Garry Schyman scored all three Bioshocks, all three Destroy All Humans games, Resistance: Retribution, Front Mission Evolved, and that oddly engrossing God of War clone based on Dante’s Inferno— and that’s just scratching the surface of his video game music, to say nothing of his enormous body of work for film and television. Peep the gentleman’s IMDB page, if ye doubt the claim.
In this episode, Garry stops by to discuss his work on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. He composed both games scores’ alongside Monolith Productions’ in-house soundtracksmith Nathan Grigg, and here he talks about expanding on the the first game’s tone and style, giving the music new dimensions—Aztec Death Whistles are certainly new to the series, and perhaps to games overall—without reinventing the wheel.
[UPDATE: Jason Graves’ score for Far Cry Primal did in fact do the Death Whistle thing before Shadow of War. Thanks for the fact-check, anonymous listener.]
We talk about John Williams (because it’s all but impossible not to). We talk about P.D.Q. Bach (both in and out of his Bruce Banner form, as Peter Schickele). We talk about Garry’s probable status as the first composer ever to write and record an orchestral score for a game (that game being the Phillips CD-i video tree oddity Voyeur). And beyond that, we discuss what it’s like to be an outside contractor for a creative venture in flux, the importance of scoring for a given scene even within a sprawling franchise, and genre fiction’s underused opportunities for cross-cultural admixing.
• One key exception to the rule that cartooniness will result from reacting to every small player action is, if course, Thumper. But hey, the grotesque and the comedic have always been close cousins.
• The way I ended up having a Phillips CD-i, by the by, was that the friend in question found my fascination with the thing so bemusing (and/or annoying) that he eventually just gave the thing to me.
• To my mind, there’s still no single definitive text on the saga of the “Nintendo Playstation,” more officially known as the SUPER NES CD-ROM. If you know of a source that tells the story uncommonly well, please do send it my way!
• Garry mentions his time “at USC” because he now teaches at USC, in the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program.
• Here’s one of the best introductions ever to Aaron Copland and the idea of making music “sound American,” and the fraught politics thereof.
• And here’s that other interview Garry did recently. The one after which the interviewer sent him a bunch of soundtracks from the myriad masterpieces of 2017.
“All The People Say (Season 2)” by Carpe Demon.
Symphony no. 2 in Cm “Resurrection,” III. in ruhig fliessender bewegung, by Gustav Mahler, from the European Archive.