Behind the scenes of gaming's great soundtracks

Getting the world to take game music seriously, one note at a time

Composers still face stuffy attitudes. Even after the cultural expansion of game music, the classical hierarchy still looks down on it. The reality is, though, symphonies across the world are dying because they’re not connecting with younger generations. You either adapt or perish, and ventures like Video Games Live invigorate the art form.

“When we work with an orchestra for the first time,” says Tallarico, “some musicians inevitably page through the music and say “World of Warcraft? Sonic the Hedgehog? What is this?’ You see the older generation – the refined guys who have been doing this 30-40 years – looking at it with apprehension. But when they play the music for the first time, they realise it’s legitimate. Our inspirations are rooted in classical music: Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss.

“Besides, when Tchaikovsky debuted the 1812 Overture, he had live cannons firing on stage at the appropriate times. These guys were showmen! If he was around today he’d be using fancy lights, laser, video, whatever it takes. If Beethoven was alive today, he’d be a videogame composer. Make no mistake about it.”

Cool, calm, and composed: Four stunning game scores

Silent Hill (Akira Yamaoka)
Most of the early game composers couldn’t find a note in a bank, but Silent Hill’s melodies were uplifting, unnerving and drenched in loss and regret: all at once. E minor is the saddest key of all, especially when a disfigured nurse is trying to stove your brain in with an axe.

BioShock (Garry Schyman)
When you think of BioShock’s music, you think of the finger-snapping cabaret of Bing Crosby, but Schyman’s melodies wrapped around the walls of Rapture as succinctly as the Art Deco decor. Cohen’s Masterpiece is a standout, sounding the thin line between genius and lunacy.

Dead Space (Jason Graves)
Graves drew on influences from Jerry Goldsmith, the composer of Alien. “I love Jerry’s rhythmic style, especially being a classically trained percussionist. All those odd meters bouncing around and syncopated rhythms lend themselves to being unpredictable and catching the listener off guard,” he says of Dead Space.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Jeremy Soule)
With its dreamy, medieval-esque score, Soule’s orchestral maneuvers add to Oblivion’s sense of scale and mythology. Passing through long grass to the tune of Wings of Kynareth make you want to dress in a white shawl and head down to HMV to buy Enya’s back catalogue.

Jan 28, 2009

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