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A Composer's Guide to Game Music (MIT Press) Hardcover – February 14, 2014

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  • A Composer's Guide to Game Music (MIT Press)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Phillips provides an excellent introductory look at a complex and evolving artistic field. This is not a music and computer science (CS) degree in 270 pages, but a conversation with a friend who quite logically lays out the field... Anyone connected with gaming will enjoy the result.

(Computing Reviews)


Already an acclaimed book, Phillips' hands-on insights and advice make this one a keeper.

(Music Connection Magazine)


You won't find a more comprehensive guide... this book is a welcome delight.

(Robert Workman, Retro Videogame Magazine)


A Composer's Guide to Game Music, Phillips's 2014 book, offers a level-headed worker's tour of a fantasy-fueled world... Phillips thoroughly covers why music matters... and she calmly guides the reader through new and old world compositional problems...(Phillips's book) simply aims to be transparent and generous, and to offer a sensible, clear, and methodically minded explanation of how work happens in an illusory world.

(The Los Angeles Review of Books)

Winifred Phillips's passion and understanding of this medium comes to life on the page and is a direct result of her vast experience and accomplishment in composing for video games. This is not just compulsory bedside reading for budding games composers, but a fine achievement in itself. Bravo!

(Harry Gregson-Williams, Composer of Shrek, Narnia, Kingdom of Heaven, and the Metal Gear Solid series)

An important, deep, and rare exploration of video game music by one of the medium's smartest and most talented voices. You may not know the name Winifred Phillips but if you play games, you absolutely know -- and love -- her creations!

(David Jaffe, Director of God of War and the Twisted Metal series)

When I began writing for games over 20 years ago, I wish there had been a book like this to guide me through the process, art, and business of scoring for games. Winifred Phillips's book is an excellent combination of practical techniques along with the human touch of a game composer's real-life experiences.

(Michael Sweet, Artistic Director, Video Game Scoring, Berklee College of Music)

This book accurately illustrates the video game composer's task, which is to create music that perfectly complements an existing artistic vision. While the video game industry has its unique set of processes, for the aspiring composer, musicianship is the key to success. In the same manner, Winifred Phillips has excelled in this genre thanks to her musical talent.

(Didier Lord, Head of Music, Ubisoft)

Although the text on the inside of the book's dust jacket explains that A Composer's Guide To Game Music offers "indispensable guidance for musicians and composers", Phillips' book deserves a wider audience. Even with no formal music training and no real interest in video gaming, I found that there is much to enjoy. The content is well-balanced so that those who have an interest in composing music for video games and people who have a more general interest in the use of music in games, film and television can learn a lot from this book.

(Alan Rogers Reel Music)

A Composer's Guide To Game Music is partly educational and partly inspirational...a great introduction to this specialist art.

(Sound on Sound)

An excellent guide for a musician or composer…this is a very insightful and engaging book and a very solid read especially for aspiring composers looking to break into the industry.

(NY Film Music Examiner)

The core of the book is a set of chapters that delve into the actual craft of writing game music in a way that few, if any, other books have ever done… tremendously valuable to composers.

(Tracksounds)

A Composers Guide to Game Music is hands down a must have for everyone interested in game music.

(The Audio Spotlight)

Between the real life experiences and the step-by-step walkthroughs of how certain things work, this is essential material for budding musicians looking for their first big break -- or perhaps veterans looking for fresh inspiration.

(Push Square)

Phillips does not simply set out to address how to be a video game composer. Her intent is that her readers will understand what it means to actually create and compose… A Composer's Guide to Game Music is set to become a touchstone academic achievement.

(Film Score Monthly)

A beautifully organized, intelligently written book about music for games... Gamers as well as composers may be fascinated by her thorough analysis of what music works, and why, in various game genres... The challenges unique to game composers are discussed at length.

(Jon Burlingame The Film Music Society)

I devoured the inside information... I have been inspired and informed a great deal... I will be returning to this guide frequently and keeping it close to my workstation to give me a point of reference when in need.

(Game Music Online)

Award-winning game composer Winifred Phillips has written the definitive book on scoring for video games. A Composer's Guide to Game Music has been published by The MIT Press and is a thoroughly comprehensive guidebook to the concept, practice, art, and technology of providing music for this growing cinematic medium.

(BuySoundtrax)

(Phillips) may be one of the most dedicated and articulate composers working today, and her latest work -- a book-length intro guide to the highly specialized craft of game music -- is a meticulously written tome in which every stage of her craft is contextualized with historical, philosophical, and personal examples… Rating: Excellent.

(KQEK)

A Composer's Guide to Game Music, Phillips's 2014 book, offers a level-headed worker's tour of a fantasy-fueled world… Phillips thoroughly covers why music matters… and she calmly guides the reader through new and old world compositional problems…(Phillips's book) simply aims to be transparent and generous, and to offer a sensible, clear, and methodically minded explanation of how work happens in an illusory world.

