curtain rises on the 42nd Annual Grammy Award ceremony, the legitimacy
and expectations of game music will rise with it. The National Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) Board of Trustees, last year,
approved opening 3 categories to include music written for the continuously
evolving digital arena that is video games: Best Soundtrack Album for
Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media; Best Song for a Motion
Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media; and Best Instrumental Composition
for Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media. 'Other Visual
Media' is the term designed to encompass video and computer games, multimedia
and the future possibilities of the internet into one tidy little package.
Although no game music was nominated this year, the ball has begun its
roll. I call upon you to help keep it rolling.
music has traveled from the bleeps and bloops of yesteryear to an art
form now recognized on par with Motion Picture and Television Scores,
with full orchestration and ever growing recording budgets and techniques.
The line is quickly becoming blurred as years of hard work and dedication
by outstanding composers culminate. Incredible efforts by our very own
game industry music notables, lead in force by powerhouse Chance Thomas
(Quest for Glory V, Middle Earth) and supporting cast (Tommy Tallarico,
Mark Miller, Ron Hubbard, Brian Schmidt, George Sanger, Bobby Prince,
Tom White, Michael Land, Alexander Brandon, Murray Allen, Greg Rahn
and others) presented a strong case to the Awards Committee which could
not be disregarded. We owe them all a great deal of gratitude for their
spirit and tenacity.
years back I was invited to the studio of TV theme great, Mike Post,
for an afternoon of musical rapture. He was writing and recording a
theme for a shows pilot episode, the studio was abuzz, creativity was
oozing, and I was sitting next to a man I had admired for years as he
played guitar. We talked about alot that day, our mutual love for music,
flying and the industry. But time passes and my memory fades as I struggle
to hold on to this highlight of my life. The one moment I will never
forget, though, is the site of all his Grammy Awards lined up on a glass
shelf just outside the studio door. I remember standing there in complete
awe, unbreathing for several minutes, having what could only be described
as a religious experience. From that moment on, I've wanted one and
now I am thankful to be working in an industry where the pinnacle of
music awards is at last attainable.
think this all simply started by accident. Chance Thomas had met one
of the key leaders of the academy and during a conversation, mentioned
composing for video games. This man of great stature and influence scoffed,
wrinkled his nose and said, "You mean like PacMan and Donkey Kong?"
Well, not only did the public need a little re-education, but so did
those of this prestigious organization. If only outwardly unaffected
by the situation, Chance explained he had just completed a game soundtrack
using a live orchestra and other high brow instrumentation like classical
guitars and layered voices. The nose became unwrinkled and eyebrows
raised in pleasant surprise. Now that he had his attention, he casually
asked if there could ever be a Grammy category for game scores. The
answer surprised even Chance, he was to write up a formal proposal and
send it to the address on the business card which was being thrust into
a 2 year journey into what Chance has described as "like getting
a bill passed through Congress." Endless letters, emails, phone
calls, faxes, meetings and an ever growing number of allies on the inside
led the Awards and Nominations Committee to eventually review the proposal.
Their interest became evident when they scheduled a Game Music Summit
in December 1998 with a dozen of the game industry's top music professionals.
This 'Working Group on Game Music Awards and Membership" opened
the eyes of the committee, giving them clear insight into the quality
of game music. On May 6, 1999, NARAS made the announcement many had
eagerly anticipated, that game scores would be allowed to compete for
a Grammy Award beginning with the years 42nd awards ceremony.
players helped with certain direction and backing to make this all a
reality. Behind the scenes efforts were especially concentrated during
vital phases, by individuals which Chance, and others, wish to also
recognize. "There were two individuals at NARAS that played pivotal
roles in getting game music included in the Grammy Awards. Without the
guidance, support, and campaigning of these two amazing ladies, it would
have never happened: Diane Theriot (Vice President of Awards) got me
started in the right direction, was an early supporter of this initiative,
and came through with some turnkey information at a critical time in
our campaign. Leslie Ann Jones (National Chairperson) was the rock solid
support who brought tremendous clout to our proposal and worked it effectively
on the inside. Important support also came from San Francisco chapter
president Steve Savage and from Mix magazine founder Hillel Resnor.
Both of these men opened up opportunities for influential stories on
game music in widely read NARAS publications. One more person who deserves
recognition and high praise for his role in this is my former boss at
Yosemite Entertainment, Craig Alexander. It was his bankroll that paid
for my lobbying trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the phone bill
for all the long distance calls to drum up support, and my time (on
the clock) that I spent drafting proposals, gathering support materials,
and leading the campaign. He was a big believer in it right from the
start and it probably wouldn't have happened without his support."
one of the essential pieces of this grand puzzle was the original proposal
submitted to the Academy. As an interesting historical note, and for
those who are curious, Chance has made this labor of love available
for download. The document is quite impressive and spotlights many areas
which you will find thoroughly thought provoking. Click
here to download the Grammy proposal.
in the Industry.
attention can only be positive to gaming and to the music makers within
the industry. There is no better advertisement that putting "Musical
Score by Grammy Award Winner… " on the box cover and the buying
public will respond in force. Besides the obvious affects, that game
composers would receive mainstream recognition and that perhaps even
established recording artists and composers might find our trade more
attractive, there are others worth considering.
far as legitimizing the craft, it would do alot in that sense, I think.
Those that do it feel the music we write is as valid as on any movie
or TV show. It would be nice to get out from behind the scenes, quit
being that bastard child of the music production world." says Jamey
Scott, Presto's in-house composer and sound designer. Efforts by industry
composers has been tremendous and development of game scores is obvious.
The Grammy's would encourage more growth, expansion and the continued
pursuit of musical excellence in games.
currently the audio director at Cyan, agrees that game music receiving
recognition on its own merits is important. "I hope it will raise
the awareness within the musical community that music can be made as
well and be just as effective for a gaming environment as any other.
I imagine that it won't hurt game sales either."
the increase of music budgets, Jon Holland, composer of the upcoming
Ms. Pacman Playstation game, Baseball 2000, the Vectorman
series and others, had some thoughts as well. "It would probably
be taken more seriously. Budgets would go up and we would start to hear
more robust, serious music in games. That grand style of music is out
there, it seems to me that every successful game that has an epic orchestral
score gets taken very seriously - Game of the Year! It would force a
new perspective on game scores from the developers standpoint. And I
don't feel that only orchestral scores should be eligible for this award.
Any good score should have the chance to win, Electronica included.
Great music should translate in any medium."
could also standardize game soundtrack release by the composer, opening
greater possibilities for getting the music 'out there' and receiving
added income. While soundtracks become elevated to this new level of
credibility and share shelf space in music stores, there are side effects
which should be monitored. If the composer is able to maintain certain
rights, especially for commercial release of the music, then our perfect
world will indeed exist. But as publishers and developers enter the
record business, composers will need to ensure they receive compensation
for that extra product income.
sound designer at Tommy Tallarico Studios is also excited about the
prospects. "We would definitely get better quality music knowing
that a Grammy could come from it and more people would get involved.
Back in the '80's video game music was just simple little melodies but
now it is music like movie scores or pop albums or other commercial
music. It's up to that level now, just not getting the same exposure.
I think more soundtracks will be released to compete. I would love to
pop in a CD of my favorite game." And think about if everyone felt
that way. It would inflame the growth of music product being released
by the industry musicians. More soundtrack albums and enhanced music
CD's would mean greater career opportunities and revenue for more and
more recording professionals such as composers, musicians, engineers
and producers. A win-win proposition for all of us.