Cyanide Studios Video Game, "Of Orcs and Men"

The Cello in Video Game Music

    Cyanide Studios Video Game, "Of Orcs and Men"
Cyanide Studios Video Game, “Of Orcs and Men”

And no, I’m not talking about some of the marketing imagery that can be found on, say, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s recent release of “The Greatest Video Game Music” which features a cello on the cover (albeit, played by a special ops troop ostensibly from one of the video game scores featured on the album).

The image above is from Cyanide Studio’s video game, “Of Orcs and Men” (2012), the soundtrack of which was composed by composer, Olivier Derivière, and recorded by the Boston Cello Quartet.

Another video game score which prominently features the cello as a solo instrument is Austin Wintory‘s score for the Thatgamecompany videogame, Journey, and recorded by the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra.

Here’s the score with text commentary by the composer:

This score also has the distinction of being the first videogame score nominated for a Grammy Award!  The score has been arranged into a concert piece for solo cello and orchestra called, “Woven Variations,” and was premiered by the pioneering Tina Guo and the Golden State Pops Orchestra.

Cello Fortress is an interactive videogame designed for art galleries and museums by artist, game designer, and cellist, Joost van Dongen.  Designed as a hybrid concert piece and interactive installation, the audience plays against the cellist who manipulates action via live improvisation.

In a previous post about composers I quoted from a Mellon Foundation report that, “Composers today find much friendlier territory in dance, theater, and chamber music.”  Videogames weren’t included in the list (the report was 1998 after all) but some are already prophesizing the decline of that industry since budgets are approaching blockbuster film proportions with a comparable level of pushing for that big “Hit” which may or may not be sustainable in any sense.

From a composer and an independent musician’s standpoint, however, there is still plenty of room for economic growth if you can break into this industry–at the same time, look at the musical forces used for these scores/performances.  A cello quartet coupled with electronic music is far cheaper than hiring a full orchestra.  Hiring the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra to do the score for Journey is surely less expensive than hiring the London Philharmonic Orchestra to record the score.  Playing your own score is surely the cheapest way to get a performance!

Maybe I need to score for a Klingon videogame, eh?  Until then, I’ll stick to writing for dance, theater, and chamber music!

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