(Los Angeles Review of Books)

About the Author

Winifred Phillips is an award-winning game composer. Some of her video game credits include Assassin's Creed Liberation, Total War Battles: KINGDOM, God of War, multiple games in the LittleBigPlanet franchise (including LittleBigPlanet 3), The Da Vinci Code, Speed Racer, Shrek the Third, Spore Hero, and many others. Phillips is also the author of the bestselling book, A Composer's Guide to Game Music (The MIT Press 2014), which won the Global Music Award Gold Medal for an exceptional book in the field of music, and was described by The Boston Globe as "the first book designed to help experienced musicians brave the transition to the world of game composing." Phillips has received an Interactive Achievement Award / D.I.C.E. Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, three Hollywood Music in Media Awards, five Game Audio Network Guild Awards, three Global Music Awards, an IGN Best Score Award, a GameSpot Best Music Award, a GameZone Score of the Year Award, a GameFocus Award, and three Gracie Awards from the Alliance of Women in Media. She has released fifteen albums. Her soundtrack album for the Legend of the Guardians video game was the first video game soundtrack album released by WaterTower Music, the film music record label of Warner Bros.  Music Connection Magazine described her as a "superstar of video game music."
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262026643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262026642
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I just purchased this book at Game Developer's Conference 2014 a few days ago. I have to say, I'm thoroughly impressed with the content. There are a few other game audio related books out there that are also good reads, but none of them approach the subject from this particular angle, and with the level of academic finesse that Phillips has.

From the beginning, it's clear that the author draws from a variety of academic disciplines to explain aspects of game audio that are below the surface. I especially appreciate the number of psychological references and studies that she brings into the discussion of music cognition, and how a composer can use those modes of understanding in writing our music.

It should be said that the voice of this book assumes a proficient understanding of composition, music theory, and musical styles, but there are still many valuable insights for those who are beginning as composers as well.

Overall, the main premise of the book could be summed up by encouraging composers to think and be purposeful. Everything from the types of musical styles that we write, to the types of gamers we write for can have purpose and intent beyond throwing a few notes into a sequencer that sound "epic." The author takes quite a few chapters explaining, quite eloquently, that being a composer for games is a unique art form which asks us to be in service of the story, while maintaining our individual voice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to any video game composers who have no clue how to even start their careers. The book goes into the video game business, video game composition techniques, and gear among other helpful topics. I am a composer who originally wanted to write for TV and film, but recently decided video game music was the way to go instead. I randomly heard of this book and I just bought it since I wasn't too familiar with the business or as it turns out, the writing process and needs of music in video games. It turn out to be a great investment. So in conclusion, take it from my review and the other positive reviews, and put this in your cart right now!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Winifred has written an excellent book that outlines several concepts necessary to utilize in order to succeed as a modern game composer. The introductory tone of the book is analytical and scientific (which I genuinely appreciate) and it outlines in meticulous detail an overview of what to expect from the craft; as well as what may be expected of the song writer.

This book is applicable to any composer, though it is absolutely catered to the game composer. Several scientific studies and papers are discussed in order to educate and inform, but NEVER to dictate creative choices, which the author goes out of her way a number of times to point out. As a nerd, I really appreciated the in depth discussions of how modern science can contribute to the process but I never once felt like she was suggesting that this should trump the creative instinct of the writer; a perspective that I think would serve modern musicians well. I’ve worked with musicians in the past that really have a problem with utilizing this informed approach (it’s all feeeling maaann), which I don’t think I’ll ever understand, as there are countless examples of beautiful art that came out of this technique.

A number of concepts introduced are totally fascinating: Aleatoric music, Shepard Tones, The Idee Fixe. These topics provided endless inspiration and I’ll be rereading them again in the future as often as necessary. The author utilizes the visualization technique (discussed extensively in the book ‘Flow’, which you should read right now) to demonstrate the concept of the ‘linear loop’; by imagining a scenic forest that one walks through on a pleasant day and never realizes is just a loop that repeats endlessly as new stimuli is cleverly introduced.

The book offers a great deal more that what I’ve mentioned and I’m certain that anyone interested in working as a game composer would do well to read it; it will be within arms reach in my studio for a very long time.
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Format: Hardcover
A while back, I wrote my first impressions on Winifred Phillips' soundtrack to Assasin's Creed: Liberation. I was completely enamored with the music, and wondered who was behind such beautiful scoring. Soon after continuing my education I came across her book "A Composer's Guide To Game Music," and I knew I had to read it.

I wasn't disappointed. Phillips' research delves into the concepts that many aspiring game composers wish to partake, but also shines light on topics of subsequent importance such as managing workflow, being a member of a development team, and even offering her personal opinions on the purpose and place of the art form within the art form.

"As game composers, we have the responsibility to aspire to an ever more meaningful level of artistry in our music. The more ambition and fearless we are in our craft, the more we can help video games reach that level of emotional resonance that defines the nature of true art."

Truer words could not be said. I highly recommend this book to those who wish to pursue a serious career in game music composition. This body of work more than easily shows how to get the job done.

Thank you, Winifred, for a fantastic reading experience!
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