Behind the scenes of gaming's great soundtracks

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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  • lovinmyps3 - February 7, 2009 12:13 a.m.

    the best is the MGS soundtrack and oblivion, the music was played over and over and over yet it never got old
  • rotapunisher - January 30, 2009 7:08 a.m.

    god of war and MGS4 has great sound tracks i dont even have an xbox and halo had some pretty sweet music too
  • FriendlyFire - January 29, 2009 4:04 a.m.

    I, for one, find the God of War soundtrack to be a true masterpiece.
  • Over1imit - January 29, 2009 2:53 a.m.

    Video Games Live is an amazing experience. I highly recommend. Also, bring your DS, PSP, Cellphone--heck, even laptop-- You'll need it for the encore ;)
  • jackf-11 - January 29, 2009 12:48 a.m.

    Marty O'donnel and Michael Salvitori for the win. But I never really cared for the main Halo theme like Halo 3's One Final Effort as much as the rest of the Halo music. But more for Under cover of Night and it's variations.
  • ELpork - January 29, 2009 12:18 a.m.

  • hacksrfun - January 29, 2009 12:04 a.m.

    I went to VGL once gotta say I WOULD GO AGAIN
  • hacksrfun - January 29, 2009 12:03 a.m.

    I went to VGL once gotta say I WOULD GO AGAIN
  • skyguy343 - January 28, 2009 8:40 p.m.

    SotC had some nice music
  • noofer7 - February 22, 2009 12:38 p.m.

  • TrigunGunner - January 30, 2009 10:10 p.m.

    Wow, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with tons of video game music on my Ipod. I have 973 songs total,about half are anime music and the other half is videogame music.
  • Spybreak8 - January 30, 2009 7:33 a.m.

    Oh man I loved the theme song to Rocky, great game. Oh wait you mean the boxing game, ahh I thought you meant Rockford which we called Rocky. Loved that game and I tried to play it the other day but the motherboard sound was ear piercing lol. More related to this article, the Halo aaaaaeeehhhhaaahhhhaaa choir part puts chills on my spine every time.
  • productiontrax - January 29, 2009 6:13 p.m.

    Game composers have a great job -- who else gets to play video games for work? It's great to see that game producers are starting to (thanks to technological advances) place more emphasis on production value by sparing no expense in the recording process. It's a thrill for gamers to be engaged by good music... and real musicians.
  • vic88 - January 29, 2009 4:32 p.m.

    some of my buddies say that videogame soundtracks aren't real music, I tell them fuck you. I enjoy all sorts of music, especially videogame soundtracks
  • sakboy97 - January 29, 2009 3:55 a.m.

    I Thought Metal Gear Solid Series Has Some Great Music
  • atoxic - January 29, 2009 3:51 a.m.

    @taxtm: Looks like you need to visit OCRemix and VGMix:
  • CH3BURASHKA - January 29, 2009 1:10 a.m.

    I went to the Seattle VGL event and that was fucking awesome. I feel [not sorry, but] mad at the people are so ignorant as to avoid them completely, even when, as VGL proves, games have been elevated to the point of art, no matter how game-y they are. Metal Gear Solid music, for example, sends goosebumps every single time I hear it, those 'holy shit I'm in the presence of something magical' goosebumps. In short: fuck non-gamers. reCaptcha: Interclub SO
  • H2A2I00 - January 28, 2009 11:18 p.m.

    the metal gear solid series has a fantastic soundtrack
  • Taxtm - January 28, 2009 10:30 p.m.

    How sad is it that most of the music on my iPod, which currently has 950 songs on it, is from videogame or movie soundtracks. Ocarina of Time, Majoras Mask, and Twilight Princess, all from Z.R.E.O., Kingdom Hearts I & II, Halo I, II, & III, various Final Fantasy games, Fallout 3, and those are all just from games! Also, for those who don't know, Z.R.E.O. (Zelda Reorchestrated) is a non-profit group that creates reorchestrated versions of most songs from all the Zelda games. The songs are arranged into albumns, and all of their music is available for download at Luckely, because the guys there create their music for the public, rather than for profit, it's free on their site for download. If only their were groups like that for all good videogame soundtracks.
  • RonnyLive19881 - January 28, 2009 10:13 p.m.

    Thank god no one said the F word!

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