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Column: Sound Current

Sound Current: 'Monster Hunter Composer Masato Kouda's Next Wave'

March 21, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Continuing his series of interviews with leading video game musicians for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska sits down with Masato Kouda to discuss his contributions to Capcom's Japanese smash hit Monster Hunter series, including a recent tie-in orchestral album featuring music from the franchise.]

Part of the success of the Monster Hunter franchise in Japan has been the immersive depth of its creature-inhabited fantasy locales. Another draw has been the music.

Built on a mixture of classical and regional instrumental styles, the foundation for Monster Hunter's signature sound was developed by composer Masato Kouda. His contributions to games scores range from Devil May Cry titles to the Wild Arms series.

Kouda's inventive approach to composing has led to his music being selected for the Press Start Symphony of Games and Monster Hunter Fifth Anniversary Orchestral Concert. As part of the Star Onions band, he has performed live renditions of Final Fantasy XI themes. Their album Sanctuary was released last May, on CD and iTunes.

Just as Capcom attempts to secure for Monster Hunter in the West the heights of popularity it has enjoyed in Japan, Kouda finds himself in a new transition: building his Tokyo-based music studio, called Design Wave.

In this music interview, Kouda offers insights into his multifaceted musical projects, from the arcade brawler Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters to the Greek mythology concept album Istoria ~Musa~ and Monster Hunter.

Sound Current: 'Identity Through Music - On the Soundtrack to Heavy Rain'

March 15, 2010 12:00 AM |

[Continuing his 'Sound Current' series of interviews with notable game music creators for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska catches up with Heavy Rain composer Normand Corbeil to discuss the creation of the soundtrack to the acclaimed Quantic Dream-developed PlayStation 3 exclusive.]

Composer Normand Corbeil previously joined game director David Cage and film composer Angelo Badalamenti on the production of Quantic Dream's paranormal thriller Indigo Prophecy, titled Fahrenheit in Europe.

The soundtrack to Cage's follow-up title, the interactive drama Heavy Rain, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and has recently been made available on iTunes. In addition, a code to download the soundtrack album comes with the Collector's Edition of the game. In this interview, Corbeil discusses his approach to adding nuance to the personalities of the story's central characters through the use of the musical score.

Sound Current: 'Classically Trained - Dog Ear Records on Pia-Com and Nobuo Uematsu's Ten Short Stories'

March 8, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Continuing his 'Sound Current' series for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska catches up with the director of Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu's Dog Ear Records label to discuss the company's diverse set of video game and related soundtracks, from piano versions of game music classics through spinoff projects and solo albums.]

Currently on shelves in record stores in Japan, Dog Ear Records' two most recent releases are Nobuo Uematsu's Ten Short Stories and Pia-Com I, short for "Piano Meets Computer Games."

Performed by Keita Egusa, Pia-Com I marks the first installment of a series of solo piano albums. The collection arranges individual tracks from Final Fantasy II, Mappy, Elevator Action and Mother (the Famicom predecessor to Earthbound).

Hiroki Ogawa, director of Dog Ear Records, has been involved in planning recordings for Final Fantasy XIV, the animated series Guin Saga, and orchestral arrangements of Final Fantasy found on the album CELLYTHM: Those Who Distorted. In this interview coinciding with the release of Nobuo Uematsu's Ten Short Stories in Japan, Ogawa and Egusa offer their perspectives on the making of Dog Ear Records albums.

Sound Current: 'Scoring the Digital Download - Composers on Shatter, Gravity Crash, NightSky and Proud'

March 4, 2010 12:00 PM |

[In his latest 'Sound Current' column for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska sits down with the musicians from titles and album series including Gravity Crash, Shatter, NightSky and I Am Robot And Proud to discuss the creative process behind their unique independent soundtrack work.]

According to many observers, downloadable platforms -- notably console downloadable titles, from more conventional genres through more experimental titles -- are currently showcasing some of the most exciting sound design concepts in games.

CoLD SToRAGE (aka Tim Wright) has been an innovator of videogame music since the appearance of his soundtracks for Lemmings and WipEout. In recent months he has been busy publishing the original album Project Moonbounce and the score to Just Add Water's Playstation Network title Gravity Crash.

