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Matron Maestras – Winifred Phillips (Spotlight)

December 19, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Matron Maestras – Winifred Phillips (Spotlight)on Twitter

When Brenna first unveiled OSV’s Matron Maestras series, I was over the moon. Gender politics and volatile gaming culture aside, there’s no denying that the world of game music production is dominated by men. I don’t have a full database from which to do calculations (vgmdb doesn’t allow advanced artist search with filters on artist gender and artist type, such as composer arranger performer etc). Anecdotally, however, it seems to me that the West has an even harder time of it than Japan. I can easily name a dozen women composers from Japan; I would be hard-pressed to do the same among American and European VGM composers.

In wanting to support this new article series, I felt it best to highlight the contributions of the award-winning Winifred Phillips. This is a woman who is blazing a trail in the industry, and teaching others how to do it at the same time. No, really, she wrote the book on the matter (the first English-language book on the topic I’ve yet seen). This, in my mind, makes her both a scholar and a visionary, as she is able to adapt from formulaic composition to out-of-the-box creativity as needed.

After the jump, I’ll give you some examples to show you what I mean. And you’ll also see a list of recent accolades Ms. Phillips has received, demonstrating that I’m not the only one recognizing her talent.

Winifred has been writing music for all forms of media (film/TV, games, radio) for over a decade. In the realm of game music, her first work featured on a published soundtrack was God of War. She wrote five of the thirty songs in the game, all of which were on par with fellow composers Cris Velasco, Gerard K. Marino, and others. Not a bad way to enter the scene!

“Enthroned on Mount Olympus” – God of War
In 2009, Phillips had two soundtracks released digitally from EA: SimAnimals and Spore Hero. These were landmarks in Phillips’ career because, though they weren’t the first games she scored on her own, they were her first published soundtracks wherein she was the sole composer. Both of these EA titles featured vibrant, colorful worlds for these sim/adventure hybrid titles. Here is one of my favorite tracks from the latter title.

Ms. Phillips got her foot in the door with Sony and Media Molecule when she, alongside colleague and recording engineer Winnie Waldron, wrote the music for the LittleBIGPlanet 2 DLC pack for Toy Story. I wrote about this set of music (which, sadly, has not been formally published by anyone to date) back in 2011.

In the past month, we saw the release of LittleBIGPlanet 3, and even before the game has had a soundtrack release (and before I’ve personally had the chance to play the game), Winifred won a prestigious Hollywood Music in Media award for her song “Ziggurat Theme.” This is Winifred’s third such award from HMiM, the other two being for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Legend of the Guardians.

(Regarding the LBP3 HMiM win, this interview from Push Square is a worthwhile read!)

Working backwards from LBP3, we find my personal favorite among Winifred Phillips’ works thus far: AC3 Liberation. Originally a PS Vita exclusive, Liberation joined up with AC3 proper with an HD upgrade and was released for PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows (Steam etc). I noted in my review of the soundtrack (link above) that while it may only be coincidence, Liberation was the first title in the series featuring a female protagonist, and it was also the first game in the series with a woman as a composer. And there was no better choice for that role than Winifred Phillips. Check this out:

“Mayan Labyrinth” – Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
If you think that’s beautiful, that’s one of 26 tracks from the OST, with all manner of variation across the soundtrack. The quality, however, remains high throughout. It really is quite good.

Finally, as I mentioned in the introduction, Ms. Phillips wrote the book on game music composition and production. The book, published by MIT Press, recently had a second print run after the first print sold out within its first year! Furthermore, the Global Music Awards (GMAs) gave a Gold Medal award (the highest level award offered) to this book for its excellence. It was the only entry in the “book” category to receive an award this season (GMAs are awarded every three months). The proof of the win is here on the organization’s site.

So it seems, as I stated earlier, that we at OSV are not the only ones who recognize Winifred Phillips’ talent, her sheer prowess in her craft and her ability to explain that craft. And, while we’re all quite happy she’s leading the charge, there is no question that if we’re going to see more Matron Maestras in the world of VGM in the coming years and decades, there must be more like her that can cast aside the boys-club intimidation and simply be their own person, writing great music … and articles … and books!

Winifred Phillips – Official Site | Composer Blog

VGMdb – Profile

Other Spotlights:

Tomoko Sasaki

Eveline Fischer

Michiru Oshima

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