Austin Wintory

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Austin Wintory
Born Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Genres Video game music, Film music
Occupations Composer, Conductor
Years active 2002–present
Labels Thatgamecompany
Associated acts Tina Guo
Website Austin Wintory : Composer

Austin Wintory is an American composer who has composed scores for films and video games.[1] He is particularly known for composing the scores to the acclaimed video game titles flOw and Journey, the latter of which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (the first ever for a video game).[2] His film efforts include the scores to the 2009 Sundance hit Grace, as well as the 2008 Sundance Audience Award winner Captain Abu Raed. Wintory has composed 300 scores since 2003.[3]

Beginning of game composing career and flOw[edit]

Wintory originally met Jenova Chen (who would later co-found Thatgamecompany) while both attended the University of Southern California.[4] After networking with an interactive media student at USC and scoring a small game project, his name was passed along to Chen, who asked Wintory to score his thesis project, flOw[4] (later re-released on PlayStation Network). Wintory, Chen and Nick Clarke developed the first version of flOw as a three-man team, with Wintory remarking that Chen had an incredible way of processing information, seeing far beyond code and reaching into the emotional implications of things.[4]

As a traditional orchestral student at the time, Wintory considered the music of flOw was radically unlike any he had written before.[4]

Wintory regards the pink area of the game, where the player controls a jellyfish-like creature, as the humorous area of the game, describing his music for it as almost "circus-like" compared to the overall soundtrack.[4]

Monaco[edit]

Originally, Monaco developer Andy Schatz sought out licensed music as a backdrop to the game's setting, feeling that the style of music needed was too esoteric to hire a composer. Wintory, however, was able to convince Schatz that he could create an original score that fit the project's vision. Likening 2D sprite-based games to the silent film era, Wintory agreed with the notion that the soundtrack to a game like Monaco should have an earnest yet self-aware nostalgic feeling, stating "There's no way to just objectively listen to that style of music without automatically being like 'This reminds me of a bygone era.'"[4] Wintory was excited at the chance to create an old-timey score with wit and humor, stating "when else am I ever going to be asked to write anything remotely like this?"[4]

Journey[edit]

Soundtrack development[edit]

Chen discussed looking for a central musical idea that would span the entire game, which ultimately took the form of the score's first track, "Nascence," recorded in April 2009.[4] Wintory credited the inspiration of hearing Chen discuss the project for how quickly the first musical ideas clicked in his mind.[4] According to Wintory, the primalness of Thatgamecompany's games, which are heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, appeal to a broad audience through the story of mankind rather than a more esoteric story. He did not consider the abstract storytelling of Journey as more or less difficult to score than other projects, only different.[5] he also described the experience of scoring in an abstract, parallel way as taken to a new level by Journey.[5]

Most of the soundtrack revolves around a group of solists (cello, bass/alto flute, harp, viola and serpent), plus a string orchestra (the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra) and various sound effects. Wintory approached the soundtrack as "essentially a cello concerto."[4] Cellist Tina Guo, who worked with Wintory on several scores, has been praised by Wintory as "a cellist of the highest caliber"[5] and was the first person Wintory thought of for the soundtrack on the day he first spoke with Thatgamecompany founder Jenova Chen about the game.[4] In April 2011, Wintory wrote "Woven Variations," a miniature cello concerto for Guo inspired by Journey's score, which the two performed together in Los Angeles.[6]

Wintory controlled the musical direction of the game based on his ideas, which were then "collaboratively messaged with Thatgamecompany."[4] Journey was Wintory's longest stint developing music for a project,[4] with the game's development lasting over 3 years. He felt the extended development time allowed him the freedom to place music into the game, yet sit on the ideas and receive detailed feedback from Thatgamecompany developers on the emotions they were looking for.[4] By directly working with Thatgamecompany to implement his audio as he wrote it, and playing the game alongside Thatgamecompany staff, Wintory had access to the game's complete experience and could make fully informed adjustments.[4]

The game and its music were generally developed in sequential order, resulting in Wintory's oldest written pieces arriving in the game's beginning.[4] As the development phase of the project expanded, Wintory looked back on older pieces, and felt he changed greatly as a person and a composer.[4] While Wintory made some changes to older pieces, he generally resisted reworking music written 1 1/2 to 2 years prior, feeling the need to preserve much of the naivete and innocence of the earlier work as its own kind of "emotional arc".[4]