In this roundtable discussion on composing for downloadable games, he is joined by Module (Jeramiah Ross), whose soundtrack to Shatter by Sidhe is in the running for an IGF audio award at this year's Game Developers Conference. As with CoLD SToRAGE, the New Zealand-based artist's music can be heard on Bandcamp.

Last year Chris Schlarb's music to the Niklas "Nifflas" Nygren-designed title NightSky was a finalist for the IGF Awards. The highly anticipated WiiWare title, which invites players to maneuver a rolling ball through an assortment of evocative nocturnal landscapes, is due out later this year.

Also participating in this group chat is Shaw-Han Liem, who in 2009 performed music from his solo album series I Am Robot and Proud at the Game Developers Conference. His first game soundtrack is currently in development, featured in Jonathan Mak’s top secret follow-up to Everyday Shooter. The discussion takes a look at multiple topics related to writing music for digital media, from finding the right sound for a game, to the live performance of game arrangements and the options available for distributing soundtrack albums online.

Sound Current: 'Kenji Kawai - Game and Anime Intersections'

February 24, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Continuing his 'Sound Current' video game interview series for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska talks to acclaimed Japanese film and game composer Kenji Kawai about his work on soundtracks spanning Folklore for PS3 in the game space, through Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and The Sky Crawlers in the film domain.]

Among anime film composers working today that also write music for videogames, Kenji Kawai is among the most internationally recognized. For instance, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, for which he wrote the score, was the first animated film to be a finalist for the Palme D'Or award.

The film is one in a series of collaborations with director Mamoru Oshii, which includes the anime motion picture The Sky Crawlers. A game adaptation for the Wii, titled Innocent Aces, has recently been localized by Xseed, featuring a game score by sound studio MoNaca.

Kawai's contributions to videogame soundtracks include 2007's Folklore for Playstation 3, a collaboration with Hiroto Saitoh and SuperSweep musicians Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso. His most recent film Assault Girls, which opened in Tokyo last month, takes place within a virtual reality game environment.

In this interview following the reception of Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces in North America, Kawai offers his perspectives on the intersection between music for Japanese animated films and videogames, based on his own experiences writing scores for both media.

Sound Current: 'Sounds Like a Hostage Negotiation - Audio in Diamond and the Sound of a Gunshot'

February 12, 2010 12:00 PM |

[In his latest 'Sound Current' column for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska discusses the music to intriguing Japan-only PSP hostage negotiation title Diamond and the Sound of a Gunshot, showing the value of sound in heightening tension and the potency of Sony's Playstation C.A.M.P.! design project in Japan.]

Playstation Portable title Diamond and the Sound of a Gunshot was released in 2009 by Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan. A new take on the text-heavy visual novel genre that never seems to make its way across the Pacific, the game requires players to handle hostage negotiations and other dramatic situations in real time.

The music score and sound effects were designed by Noisycroak, a game audio production company based in Tokyo who previously discussed with us their soundtracks for Yakuza Kenzan and Castlevania Judgment. Noisycroak's founder is currently composing music for the Playstation Portable title Patchwork Heroes, due out Spring 2010.

In this interview we hear from Diamond and the Sound of a Gunshot sound director Hideki Sakamoto, composer Keisuke Itou, guitarist Yasushi Asada and effects creator Tsuyoshi Yukawa.

The discussion offers some background on the origins of the Playstation C.A.M.P.! design team and the making of the original soundtrack album published by Aniplex Records. The roundtable sheds some light on how music and effects were designed as a significant counterpart to text-based dialog in Diamond and the Sound of a Gunshot.

Sound Current: '21st Century Vinyl - Garry Schyman on the Orchestral BioShock LP'

February 6, 2010 12:00 PM |

[In this interview for GameSetWatch, Jeriaska talks to BioShock composer Garry Schyman about the new orchestral LP contained in the BioShock 2 special edition, his approach to making music for the two games in the series, and his influences in creating the franchise's evocative soundtrack.]

The score for BioShock, composed by Garry Schyman, has reached an enormously wide audience for a videogame soundtrack. Not only was the title a popular console release, but its orchestral recordings were posted to the Irrational Games website as a free download, attracting listeners both close to and unfamiliar with the world of Rapture.

