A Composer’s Guide To Game Music – Winifred Phillips

Original Book Review by Alan RogersBook cover

Music for video games has developed over the last 20 years or so as the technology behind the video games themselves has become more complex. Today, many video games contain orchestral scores and have much in common with film scores of the films coming out of Hollywood and beyond. Because of these similarities it’s easy to assume that the issues and challenges faced by the game and film (or TV) music composer are the same. Award-winning composer Winifred Phillips’ music first appeared in God of War in 2004 and she has gone on to compose music for games such as The Da Vinci Code, Shrek The Third, Spore Hero, LittleBigPlanet 2, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and many others. In her new book, A Composer’s Guide To Game Music, Phillips expertly details what’s involved in becoming a video game music composer, highlighting the specific challenges a composer for games faces.. By the end of this excellent book, any reader contemplating a career as a video game music composer will understand clearly the personal and technical abilities required to succeed and anyone with a more general interest in video gaming or how music is used in film, television and video games will better appreciate how different composing music for video games is from any other media type. [Read more…]

John Barry’s Goldfinger In Focus – Barry Russell

Original Book Review by Alan Rogers

“John Barry’s Goldfinger In Focus” is a slight book (a mere 40 pages in length) and is one of a number of study guides for students studying for a Music Technology qualification (other guides include “Danny Elfman: Batman In Focus” and “The Who: Who’s Next In Focus”). Although written with music students in mind, this book is written in such a way that it will be of interest to the general reader who wishes to learn about the general relationship between music and image in film. Written by Barry Russell, the author’s extensive experience as a teacher, lecturer and director of many education and community projects with several orchestras has resulted in a reference book that is a wealth of information on John Barry’s score to the classic 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger.

The bulk of the book is made up of a chapter devoted to an analysis of the 15 cues found on the most recent CD release. For each of these cues in turn, a brief description of the music (e.g., specific motifs used as well as a description of the instruments used) is listed alongside specific bar numbers in tabular form, giving a detailed – but concise – summary of each track. As an example, at the beginning of the cue “Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus”, bars 1-4 “…begins with a jolly 12/8 feel, and a carousel-like riff in violins and flutes with a variation of Gold 2 [a specific motif touched on below] on horns. The harmony moves from F major to D-flat major 7”. Three of these cues – “Alpine Drive”, “Auric’s Factory” and “Dawn Raid On Fort Knox” – are expanded into “case studies” which offer a more detailed look at how the music is used within specific scenes (and includes additional information including specific timings, as well as a short summary of what is happening on-screen at specific points). I personally love pouring over this sort of detail for cues and, although I do not really understand much of the theory, the level of detail is set so that I can still get a lot of information from the analyses.  [Read more…]

The Music of Star Trek: Profiles In Style – Jeff Bond

Original Book Review by Alan Rogers

Reading Jeff Bond’s overview of the music of Star Trek, that has arguably produced more music than any other franchise, it is clear that he enjoyed writing and compiling this book. Bond – Film Score Magazine’s “Editor-at-Large” – in his Introduction highlights the fact that almost every aspect of the Star Trek universe has been written about and analysed; except for the music. This book now fills the glaring gap in this universe.

The bulk of the book features a series of interesting and in-depth discussions of the music from the original 1960s TV scores, plus interviews with composers such as Alexander Courage, Fred Steiner and Gerald Fried who worked on the episodes. Generally following a chronological order, there then follows chapters on all the movies up to and including Star Trek: Insurrection. Interviews with composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman and Cliff Eidelman add an interesting perspective to their respective scores. James Horner’s absence from these interviews, however, is a major hole in this section of the book. The music of the more recent Star Trek TV series – such as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine & Voyager – is covered too, with contributions from Ron Jones, Jay Chattaway and Don Davis keeping the format consistent. [Read more…]