Reception[edit]

The soundtrack was released as an album on April 10 on iTunes and PSN.[7] The album is a collection of the "most important" pieces of the soundtrack, arranged by Wintory to stand alone as an album without the context of the player's actions.[8] The album comprises 18 tracks and is over 58 minutes long. It features the voice of Lisbeth Scott for the final track, "I Was Born for This". After its release, the soundtrack reached the top 10 of the iTunes Soundtrack charts in more than 20 countries.[9] It also reached position 116 on the Billboard sales charts with over 4,000 sales in its first week after release, the second-highest of any video game music album to date.[10]

Leisure Suit Larry creator and original composer Al Lowe approached Wintory with scoring the Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded remake, since the Replay Games development team were fans of Journey.[11] After accepting the offer, Wintory described it as shocking as the two projects "couldn't be more opposite of each other."[11]

No amount of interviews, congratulatory emails or Twitter high-fives will ever make the side-by-side listing of Austin Wintory and John Williams feel like part of this reality.

— Austin Wintory, Grammy.com[12]

On December 5, 2012, Journey received a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media,[13] becoming the first video game score to receive a Grammy nomination, sharing the category with John Williams' The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Ludovic Bource's The Artist, Hans Zimmer's The Dark Knight Rises, Howard Shore's Hugo, and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross's winner, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Journey's nomination occurred in the wake of Christopher Tin's "Baba Yetu" (originally composed for Civilization IV) winning a Grammy the previous year for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), and it was Tin who first made Wintory aware of his Grammy nomination via a phone call.[12] Prior to the Grammy nomination, Wintory described video games as having evolved into "a full-blown art genre that is right alongside literature and any other form of storytelling."[4]

Discography[edit]

Games[edit]

Game Year Developer
Ages of Athiria (Theme Only) 2002 Elysian Productions
flOw 2006 Thatgamecompany
flOw Expansion Pack 2007 Thatgamecompany, Super Villain Studios
GroundTruth: Toxic City 2007 Sandia Nat’l Lab, USC-Gamepipe
Replay 2007 Take Action Games
GroundTruth 2: Lock Down 2008 Sandia Nat’l Lab, USC-Gamepipe
My Virtual Tutor 2008 1st Playable Productions
Census 2010 Draft FCB
Super Awesome Mountain RPG 2010 Codename Games
Journey 2012 Thatgamecompany
Horn 2012 Phosphor Games
The Banner Saga 2012 Stoic Studios
Monaco 2013 Pocketwatch Games
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded [14] 2013 N-Fusion Interactive
Soul Fjord 2014 Airtight Games
Sunset 2014 Tale of Tales

|- | ABZU | 2014-2015 | Giant Squid Studios

Films[edit]

2006
  • Johnny Montana – Dir. John Daniel Gavin, 3b Studios
2007
  • Mr. Sadman – Dir. Patrick Epino, Empire and Sleep Productions
  • Captain Abu Raed – Dir. Amin Matalqa, Paper and Pen Films [Jordan] / GigaPix
  • If You Could Have – Dir. Kimberli Zou, The ORB Prod.
  • Serpent and the Sun - Dir. Shaahin Cheyene, Victory Films
  • Back Soon – Dir. Rob Williams, Guest House Films
2008
  • Knuckle Draggers – Dir. Alex Ranarivelo, Partners in Crime Films
  • Print – Dir. Ashley Beyer, Upload Films
  • Grace – Dir. Paul Solet, Ariescope Films
  • Live Evil – Dir. Jay Woelfel, LEM Ent.
  • 3-Day Weekend – Dir. Rob Williams, Guest House Films
  • The Acquirer – Dir. Matt Schultze, Cinsay.com
  • TK’s Corner – Dir’s Matt Bain, Rocky Yost, Old Virginia Films
  • Hubristic – Dir. Owen Stanley, Secret Handshake Films
2009
  • A Little Help – Dir. Michael J. Weithorn, Secret Handshake Productions
  • The Sunset Sky – Dir. Olivier Bernier, Finite Films
  • The River Why – Dir. Matthew Leutwyler, Ambush Entertainment
  • The Echo Game – Dir. Brian Feeney, Psychic Bunny Prod.
  • Make the Yuletide Gay – Dir. Rob Williams, Guest House Films
2010
  • A Beautiful Game – Dir. Michael Pickett, Stoptime Productions
  • Leave – Dir. Robert Celestino, Visualeyes Productions
  • Playing House – Dir. Tom Vaughan, UV Pictures
  • Majid – Dir. Nassim Abassi, Moondust Productions [Morocco]
  • Workshop – Dir. Michael Gunn, Ikonoklastes Productions
  • Let the Game Begin – Dir. Amit Gupta, Paradox Pictures
  • The Incredible Adventures of Jojo – Dir. Brian Schmidt, Tree House Mafia Films
2011
  • Remnants – Dir. Peter Engert, LightWave Entertainment
  • Home Run Showdown – Dir. Oz Scott, Secret Handshake Productions
  • The Grief Tourist – Dir. Suri Krishnamma, Vision Entertainment
  • Junction – Dir. Tony Glazer, Choice Films
2012
  • Strangely in Love – Dir. Amin Matalqa *
  • Inverse – Dir. Matt Duggan, Remote Films *
  • Targeting – Dir. Tarique Qayumi, Photoplay 434
  • The War Around Us – Dir. Abdallah Omeish, 3rd Eye Filmworks *
  • It’s A Disaster – Dir. Todd Berger, Vacationeer Productions *
  • Lost On Purpose – Dir. Ian Nelms, Derango Films [add'l original songs]

