More and more soundtrack composers from the film industry become professionally involved in electronic entertainment. It comes as no surprise, then, that the new generation of artists join the ranks of composers scoring video games. One of such people is Austin Wintory, the author of the soundtrack to flOw and the recently released PS3 game Journey by the Thatgamecompany studio and SCEA Santa Monica.
His music functioned as an integral part of the game.
The fruit of the collaboration between the two studios was internationally well received and has proved that games by indie studios can not only be original, but can sometimes even become pieces of art. Austin Wintory greatly contributed to this success. His music functioned as an integral part of the game, but even in itself it won the hearts of the gamers all over the world. We hope you will enjoy the interview for GameMusic.net, in which the composer reveals his Polish origin.
gamemusic.net: While recording tracks for Journey, you were communicating with The Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra`s conductor over a distance. How did it influence the whole process of music creation? Are you satisfied with the final outcome?
Austin Wintory: Yes I am very satisfied! The contractor for the orchestra is named Laurent Koppitz and we became friends for over a year before Journey was ready to record. So I was able to really identify the orchestras strengths and compose music to feature that (such as their wonderful lyricism and gentle touch).
Originally I was going to conduct myself, as that’s my normal preference, but at the last second decided to stay in California and record remotely so I could continue composing right until the cutoff. So I corresponded with their local conductor and violinist Oleg Kontradenko. We walked through the music and discussed it in detail and he made me very confident. And he conducted very nicely and had a joyous personality during the recordings. It all worked out really really well!
gamemusic.net: In interviews you point out John William`s and Jerry Goldsmith`s works as a source of inspiration. Why those two artists are especially important for you? What influence did they have on your musical education?
Austin Wintory: Jerry Goldsmith especially! The reason I love Jerry so much is that he wrote music with freshness for his entire career. He never took for granted that he knew musical solutions based on craftsmanship. It’s almost as if he imagined that each new project was the first time I had ever written music. And that kept it very vital and original. I don’t aspire to sound like Jerry, but that way of thinking has influenced me deeply.
gamemusic.net: You often mention how important for the process of music creation is to have a main topic, which later on shape album image. Do you think that you managed to achieve the planned effect with music for Journey?
Austin Wintory: I definitely think through the entire project before I start composing, so I have a sense of where the music going, always. Journey was a long project so I had the luxury to constantly refine the music to fit that big picture.
gamemusic.net: It was official announced that there will be separate album realese with music for Journey. Can you please share with us, what can we expect?
Austin Wintory: The album will come out on iTunes and PlayStation Network on April 11th, and then on physical CD shortly after that (date not yet announced). The album will be about an hour long and contains basically the complete score to the game. I re-arranged a lot of the music to make it a nicer listening experience, which was actually a big challenge because it’s so interactive that just playing back how it sounds in-game is really boring. At least, I thought so! So the album is a little different. It’s a stand-alone experience. I’m very happy with how it’s turned out and can’t wait to share it with people! The respond to the music has been so overwhelming and exciting.
gamemusic.net: Reportedly works on Journey took 3 years. How much time did it take you to compose the complete score of the game? What was the biggest challenge you had to face?
Austin Wintory: I worked on it for the full 3 years. It was really wonderful because I got to see the game evolve and let my music evolve with it. The biggest challenge I think was making sure the music was of the same quality as the game! Thatgamecompany are all geniuses and I was constantly terrified that I would write music which wasn’t up to the level of their game. So I was very critical on myself during the process to try and prevent that.
The civilization around you in the game has influences in various societies. – Austin Wintory
gamemusic.net: Music for Journey, composed by you, render the exact view of the game. We have endless wilderness and remains of ancient civilization in form of ruins. In what dimension work on Journey influenced the process of tracks creation?
Austin Wintory: I didn’t want the music to feel ethnic or cultural in any way. The civilization around you in the game has influences in various societies but we really wanted the music to feel timeless and universal. So I didn’t make an effort to draw from anywhere, and in fact a few times the music accidentally sounded like it was from various cultures and so I would change to get rid of it. Like an early bit of music had some percussion which almost made it sound Arabic so we took that out. Or at one point it felt a little Irish so I change that too, etc.
gamemusic.net: I got an impression, that while writing the main topic for Journey and the whole album, you followed John William`s soundtrack for Memoirs of a Geisha, to be precise one track Sayuri`s Theme. Do you agree about that?
Austin Wintory: Any similarities are coincidental, except to say that I LOVE that score and think it’s one of Williams very best, after a long career of masterpieces. I didn’t try to emulate it or anything, but I’m sure it has influenced me.
gamemusic.net: Is that true that you would like to perform life in Poland? Why?
Austin Wintory: I would be thrilled to come to Poland and perform in concert! First off, because I love performing anywhere, but in particular Poland because it seems that people there have responded to Journey in the most beautiful way.
And I would love to share in that! Also, my family has deep history there (my great great grandparents were from the town of Görlitz, before World War I), and I have never been so I feel obligated to go and pay respects. I also have tremendous affinity for Polish composers like Lutoslawski and Penderecki, so it would be an honor to visit their native land!