Today the Playstation Blog featured an article by Austin Wintory (composer of flOw) that talks about a lot of behind-the-scenes information regarding his musical work for an upcoming release by thatgamecompany (flOw, Flower) called Journey. Coupled with gorgeous visuals, the game looks to have a beautiful soundtrack. If you’d like to check out the whole article, you can here, but here are some highlights:
Check out “Woven Variations” and listen to it as you’re reading–the music really gives substance to Wintory’s words. Wintory’s own description of the piece:
In April 2011, I wrote a miniature cello concerto for Tina [Guo, his "dear friend and cello superstar"]… The piece is not really a suite of my music from Journey, but more of an extrapolation. It’s an exploration of the material, taken to entirely different places.”
One of the inspirations for Journey was Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey.’ The knee-jerk assumption is that something this big demands epic music on the most towering scale yet my gut led me in the opposite direction. While there are definitely some big moments, I would actually describe it as intimate overall.”
I love this idea. Personally, I feel that “epic,” as a word and as a sound, has grown stale. These days, the tendency to use it so much undermines its “epicness,” so, naturally, something else needs to take its place. From the sounds of Wintory’s work, “intimate” might just become the new “epic.”
And yet for how ‘high-tech’ we were, this music is utterly unconcerned with technology. It is all about emotional meaning. This is part of what makes Journey itself so special. The game has no fluff, no filler. I think of it like a poem.”
I wouldn’t expect the soundtrack of Journey to be “high-tech” in the first place, but electronic additives atop an orchestral score is something very common in VGM. Wintory notes that his music features a number of soloists, which will certainly add to the “emotional meaning.” Along with what I hear, his descriptor of the soundtrack being “like a poem” has me swooning already.
Over the three years it has taken to compose the whole score to Journey, Wintory developed an interesting compositional process. Continuing from the first quote, when he refers to the April 2011 concert as being “an exploration of the material, taken to entirely different places”:
This ended up going even further… when I conducted a concert featuring the LA Master Chorale, where I created a single hour-long piece (based on the same ‘Hero’s Journey’ archetype) by stitching together various works in the repertoire and using my Journey music as the glue. Because Journey was still being actively worked on, I would then take the lessons learned from these concerts and apply them to the actual score. A peculiar process emerged from this, where the tangents started informing the core project, as if my career were a table of people all talking back and forth to each other, instead of a normal, forward-moving single file line.”
It’s fantastic that he was able to work in this manner. Typically, rehearsals will determine changes; or, as in jazz, different directions taken in a piece by the musicians with whom one is playing might influence the composer to rework his composition. While Wintory’s process was more like the latter situation, he takes that idea and makes it more personal since other musicians aren’t necessarily the ones causing the influence–he influenced himself. As he was working on Journey, his own, new works that played along the same lines provided new, different ideas that he wrapped back into Journey. It’s like a baker who makes a cheesecake and wants to make a different kind of cheesecake, and after making the new kind, s/he comes up with an idea to take part of that recipe and fuse it back in with the original, therefore enhancing it. Awesome.
I’m really excited to hear and play Journey and to check out Wintory’s other works. Look for more on him in the near future.