AFM Musicians & Composers Receive Recognition for Video Game Recordings

At the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San
Francisco, the world’s largest professionals-only game
industry event, AFM musicians were recognized for their
recordings and compositions during the 8th annual Game
Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) Awards on March 12.

The Federation was also recognized by G.A.N.G. as a Diamond
Sponsor. AFM Associate Director in the Electronic
Media Department Savina Ciaramella attended the event,
accepting an award on behalf of the AFM, thanking the
members of G.A.N.G. and the video game community.”

“We know that you have many choices, and we are always
grateful when you choose to work with our very talented
and professional musicians, who we believe are the best in
the world,” says Ciaramella.”

“The 8th annual G.A.N.G. Awards honored the best audio
work in our industry, and so much of that quality
and artistry stems from the AFM and its commitment to
excellence,” says Paul Lipson, president of G.A.N.G. “Our
partnership from AFM has raised the bar for what is possible,
and has allowed the audio development process to
reach new heights.””

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, recorded by the Skywalker
Symphony Orchestra with members of Local 6 (San
Francisco), shared the Music of the Year distinction with
Assassin’s Creed II, recorded by members of Local 47 (Los

Contracted and orchestrated by Jason Poss of Local 47
and composed by Jesper Kyd, Assassin’s Creed II involved
30 strings, a 13 voice choir recorded under a Screen Actors
Guild contract, and several soloists at Capitol Records in
Hollywood. “Everyone was very enthusiastic and wanted
to show Jesper what makes Hollywood special. We had this
spectacular team of top-class people all focusing their creative
energy in pursuit of excellence,” says Poss. “It became
one of the most positive recordings I’ve worked on in a
while. Afterwards musicians were asking, ‘When can we do
this again?’ ‘Will there be an Assassin’s Creed III?’”
Inspired by the Renaissance and the 15th and 16th centuries,
Kyd composed a score that highlighted the romance
of Italian cities Florence
and Venice, but
also conveyed the dark
themes of tragedy and
revenge as the story
line develops. “Every
one of the musicians
was very motivated
and very excited to be
there. That really blew
me away; not only
from a performance
view point, but I was
really impressed that
they were so excited
to be there,” says Kyd.
“In Eastern Europe, it
seemed like the musicians
didn’t care as
much and you felt
that atmosphere in the
room. It was great to
work with such a talented
and motivated

Uncharted 2, contracted
by Janet Ketchum
of Local 6, swept the G.A.N.G. Awards. In addition to
sharing the distinction of Music of the Year, Uncharted 2
also won Audio of the Year, Sound Design of the Year, Best
Cinematic/Cut-Scene Audio, Best Original Instrumental,
and Best Dialogue.”

Composer of Uncharted 2, Greg Edmonson of Local 47,
thanked AFM musicians from the podium, when he accepted
the second award of the night. “Without the players,
what do we have? Just notes on paper,” says Edmonson.
“Musicians breathe life into the music. A musician takes
what you wrote on paper and turns it into something
beautiful and gorgeous. We owe it all to the musicians who
study and work their whole lives to be as good as they are
on these instruments and make it look
so effortless.””

Nina Flyer, cellist for Uncharted 2 and
vice chair of the Local 6 Recording
Committee, also attended the event.
“Edmonson’s endorsement was a great
bonus for the AFM and Local 6,” says
Flyer. Uncharted 2 also won four British
Academy of Film and Television Arts
(BAFTA) awards and 10 Academy of
Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS)

The 69 musicians who worked on Uncharted
2 recorded the music last summer
at Skywalker Sound, during two
separate periods, with double sessions
in June and July. “One of the things
that stood out when we first played
the main title was the epic sound,” says
Ketchum. “I thought to myself, we are
participating in something remarkable,
much like Gone with the Wind or some
other classic film soundtrack. As far as
the score goes, it has a large, orchestral sound with sweeping
melodies with brass and strings.””

Other soloists involved in the project were Karen Han, Chris
Bleth, Brad Dutz, and Brian Kilgore of Local 47. Han played
the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument.
Representatives at Sony Computer Entertainment of
America (SCEA) say they enjoyed collaborating with AFM
musicians on Uncharted 2. “It was a joy working with the
San Francisco AFM players on so spectacular a project as
Uncharted 2,” says Clint Bajakian, Senior Music Manager
for SCEA. “With their superb performance, it was sheer
excitement for everyone involved.”

Artie Storch, principal percussionist on Uncharted 2 and
member of the Local 6 Recording Committee, also attended
the G.A.N.G. Awards. “It was nice to hear our music being
played when the award was given out for best music—that
was a kick,” says Storch. “It’s gratifying to see that music is
recognized as such an integral part of the overall game experience.
It’s also great to be part of a growth industry and
something that is actually expanding instead of shrinking.”
Tommy Tallarico, 20-year video game veteran composer,
Founder/CEO of G.A.N.G., and Co-Creator/CEO of Video
Games Live says, “As composers, it is always our goal to use
the best musicians we can while recording for video games.
Video game scores have come a long way over the past 10
years and people are just now starting to understand, on a
global level, how powerful, emotional, and complex video
game music has become.”

