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Has your style been at all influenced by the culture at Grasshopper? If so, how?
AY: I've been influenced in a very positive way. The team at Grasshopper values and cherishes the creative spirit. The importance of that and belief itself is positive influence for me.
How do you keep from stagnating and just making the same kinds of music? There must be some pressure to keep doing the kinds of things that have made you popular.
AY: You know me so well! (laughs)
Actually, I don't make any efforts to keep making the same kind of music. I'd be lying if I said I don't feel any pressure, but I just put a mental block on it and make music based on emotions, experiences and feelings.
Producing and sticking to my music and style is one thing, but what's occupying my mind lately is this entertainment world I belong to: what is my role and existence in this space? My short answer to that is to seek and nurture the next generation of content creators, to figure out where we're headed next and where we ought to be.
When you are making music, do you find that certain notes or tones fit certain emotions that you're trying to target? Can you talk a bit about how you establish emotional resonance in general?
AY: Yes, but it's obviously not as easy as saying "this note", or a set of notes.
Ultimately, it's a subconscious feeling that we, as humans, sense naturally.
For example, no matter how somberly you play the C-D-G chord to someone, they're going to feel happy or upbeat. However, by taking D to D flat and playing C-D flat-G, you'll instantly change the mood to an unhappy, sad tone.
This has to do with the wavelength of the emitted sound and how that translates in one's brain to trigger an emotion. It's not as complicated as it may sound though -- in fact, it's pretty straightforward, and maybe I'll write a book someday to offer some techniques!
Does performing live change your perspective on the creation of music? Would you recommend that other game composers try to use performance as an outlet?
AY: I'm not quite sure where the act of performing live sits in my heart...
When looking at music and sound in relation to a video game, its existence is only validated because it's a component of the entire game. The element of music and sound can't act or perform on its own (and move the game forward).
Hypothetically speaking, if a video game were a successful band in the music world, the role of music in a game would be the same as the vocalist, a single but important component that makes up the band. If that vocalist were to go solo and perform on [her] own, I feel a sense of disrespect and disdain towards the band (in other words, the game).
Having said that, it's exciting to perform live! But rather than doing so and taking the route as a "musician (or performer) in the music industry", I want to continue to push myself in ways where I can still perform live and simultaneously create an experience that is unique to our industry. Whether it's syncing live performance and visual presentation, or some form of interactive live performance, I'd want it to be something only the video game industry can achieve.
How did the Play for Japan project come together? Who is funding it, and how will it be distributed?
AY: I started out by reaching out to my close composer friends... from there, the word spread and everyone has been very supportive. It's 100 percent charity work (pro bono, no funding) and we're aiming to release soon via iTunes.
Did the earthquake affect the development of current games? Rolling blackouts can stall development.
AY: Fortunately, our offices weren't greatly affected by the earthquake but mentally we were all in a slightly different place... you just can't prepare for something of that magnitude. Through our love and passion for our work of making video games, we've been able to help and support each other through these difficult times. I am very grateful for the care and compassion we received from friends, colleagues and supporters.