Austin Wintory talks about scoring video games like “Journey” and the concert “Mythos”

austinAustin Wintory is a composer known best for his scores to the acclaimed video game titles “flOw” and “Journey”. His score for “Journey” was the first video game to ever be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Austin is currently taking the role of conductor for the upcoming concert called “Mythos”, which is a 70 minute continuous musical presentation played by a 15 piece classical ensemble performing live the music of composers for Film, TV and Video Games. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Austin about the concert and what can we expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with conducting the concert “Mythos”?
Austin Wintory: “Mythos” is a concept I first had in 2011, which I conducted as part of a fundraiser for my non-profit Education Through Music – Los Angeles. The idea behind it was to mix together some of the most interesting, engaging music in today’s scene, totally regardless of the media from which it came. I was approached by Peter Sachon about performing video game music during New York Comic Con, and pitched back the idea of reprising “Mythos.” And here we are!

MG: Having done scores for video games like “flOw” and “Journey”; was this a natural transition for you?
AW: Yes I’m fortunate to have lots of conducting opportunities, which I love taking advantage of in the midst of composing commissions. I grew up conducting in concert, but eventually my primary outlet for it was in the recording studio for films or games, so the onslaught of concerts lately has been a joyous return!

MG: When you did the score to “Journey”, did you ever think that this would become a Grammy-nominated score and the only video game mythoseevery to be nominated in the “Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media” category?
AW: Needless to say, not in the slightest. And now, almost two years later, it’s not really sunken in. It’s no less surreal than it was that day.

MG: What is the video game(s) that influenced you to do what you do?
AW: The infectious and witty nature of Tim Schafer’s games was a big part of my early gaming, and the music Peter McConnell wrote for them was basically the first game music I truly loved. It all culminated in Grim Fandango, which I think is one of the greatest games ever made, and with a score to match. It’s such soulful, passionate music and all around brilliant game.

MG: Why do you think that 8-bit music has stood the test of time and still resonates with fans?
AW: Chiptunes, those authentic early 8-bit hardware-based scores, were a huge musical contribution. There was nothing really like it before then. Electronic music was, before then, an extension of either the classical or rock scenes, using analog synths and tape manipulation and such. This, in games, was something now totally different. I think a big part of why it still resonates today is that the music was forced to distill a lot of dramatic intention into a very narrow bandwidth. But also a lot of game developers AND gamers alike are nostalgic to the games – and game scores – of their childhoods. So it’s gotten a revival as children of the 80s now enter the mainstream of professional game development.

journeyMG: Can you tell us about little bit about what we can expect from upcoming game “ABZÛ”?
AW: Only that it’s still very early, and a massive delight to be re-teaming with Journey’s art director Matt Nava. I’m very very excited about this one!

MG: What can you tell us about your project “Our Curiosity”?
AW: This was a really special and wonderful experience. I’m a die-hard about NASA and scientific literacy in the general public, and this opportunity emerged to pay tribute to the Curiosity Mars Rover. An old friend, astrobiologist Jeff Marlow, had been working directly with the Curiosity team and so were able to get green lit to produce the tribute. We co-wrote the script, and then recorded our two narrators, actress Felicia Day, and acclaimed science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson. After that I wrote the score around the VO performances, and recorded it with a fantastic orchestra in Nashville. We co-directed the film and tossed it back to NASA who put it on YouTube. I like to think of it as an officially-sanctioned fan love letter.

MG: What else do you have in the works for the rest of the year and 2015?
AW: Lots and lots! But I will say, *hopefully* more Mythos performances!

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