Recognition of the album has led to the inclusion of the BioShock orchestral score on a heavyweight vinyl LP in the BioShock 2 Special Edition Set. The record will come with the game, a BioShock 2 orchestral score audio CD, three vintage posters and a 164-page art book.

In this interview, the composer describes how his music was intended to deliver an entirely new kind of sound to the in-game environment. This entailed fusing styles of aleatoric music, early 20th century classical compositions and musique concrète into something altogether new. The music for the sequel aspires to expand upon this thematic foundation, introducing elements of blues.

Sound Current: 'Fan-Fueled Retro Game Revival - Tokyo Big Sight's Comic Market 77'

February 2, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Taking a look at the Japanese fan-based Comiket (Comic Market) convention and its gigantic cache of video game music-inspired cover albums and even books, Jeriaska continues his 'Sound Current' series for Gamasutra by interviewing many of the intriguing Japanese musicians selling their unofficial tributes to classic and modern game soundtracks.]

Comic Market, which takes place twice a year at the enormous Tokyo Big Sight convention center in Japan, defies comparison with any other hobbyist gathering in the world.

Over the course of its three-day run "Comiket" attracts hundreds of thousands of amateur artists from all over Japan. As with the comparatively intimate Music MediaMix Market, booths are set up for individuals and groups called "circles" to sell their homemade doujin collectibles.

This winter's 77th installment was host to all manner of retro game revivals, particularly in the sphere of videogame music: Freelance writer Ryota Musha helped publish a book on the contemporary use of retro game consoles in the creation of original chip music.

Meanwhile the delightfully named Magical Trick Society looked to a Western game series for their latest remix album, paying tribute to Kentaro Haneda's influential game soundtracks to the Famicom ports of the Wizardry series.

This in-depth look at the remixed videogame music of Comic Market 77 includes interviews with the participants and embedded video Q&As with band takrockers!! and two industry game composers frequently in attendance.

Sound Current: 'Electronic Shoot'em Up – Behind High Frequency Bandwidth's PixelJunk Shooter Tracks'

January 27, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Dylan Cuthbert and the folks at Q-Games continue to make interesting audiovisual choices for their PixelJunk series of downloadable PlayStation 3 games, and here, Jeriaska catches up with The Orb's Alex Paterson and collaborator Dom Beken, the folks behind the soundtrack to PixelJunk Shooter as High Frequency Bandwidth.]

The fourth title in the PixelJunk series by developer Q-Games features a soundtrack by UK electronic music team High Frequency Bandwidth.

Comprised of Alex Paterson and Dom Beken, the two have previously contributed to The Orb and Transit Kings music groups. Together they have overseen Q-Games' process of transforming six of their licensed music tracks into interactive audio files that reflect the on-screen action of PixelJunk Shooter.

High Frequency Bandwidth follows Kyoto musicians Otograph of PixelJunk Monsters and Baiyon of PixelJunk Eden in providing music for the downloadable game series. Music found in PixelJunk Shooter will be released in a series of EPs beginning April 12 on Malicious Damage Records.

In this interview on the subject of the game, we hear about the process behind the score for the Playstation 3 downloadable title and High Frequency Bandwidth's plans for the future.

Sound Current: 'Keiki Kobayashi's Orchestral Ace Combat'

January 15, 2010 12:00 AM |

[In the latest in his 'Sound Current' series for GameSetWatch exploring notable video game musicians and soundtracks, Jeriaska sits down with the composer for Ace Combat 6, Keiki Kobayashi, discussing the soundtracks for the Namco Bandai flight combat series.]

Earlier today Namco Bandai Games released Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation Original Soundtrack on iTunes stores worldwide as part of their Namco Sounds series. A new installment of the series for the Playstation Portable, called Ace Combat: Joint Assault, is due out this summer.

The downloadable soundtrack release follows a live performance in 2009 of the track "Zero" from the Playstation 2 title Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War at the 2009 Press Start Symphony of Games Concert in Tokyo.

In this interview with musician Keiki Kobayashi, the composer of "Zero" offers his perspectives on contributing to musical scores for the series. Kobayashi also discusses the process behind adapting in-game themes for the stage and his collaborations with guitarist Takanori Goto.

Having written for Tekken 6, Ridge Racer 7 and other intense, gripping game soundtracks, the musician's comments offer an informed perspective on the state of composing for action titles today.