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A Composer's Guide to Game Music (MIT Press) Hardcover – February 14, 2014
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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.
Already an acclaimed book, Phillips' hands-on insights and advice make this one a keeper.
You won't find a more comprehensive guide... this book is a welcome delight.
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)
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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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.
To put it a different way, if you're looking to join the game industry as a composer, this is the book that will set you on the right path.
If you're already in the game industry as a composer but lack vision of how/where to proceed with your career, this book will set you on the right path.
If you're in the game industry as another discipline, this will give you serious insight into how much work goes into making music, and how important it is to choose the right candidate.
The video game industry is a weird, scary place. Everyone's success story is different and there is nothing about it that is streamlined - there's no clear way to get into it at all. Hopefully that will change in the future but for now - this book is the best resource you can get.
In addition to the new vocabulary gained by visiting the authors world, there are are great many examples of how techniques have been applied in prominent games, many from the author's own portfolio.
Even if you are not interested in writing for video games Winifred's discussion (again supported by research) of the effect that music has on the listener's emotional state of mind is extremely valuable to any composer.
I have read many books on composition, theory and composers. I must say that I learned more about my craft than many!
As a graduate student of music composition, I spend a lot of time writing, but my school is not particularly well funded in the areas of electronic music and has no experience with the gaming industry. Winifred Phillips did a wonderful job in providing a clear manual that can focus my gaming oriented aspirations and provide a path forward, which is a quality of the best of teachers.
The book describes many things including vertical layering, the essential nature of the composer, the nature of the gaming industry, and applications of many traditional musical concepts. It does not stop there, but delves into the world of interactive audio and even into the field of getting a job (the aspect oft forgotten).
I know I will be buying a second copy to donate to the music library, and I hope anyone else who stops by this page gives the book a chance. I don't believe you will regret the decision.