Amazing interview--and tracks. It's interesting to hear names like Shostakovich among his influences...
Find out where you can hear Garry Schyman's works performed live and how he got into the video game music business.
Like many other composers in the video game industry, Garry Schyman has an impressive background in television and film, but he had been working in the video game industry long before projects like BioShock and Dante's Inferno came along. Find out more in the interview below, and sample some of the tracks from the BioShock soundtrack for yourself! If you're in the Los Angeles area next Monday, May 9, there will be a concert performed at California State University Northridge that will feature Garry's works from BioShock, BioShock 2, and Dante's Inferno. Tickets are free, but they will run out quickly! For one lucky Sound Byte reader, we are reserving a couple of tickets for you, so follow gs_soundbyte for the full details.
GameSpot: Could you start off with telling us a bit about yourself and your musical background?
Garry Schyman: Born in Chicago, I grew up in Southern California. I graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in music composition. After graduating, I immediately sought work scoring films and television. One of my first assignments was scoring a religious television series for Lutheran TV. It was a half-hour melodrama and was a blast for me because I got to hire a live band (with the budget usually not more than 15 players) and hear my music performed. But truly I was thrilled to get paid to write music and receive royalties.
GS: What was the first instrument you picked up?
Garry Schyman: I started playing the drums when I was in elementary school but eventually lost interest when my mom rented a piano for my brother and I took it over. I loved the instrument, demanded lessons, and began practicing three hours a day!
GS: Is there an instrument you wish you knew how to play?
Garry Schyman: Well I love the string instruments, and I wish I could coax some beauty out of a violin or cello. But at least I get to write for great players and hear them perform my music. I am working with an amazing violist now--Andrew Duckles--who is working on my viola concerto "Zingaro." I love meeting with him and listening to him play the music while discussing my intentions.
GS: What is your fondest memory when it comes to music?
Garry Schyman: Well, it has happened many times, and it's that moment when I come up with something that I really love musically. So it's the part of my compositional process when the idea emerges and I really love what I have discovered. That is a very heady and exciting moment for me. Sometimes I have to get up out of my chair and dance a jig.
GS: How did you get into making music for video games?
Garry Schyman: Funny thing is, I was not seeking it. The opportunities just sort of presented themselves. The first opportunity was in the mid 1990s when a friend of mine was an exec at Philips Interactive. I ended up scoring a few games for him. Because they used their proprietary CDI technology (now defunct), it permitted me to deliver stereo files; therefore I produced one of the first orchestral scores ever for a video game--"Voyeur" in 1994.
Once Philips Interactive went out of business, I left the industry for a number of years as I was busy scoring films and television (a lot of movies for television in that period). Then in 2004 my agent at the time faxed my resume to THQ, and an executive there just happened to see it sitting on the fax machine--she was my girlfriend's roommate in college. It was a lucky fluke that ended up with me scoring Destroy All Humans, which led to all of my current work.
GS: How is it different than composing for film or TV? What do you like/dislike about composing for video games?
Garry Schyman: There are similarities and differences. The most important thing that they share is that music has an emotional impact upon the viewer. Some mystical magical thing happens when you combine visual images and music, and it has a powerful effect on people--essentially that's why composers like me are hired, to bring emotion and mood and magic to their production.
They differ in several respects--implementation being the most obvious. Basically, implementation of music with film was set about 80 years ago and has essentially not changed. The music is composed to locked picture (well not always locked, unfortunately) and is then mixed with the other sound elements and is never changed after that, whereas music for games has many implementation strategies, and new ones are constantly being invented. New technology is permitting the music to become more and more interactive. This affects, to some extent anyways, how the music is composed. Because the player's actions will differ from person to person, we try to make the music as interactive as possible to have the best effect on the player.
With film and television, you compose to picture, and this is quite challenging in its own way. But it also makes it easy on the composer as you have constant feedback as to whether your music is working or not. You also have the form for the music given to you by the action onscreen. With games, you do have in-game films to score, but 90 percent of your work is not done to locked picture of any kind. So depending on how far the developer has gotten on the project, you may or may not have much to go by when you compose other than a verbal or written description of what is happening when the music is playing. Also, you may be asked to write in layers so that different layers can be brought in when something the player does triggers a change in the game (perhaps combat has started etc.). In the best case, the developer will capture gameplay and send you a movie of the gameplay that is occurring when the particular cue you are writing is playing. But this is only a guide, as you are not catching anything with the music because the gameplay will rarely be precisely the same for any two players.
Been playing Bioshock 2 while the PSN is down, and my god the ST is mind blowing, kudos to you sir!!
Bioshock's score has some of the best mood and and atmosphere I have ever heard... ever! I want to thank Gary for his amazing contribution to my musical education and, just plainly, my life :) also want to give a shout out to a absolute completely overlooked game that has one of the best musical scores as well and thats "Advent Rising" on the original xbox, composer: Tommy Tallarico. You both are amazing composers, thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us.
When I first heard the screeches of the violins in Bioshock 2, I thought it was so dark and...beautiful.
Fantastic guy!!! I interviewed him last year for my MA music thesis (re-submitting now :-( sorry for the delay Garry!!!). Honest, truthful and humourous. He is becoming a legend, very sad that Dante's Infernal didn't get a good reception. Demo was great though... He felt that Dant'e's score was the best he did, and i think he's right... just ashamed that the video game was not received well. Also he looks different without his beard! lol
dear gamespot, the changes to your website stink. i have had to refresh pages and videos multiple times just to make the info show up correctly (or to get the 'related videos' screen off of the video i am watching). aside from looking incredibly ugly, the site is also VERY buggy now. please change it back. it's starting to look as bad as IGN's site...
Remember the old games, like Zelda or Mario, that they only had bleeps and notes... btw Bioshock has a terrific music!
That was great. I had wanted to know more about him after hearing the Bioshock soundtracks. Is he scoring Bioshock Infinite? It would be really interesting to hear how he would score it, considering the game's change of environment, and era.
I don't really remember the music from Bioshock but Dante's Inferno was absolutely terrific. Besides the CGI cutscenes the music was the best part of that game. Still one of my favorites
well i really love bioshock , it's much more wonderful than bioshock 2. I love the classical music , crazy splicers roaming & singing .. that's really great
The music of Bioshock gave it a good third of its overall atmosphere. It is simply wonderful, odd, smooth yet very... tense. Hearing a song meant for Bioshock is automaticaly recognizable.
Cohen's Masterpiece was one of my favourite pieces of any game soundtrack for the last 10 years. Bioshock really did have the best of everything, music included. It's nice to see the composers getting a bit of the recognition they deserve! Man, I love Sound Byte.
I love the music in both Games especially Dante's Inferno. Added so much to the whole feel of the game!
What an amazing soundtrack, oh yeah Osama is dead guy!! USA USA USA... Joking!! Funny how everything I have been reading/watching over in America reverts to him i.e. WWE blehrgh
Great job Gary Schyman, i always respect music composer, in my opinion they the second most important part in film and game development. Hope ya we will se gary schyman compose again for game.
People like him make me like the game's more! Dante's Inferno in PS3 has the soundtrack as bonus, and that really makes the package sweet.
I can't say he's better than Kow Otani (Shadow of the Colossus), but Schyman's work in Bioshock moved me just as much as the music in Shadow of the Colossus.
Bioshock, My favourite game - amazing music. It makes the whole experience more then what it actually is, gets you immersed.