Sound Byte: Meet the Composer – AC III: Liberation

We speak to Winifred Philips, the composer for the Assassin's Creed III spin-off.


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Readers of Sound Byte will recognize Winifred Philips from a previous Sound Byte. To recap, Philips is best known for doing music work for God of War, The Maw, and the LittleBigPlanet series. Recently she won a Hollywood Music in Media award for her work on Assassin's Creed III: Liberation.

We managed to catch up with the composer about her recent work on Ubisoft's open-world action stab-heavy series.

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What are the key differences when composing film and video games, in your own opinion?

Films have a predetermined pacing, and a fixed sequence of events. Composing music for film is a matter of fitting a musical composition to the on-screen action. In many ways, composing music for film is a much simpler process.

Game composition must take into account the unpredictability of the pacing and the order of events. The music must enhance the sense of excitement and add emotional depth to the experience, no matter how the action unfolds.

What were your key influences when composing Assassin's Creed III: Liberation's music?

Aveline's personal background was a key influence in developing the musical style for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation. Her French heritage from her father was expressed through many of the French Baroque musical influences. Her African heritage from her mother lent the musical score a visceral energy from the complex rhythms and ancient instruments of that culture.

What is the tone you're going for in Assassin's Creed III: Liberation's main theme?

I wanted to communicate Aveline's dual heritage through the construction of the theme. The driving percussion is accented by African tribal voices to form a strong and assertive backbone for the musical piece. At the same time, the full string orchestra infuses the piece with a European instrumental approach, and the female lead vocal represents Aveline's personality balanced between these cultural influences.

Does Liberation's music coincide with Assassin's Creed III in any way? Or were you instructed to do a totally new style for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation instead?

My work on the game was completely independent. I didn't have any contact with the music team for AC III, nor was I instructed to write the music in any style that would refer to what the AC III music team was doing. I never heard the music from AC III while I was composing for Liberation. It wouldn't have made sense for the music of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation to reference the style of AC III, because the two games are set in very different environments, and their main characters share very little in common.

What are the main instruments in Assassin's Creed III:Liberation's music?

I concentrated on a balance between Baroque string orchestra, African percussion and wind instruments, and some more contemporary rhythm influences. Since the Assassin's Creed franchise is based on the idea that modern day people are reliving the past through a marvel of modern technology known as the Animus, it made sense to weave some contemporary instrumental textures into the score.

If you had to pick one track to sum up the entire game, which would it be and why?

The main theme. It expresses a lot of the fundamental elements found in the rest of the score including some important melodies and instrumental choices. While I don't think it can fully sum up the entire game, it does serve as a good introduction to the musical style that informs the rest of the score.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation is out now on PS Vita. Check out GameSpot's review here. Music fans can also check out the game's soundtrack here.

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