|Artist Spotlight: Austin Wintory
Austin Wintory is a Grammy nominated American composer – partially known for the highly acclaimed video game scores for flOw and Journey, but also for the 2009 Sundance hit, Grace and the 2008 Sundance Audience Award winning, Captain Abu Raed. In addition Austin is the first composer ever to receive a Grammy nomination for a video game score.
Tell us a little bit about your musical background- and influences?
AW: I discovered music suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 10 and my parents, virtually out of nowhere, got me a piano teacher. At practically that first lesson my teacher introduced me to Jerry Goldsmith, and I was never the same. Once I got to high school I started conducting the orchestra and basically have been single-mindedly obsessed ever since.
How did you make the transition after graduating into the professional world?
AW: Well I supposed my transition came before graduation from college. I went to USC for undergrad and grad programs, and before I was done there I had occasion to meet Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago. That led to working on Jenova’s master’s thesis flOw, which was then immediately bought by Sony to turn into a PS3 title. The game was out by the time I graduated. I also was very lucky to land a film around that time that ended up going to Sundance and winning the Audience Award, and it’s been a pretty steady stream of both films and games since. In the last couple of years my concert music work has already dramatically stepped up.
Journey is gorgeous game, both visually and musically. The game concept was to make the player feel small. You said in an interview that one of the ways you tried to achieve that feeling was by using a Solo Cello. What made you choose that instrument in particular?
AW: First off, thank you so much. It was a dream to work on, unlike anything else I’ve ever done. As for the solo cello, I honestly don’t have a good answer. It’s a color I really love, and my soloist (Tina Guo) is someone who seems to infinitely inspire me. So it just sort of clicked. As much thought as I put into most of my compositional decisions in composing, this one was basically pure instinct!
You had a good amount of time (3 years I believe) to work on the Journey soundtrack. Do you think that that had a major impact on the score?
AW: Without a doubt. I couldn’t have written the score, especially in terms of interactivity, in less time. Also the game evolved a lot in that span, and had very nuanced emotional material. Keeping up with the design and its core ideas were what kept me occupied, as opposed to needing to write endless piles of music, or doing constant rewrites based on feedback, etc.
One of the strong points of the Journey score was that it has a very romantic and overall unique and universal sound. How did you achieve that in the orchestration? Did you favor specific instruments?
AW: I mainly just tried to avoid cultural clichés. T