“Having the best musicians available helps to drive that
point home. The AFM recognized this as well and was
very open to figuring out the best way to benefit everyone
involved. Our partnership with the AFM has resulted in millions
of dollars of work for AFM musicians, and composers
and producers are winning countless awards worldwide.
And this is only the beginning!”

Video games have come a long way from the simplified
soundtracks of Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Street
Fighter, and the days of 8-bit, 16-bit, and primitive synthesizer
tunes. With immense technological advancements
in video game graphics there is an increased demand for
orchestral music that can match the tone of the game and
amplify the experience of complex story lines and epic
themes. That’s where AFM musicians come in.

Over the past few of years, work for AFM orchestral
musicians has boomed in the video game arena. More
complex video games create the need for elaborate music
and orchestral scores that AFM musicians can record and
take to the next level. Recent major video game recording
projects include God of War III and BioShock 2.

“I’ve worked at the AFM for three years, and during
that time, it’s been an honor and a privilege to represent
and promote all of our wonderful musicians in several
categories of business,” says Electronic Media Department
Associate Director Savina Ciaramella. “It’s been
especially gratifying to watch the video game category
grow tremendously with our new streamlined video
game agreement, which has provided more employment
opportunitites for our members. The composers
and producers are overjoyed to be able to work with the
best musicians in the world, under an agreement that
offers fair and equitable wages and important benefits
for musicians. It’s truly a win-win situation.”

God of War III

The final installment of Sony’s God of War trilogybrought
five composers together to create one
epicsoundtrack, which was recorded at Skywalker
Sound.Gerard Marino, Mike Reagan of Local 47
(Los Angeles), Cris Velasco, Ron Fish, and Jeff Rona
of Local 47 pooled their creative talents into a score
that emphasized strings, percussion, and brass—
particularly tubas, trombones, and cimbassos—to
create a menacing tone.

“The brass players really loved it, they ate it up—so did
the string players,” says AFM contractor Janet Ketchum
of Local 6, who contracted the Skywalker Symphony
Orchestra based in the San Francisco Bay area to record
the soundtrack. “The interesting thing about God of
War III was the number of composers. It was really
interesting to hear one after the other.”
Ron Fish, of the God of War trilogy, adds, “Each composer
is very talented in his own right, and has his
own individual voice. When brought together, the end
product was that much richer because of the unique
combination of styles, which was woven together brilliantly
by the music supervisors at Sony. These skilled
musicians rose to the challenge.”

The project employed 64 musicians for three days of
double sessions in September, then used 62 musicians
for a double session in November and 18 brass players
for two days of double sessions, also in November.
Marino, who wrote 35 minutes of music and has been
with the God of War series since the beginning, says the
AFM musicians lived up to all the hype. “I don’t know
any composer who wouldn’t prefer to work with AFM
musicians,” he says. “If I’m allowed, I always go to the
union for my musicians. They are everything I would
expect from the best in the world.”

Reagan says that recording with the team at Skywalker
Sound with the AFM musicians really made the music
shine. “I was fortunate to work as a composer with AFM
musicians in both Los Angeles and Skywalker Sound for
God of War III. The life they breathe into the music is
vital in boosting the emotion of the soundtrack,” says
Reagan. “They are truly the best at what they do, and
it’s all about capturing performances that simply can’t
be repost_date with samples. What the musicians bring to
the craft is just awesome.”

Jeff Rona maintains, “Clearly, the goal of all the music
was to be epic and brooding, often very loud, and it was
incredibly demanding. The brass playing was, by far, the
most challenging because it was loud all the time—loud
and epic and dense. It put a lot of demands on the musicians
and they were just brilliant.”

Composer Cris Velasco explains, “I loved revisiting this
franchise. There’s something gratifying about being able
to write music that is so unabashedly epic, and to revisit
my favorite themes and expand on them. God of War
III has set the new standard for video games and really
inspired us all to write what I consider to be our best
score of the series.”

Clint Bajakian, Senior Music Manager for SCEA, commented
that the Skywalker Symphony had wonderful
phrasing, articulation, and had a great attitude and enthusiasm
for the project. The sound team at Skywalker,
led by Leslie Ann Jones, recording engineer and director
of music recording and scoring, also contributed to the
wonderful experience, says Bajakian. “The music is in a
class all by itself, immersing the player in the game and
providing those emotional cues,” he adds. “There is no
other entertainment element that can enhance the emotion
and the storytelling the way music does.”

BioShock 2

BioShock 2 by 2K Marin, composed by Garry Schyman
of Local 47, provided work for 71 musicians and was
recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. The largest
orchestra at one point included 51 musicians. Ross
deRoche of Local 47 was the AFM contractor for BioShock
2. “Garry wrote an hour of music and we recorded over
three days,” states deRoche. “We hired the Los Angeles
Philharmonic concert master, Martin Chalifour [of
Local 47] to do a quite challenging solo violin part.”
The first BioShock was something of a sleeper hit, so
when the time came to record the soundtrack for the
second installment, there was a bigger budget for music,
says deRoche.

“The music I wrote was very complex and required
extended techniques, so I needed players who could
grasp that music and nail it,” says Schyman. “They
did, of course. I try to do all my orchestral scoring
with the AFM. They are the best players in the world.”
Although he says it’s difficult to make the claim “Best
in the World,” using that distinction for AFM musicians
is “actually true.”

Content from International Musician May 2010