On August 26, 2021, Audiokinetic hosted its fifth edition of the Interactive Music Symposium, bringing together composers from the music, film, and video game industries, among several others, for a meeting of the minds about the future of interactive music.
Audiokinetic’s goal has always been to build bridges for composers coming from the linear world and introduce them to the specificity of composing for interactive media. With this event, we reached out to thought leaders with the hope of answering the question of, “Where are we now, 3 years following our last Interactive Music Symposium, and how has the craft evolved?” You’ll find a summary of the presentations and panels, as well as full videos from the livestream, below!
Before the Tech & Unfreezing a Town with Story and Transitions
Kristofer Eng (Composer/CEO at Elias Software AB) and Gustaf Grefberg (Composer at Hazelight Studios) kicked off the event by sharing their experience as co-composers for the action-adventure game “It Takes Two”. For the first half of their presentation, titled “Before the Tech”, Kristofer highlighted the importance of the prep work that goes into composing and arranging for a game, and provided examples of how scores are composed to evolve. He dived deep into the Vacuum Boss fight music, as well as how and why he and Gustaf set up rules and strictly followed them throughout their collaboration.
For the second half of their presentation, titled "Unfreezing a Town with Story and Transitions", Gustaf touched upon his approach to scoring, as well as what composing for a video game level looks like, from story structure, to the implementation of finished tracks. He also explained how they set out to match the music system with the game’s constant journey forward into new worlds, staying away from loops and music that was noticeably systematic.
To wrap up, Kristofer and Gustaf expressed how much they enjoyed co-composing “It Takes Two”, how they got to combine their different and somewhat-overlapping skill sets, and how the collaboration ended up feeling like a very healthy competition, where they constantly encouraged one another to learn and “step up their game”.
Panel Discussion | Music Outsourcing Workflows
This panel was moderated by Richard Ludlow (Audio Director at Hexany Audio) and featured panelists Andrea Chang (Audio Director at Hi-Rez Studios), Chance Thomas (Composer at Chance Thomas Music & President at HUGEsound Records), and James Wallace (Music Director at EA Create Audio). It offered unique insight, including individuals from both sides of the table — James and Andrea providing the Music/Audio Director perspective, and Richard and Chance providing the perspective of a composer collaborating with a developer or publisher. Topics included: setting expectations when coming onto a new project as a freelance composer, whether implementation is a necessary skill for composers today, thoughts on specialization and getting pigeonholed into that specialty, how to hang on to certain rights, thoughts on mixing sound design and composition work in your portfolio and rescoring existing games in your reels, and overall advice for freelance composers & sound designers trying to get their foot in the door today.
Building Drama with Data
Joe Thwaites (Principal Composer & Music Producer at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe) discussed how to use interactive music to score gameplay, using examples from the 3D multiplayer platformer adventure game Sackboy: A Big Adventure. He started off by introducing the basic interactive music design systems (horizontal resequencing, vertical layering, stingers and embellishments, runtime processing), and then dived into how his team used these systems for different circumstances to help elevate the scores.
Panel Discussion | Music Design
This panel was moderated by Guy Whitmore (Studio Head at Formosa Interactive Seattle) and featured panelists Lydia Andrew (Senior Audio Director at Ubisoft Quebec City), Chase Bethea (Composer & Technical Audio Designer), Elvira Björkman (Music Composer at Two Feathers Studio), Olivier Derivière (Composer), and Austin Wintory (Composer). They contributed with their diverse perspectives and experiences and discussed how they approach composing music for a game, how they present themselves to clients, and whether they see scripting and implementation skills as part of a composer’s natural path today.
Making Interactive Music for Linear Composers
Ressa Schwarzwald (Audio Lead at Creative Mobile) showcased how using MIDI, microcontrollers, and game controllers can make composers' lives easier. Topics included DAW MIDI mapping, using a gamepad as a MIDI controller, haptic feedback effects with Reaper and the DualSense controller, using real instruments as MIDI controllers, MIDI & game controllers with Wwise, MIDI & game controllers with game engines, and microcontrollers!
Thank you to those who joined us live and asked questions, and a huge thank you to all of the amazing speakers for taking the time out of their busy schedules to share their experience with the community!
All Interactive Music Symposiums are available for public viewing here. This includes Interactive Music Symposium 2021, as well as those that were held in London & LA back in 2018.