Traveler - A Journey Symphony // Interview with Austin Wintory

atmospheric interview orchestral OST VGM

FFO: The Unfinished Swan, GRIS, Cloud and AER Memories of Old

Favourite Track: Threshold

Austin was kind enough to answer a few questions we had about his latest release Traveler - A Journey Symphony, and the rest of his wildly impressive VGM resume. Here's what he had to say!

Q1: 2019's Erica is an ambitious return to FMV games of the 5th generation console era consisting entirely of live-action cutscenes. Did scoring the project feel closer to working on a film score or a video game?

A1: This was definitely fully the combo of both. All the micro-sensitivity to picture that comes with film scoring but in a highly interactive environment. I actually detailed how it works in a video on my youtube channel.

Q2: You are responsible for the music in Abzu, Journey and flOw. These games laid significant groundwork for many of the mediative and atmospheric indie titles we see today. Why do you think people have begun to gravitate towards these types of games? 

A2: When Jenova first described flOw to me, he had a few main ambitions: one was an expansion of so-called "mature content" in games, by which he meant meditative, introspective games that explored bigger life questions than just power fantasies; and second, he wanted to explore a wider gamut of emotions than purely the fiery, adrenaline-fueled mainstream titles. I think as a game designer who'd come of age through the late 80s and 90s, he'd simply reached an age where he was personally looking for more, and his work reflected that. We all felt that way! 

You worked with the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices Choir on your latest release, Traveler - A Journey Symphony. Were the songs initially composed with an orchestra in mind?

A3: This new album is a reimagining of Journey's original score, which was not initially orchestral. While it did use a few orchestral instruments as soloists, and a very modest string ensemble towards the end, this new one is properly symphonic by comparison. The goal was to expand its scope and emotional potential while staying true to the source, and at the same time hopefully offering listeners a chance to hear Journey "for the first time" again. 

You have referred to The Pathless as a "playable myth." Are there any specific instruments, sound palettes or scales that you feel create a mythical composition?

A4:  I wouldn't say specific musical devices are "mythic" in nature, but the idea was something that felt folk-like without being tied to a particular folk tradition. IE, something somehow culturally neutral while feeling primal and ancient. 

Q5: In 2019, you released an album called Remnants consisting of songs that, for one reason or another, were rejected by game devs you were working with. Is this something you wish more composers would do?

A5:  Hah, I'd never thought about it like that! I suppose it would be interesting though it's going to be a very personal decision for composers to make. I can hardly blame anyone if they decide not to! 

Q6:  Do you have any advice for aspiring composers? 

A6:  In the early days of one's career, there's a strong urge to not make waves or break from the pack. There is a strong incentive to fulfill expectations from the powers that be, but in truth, unique voices and fresh perspectives are forever in short supply. As much as one's survival instincts may resist it, trying something that feels atypical is the one thing I wish more young composers would be actively encouraged to do.

Q7:  What have you been gaming lately?

A7:  I finally recently finished Horizon Zero Dawn so that I can tackle Forbidden West (which I've not yet started). I'm also a huge fan of 11bit Studios and keep returning to Frostpunk.

Find more of their music below.

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