Awards[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
British Academy Games Awards (BAFTAs)[15][16] Innovation flOw (Jenova Chen, Nicholas Clark, Austin Wintory) Nominated
Audio Achievement Journey Won
Original Music Journey Won
D.I.C.E. Awards[17] Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition Journey Won
Grammy Awards[13] Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Journey Nominated
Video Game Awards[18][19] Best Original Score Journey Won
Best Song in a Game "I Was Born for This" (Journey) Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.soundtrack.net/composers/database/?id=1371
  2. ^ Morris, Christopher (5 December 2012). "Frank Ocean, Fun lead 55th Grammy nominations". Variety. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Wenzel, John (2012-05-18). "Denver-born composer Austin Wintory's musical journey". Denver Post. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "IndieGames Podcast #23: Sleigh Ride", IndieGames (UBM Tech), 2011-12-23, retrieved 2012-02-17 
  5. ^ a b c Tong, Sophia (2011-07-29), "Sound Byte: Journey", GameSpot (CBS Interactive), retrieved 2012-02-17 
  6. ^ Wintory, Austin (2012-01-05), "A Musical Journey", PlayStation Blog (Sony), retrieved 2012-02-17 
  7. ^ Grommesh, Aaron (2012-04-11). "Journey Soundtrack Now Available". Thatgamecompany. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  8. ^ C., Alex (2012-03-15). "Interview: Composer Austin Wintory On Journey". TheSixthAxis. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  9. ^ Stuart, Keith (2012-05-28). "Are video game soundtracks the new concept albums?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  10. ^ Caulfield, Keith (2012-04-19). "Chart Moves: 'Newsies' Cast Album Debuts, 'MTV Unplugged' Returns, and a Video Game Soundtrack Sizzles". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  11. ^ a b McWhertor, Michael (2012-12-10), "Journey composer Austin Wintory to score Leisure Suit Larry remake", Polygon (Vox Media), retrieved 2012-02-17 
  12. ^ a b Wintory, Austin (2013-02-01), "First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Austin Wintory", Grammy.com (The Recording Academy), retrieved 2012-02-17 
  13. ^ a b Nessif, Bruna (2012-12-05), "55th Annual Grammy Awards: Complete List of Nominees", E! Online (E! Entertainment Television), retrieved 2012-02-17 
  14. ^ Campbell, Colin (June 5, 2013). "Austin Wintory: Larry is more romance than sex". polygon.com. Retrieved June 23, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Games in 2007", bafta.org (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), 2007, retrieved 2012-02-17 
  16. ^ "Games in 2013", bafta.org (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), 2013-02-12, retrieved 2012-02-17 
  17. ^ "2013 D.I.C.E. Awards", Grammy.com (Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences), 2013-02-01, retrieved 2012-02-17 
  18. ^ "Best Original Score - Video Game Awards 2012", Spike (Viacom), 2012-11-15, retrieved 2012-02-17 
  19. ^ "Best Song in a Game - Video Game Awards 2012", Spike (Viacom), 2012-11-15, retrieved 2012-02-17 

External links[edit]