80: Play On: The Composers Behind Today's Game Music

The Escapist Staff

New member
Jul 10, 2006
"As with anything, an appreciation of music without an understanding of it can only take one so far. Music is nice, in other words, but how does it get made? How does one become a musician, and how does one then set about making abstract noise into what can be called "music"? More specifically, how does one do all of this for a videogame, and why?

To get behind this music, I asked the musicians themselves."

Russ Pitts speaks to the composers behind some of today's most successful games.
Play On: The Composers Behind Today's Game Music
Jan 18, 2007
As a music composer from the "other side" (i.e. non mass-media realted music) I am very excited about the possibilities in music for computer games. I believe music has always progressed in a manner parallel to the main expressive art forms of the times it was made in: The symphony at the age of the novel, modern scores (Stravinsky, Bartok etc.) at the age of cinema, post modern music at the age of T.V. I think computer games and other modular forms of dramatic narrative are the art-form of today. The question is: how is music progression to follow? Consider film music for a moment: Film music has its start in the Piano accompanyist for silent film, usually improvising music to the events on the screen, having to change style and mood on a dime as the action on the screen dictates. The progression of the music? the way the music "Goes"? has necessarily been re-configued radically. When sound came around, this new approach got necessarily blurred somewhat with the employment of "serious" composers, coming from Europe and landing jobs in the film industry, who were crafting scores that harkened back to their training and musical backgrounds, namely "common era" europian music. The great majority of film scores, therefore, became instant immitations of great orchestral music from the late 19th century: Majestically orchestrated, with "big sound" and a slavish attitude towards the notion of "theme"- a theme for every character, a battle theme, a love theme and so on.
Those guys were NOT the only ones making scores for film, though; consider Carl Stalling, who composed the music for all the Looney Tunes animations: Sheer non-linear brilliance. Consider also Ennio Morricone, the composer of spaghetti westerns, whom, though usually theme based in his score writing due to professional necessity, still blurred the line between sound and music, ,making music that is equal parts sound effects and notes. There are many other examples.
In the gaming world, the piano accompanyist equivalent is the guy who made music for Super Mario Land, say, or 1943, little loops of FM synthesized sound that changed on a dyme, broke off, reconfigured and blended with the sound effects triggereed by player actions.
Now, musicians are in on the deal, and the same process of copying occurs- only now it's a copy of a copy: From late 19th century romantic scores, to film scores, to game scores. What's missing is a composer that would take the form of interactive action and modular progression, and run with it. To make music that is wholly modular- bits that fit together any which way and make musical sense, shrt segments of music that operate well in the beginning, middle, and end of sections, and still sound beautiful. The potential is endless and could inform the music world at large.
I guess this is my main source of frustration: I believe computer games present the form of the now, and their music doesn't follow.