, soundtrack, t-shirts, and many other physical rewards. The Kickstarter has already raised over $15,000 of the needed $40,000 pledge goal. If this sounds like a project you’d like to see made, definitely check this Kickstarter out.
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.
Have you ever wanted a place where you could go and pick from a pool of video game composers to find someone to create your game’s soundtrack? Well, that’s what our friends over at Scarlet Moon Productions decided to make available.
Scarlet Moon Artists is a group of talented game and media composers from around the globe who have come together to offer their services to game developers of any caliber in order to broaden their musical reach. And it’s a fantastic lineup of composers to be sure, spanning decades of experience. The group currently consists of:
Vince DiCola & Kenny Meriedeth (Rocky IV, Saturday Morning RPG, Transformers: The Movie)
Shinji Hosoe (Mega Man Network Transmission, Ridge Racer series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2)
Hiroki Kikuta (Koudelka, Secret of Mana, Soul Calibur V)
Osamu Kubota (Beatmania, Granado Espada)
Justin Lassen (Herbert the Misanthropic Fly, Otomedius Excllent, Synaethesia)
Goomin Nam (Bar Oasis series, Monarch: Heroes of a New Age, TalesWeaver)
Dale North (Dragon Fantasy Book II, OverClocked ReMix contributions, Silent Horror)
Jinbae Park (PangYa Portable, Ragnarok Online, Ridge Racer 7)
Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII, Gradius V, Valkyria Chronicles series)
So if you’re looking for a splash of musical excellence in a game you’re working on, why not check out Scarlet Moon Artists and see what they can do for you!