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Author Winifred Phillips "Guides Us" Through Her Latest Video Game Music Book

Profile Of Award Winning Video Game Composer and Author Winifred Phillips posing with her very special book "A Composers Guide To Video Game Music" on MIT Press
Courtesy of Getty Images

For most video game fanatics, they usually are familiar with the composers that have written the music for their favorite video game. Others, they really wouldn't care and consider the music just background and scenery while they're tag teaming via the net with other hard core players throughout the world to beat or get as far in the game as possible. However, the marriage between the two will always be inseperable.

Winifred Phillips is a veteran of the game world as a composer who has written many scores for the genre with impeccable taste, grace and talent. She is a true dedicated composer who always tries to bring out the best in the assignments she takes on whether is movie tie-in's for "The Da Vinci Code", "Speed Racer", "Shrek", and "Legend Of The Guardians" and to her ultimate masterpiece, "God Of War", one of the greatest selling video games on the market. Winifred is truly an immense talents whose great music I've discovered recently and will no doubt continue to thrive with every new score she writes. She's just that great.

I was contacted by her to review her latest book, "The Composers Guide To Game Scores", which was truly an honor and after reading it, it was quite impressed by her. Her words featuring the fire and passion that a composer is supposed to have as well as that of an author or a critic like myself. Words that are meaningful, funny and at times, courageous. I'm very grateful to have met her and when i personally asked her to do an interview with her about the book and her career, she happily jumped at the opportunity which was long over due (Sorry, cherie' for the long wait, but a promise is a promise!). Now that being said, this very special interview with Winifred we talk about the book and how it came to be as well as working within the realm of the video game world as both a composer and now, a great author. She candidly shares here thoughts with me about the subject and now here is our great conversation between us. So please sit back and read this, I hope you truly enjoy it. I know I enjoyed writing it.

Please tell the readers about what inspired you become interested in music.

WP: I’ve always been interested in music, since my earliest memories, so I think music has always come pretty naturally to me.

Let’s talk about your wonderful book, “A Composer’s Guide To Game Music” which was released not too long ago. Can you please tell us the inspiration behind it?

WP:The book was actually my music producer’s idea – Winnie Waldron is an award-winning music producer, and she’s worked with me on all my game projects since my first one (God of War). She suggested to me that I ought to write a book about game music composition. That was about two years ago. But it took me awhile to come around to the idea.

When did you decide personally that this was a subject worth writing about?

WP: At first I just didn’t think I could make any kind of contribution, so Winnie recommended that I take a look at my own collection of game audio books, and see if I had something to say that hadn’t been already said in all those texts. Eventually, I looked over all those books, and I found out that there were things I wanted to add, ideas I wanted to express, and experiences I wanted to share. That’s when I decided to write the book.

I loved the chapter where you talk about the “fanboys”, who are the die hard fans of gaming. Did you do any personal research or talk to the people who really love these things?

WP: As a gamer and a fan of video games, I wrote from my own personal experiences for the most part. Also, I’ve had lots of opportunities to meet with fans at conventions and conferences, and to experience the kind of fan excitement that is a big part of this great community.

Do you have plans to write another book and if you do, what would it be about?

WP: I haven’t thought about another book just yet – I’m still recovering from writing this one! It was a big job. Right now, I’m concentrating on my career as a game composer.

You’re also a great composer in your own right for games such as “Assassin's Creed Liberation”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “God of War”, “LittleBigPlanet 2”, “Speed Racer”, “Shrek the Third”, and “Spore Hero” to name a few. How did you get involved in such fun projects?

WP: I’m an independent contractor creating music for the video game industry, so I’m constantly in contact with the companies creating video games. I’ll be asked to create music for a project by either the developer or the publisher – that’s usually how it works.

When you composing do you think about what game developers want stylistically or do you try to have a little bit of an influence as to what the game should and shouldn’t have?

WP: The whole process is a collaboration between the developer and the composer. The developers wouldn’t hire me if they didn’t value my personal musical aesthetic, so my contribution to the creative direction of the project is important. At the same time, I’m keenly aware that this game is an embodiment of their creative vision, and I want to compose music that supports their game as fully as possible – so I pay close attention to their stylistic direction and incorporate their ideas into the music I compose.

Having written music for video games, do you personal think that it is a positive outlet for you to expand or develop your talents musically?

WP: Absolutely! I’m incredibly excited about composing for video games. It’s challenging, and intensely creative. It’s a great playground for growth as an artist.

Is there a downside to writing video game music in your opinion?

WP: No, I can’t see that there’s a downside to it.

When you write your scores, do you normally like to orchestrate them as well?

WP: Yes, absolutely. I’m very hands-on with my work. I like to be involved in all aspects of it.

Name a composer that you personally feel has had a major influence on your music and career so far.

WP: I enjoy a lot of composers, and I listen to a lot of soundtracks. If there’s a standout for me, I’d say that the post-minimalist composer John Adams has been a big inspiration.

Very special thanks to the lovely Winifred for doing this interview with me. Your work is stellar and inspired please keep it up on both ends so more can be written about your great music and inspired words!

Winifred will also be speaking at GameSoundCon Conference ( that will take place on Oct 7-8 in Los Angeles.

Winifred's stellar book, "A Composers Guide To Game Music" is now available from MIT Press on on hardback and download available for the Kindle

Please feel free to visit Winifred Phillips' official website for updates on her latest video game projects as well as books along with sound samples of her excellent music at

Here Is Winifred Phillips' Biography:

"Winifred Phillips is a composer for video games, television, radio and film. She is a winner of the Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, a two-time winner of the Hollywood Music in Media Award, and the winner of several Game Audio Network Guild awards, including Music of the Year.

Phillips is also a published author of a comprehensive resource book about the field of game lmusic, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Entitled A Composer's Guide to Game Music, the book offers a practical guide that leads an aspiring video game composer from acquiring the necessary creative skills to understanding the function of music in games to finding work in the field.

One of Phillips' latest projects as a video game composer is Assassin's Creed Liberation, from Ubisoft. Phillips' composed 100% of the music for this game. Her music for this game won a Global Music Award, a Hollywood Music in Media Award, a Game Audio Network Guild Award and a GameFocus Award. For Assassin's Creed Liberation, Phillips created a symphonic and choral score, enhanced with classical voice, instrumental soloists, African drum performances and tribal vocals.

Set in 18th Century New Orleans, the game presents a little-known period of American history through the eyes of a woman caught between two worlds - the aristocratic French society of her father, and the African heritage of her mother. This clash of cultures is expressed in the musical score, which sets baroque string orchestra against African percussion and voices.

Phillips was also a composer for the LittleBigPlanet PS Vita and LittleBigPlanet 2 video games. Both games have received enormous critical acclaim. In addition, she composed all the music for LittleBigPlanet 2: Toy Story. This DLC game was released by Media Molecule / Sony Computer Entertainment Europe for LittleBigPlanet 2.

Previously, Winifred composed the music for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - The Videogame from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, released in September 2010 alongside the film of the same name, directed by Zack Snyder (300, The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) and produced by Animal Logic (Happy Feet, visual FX for 300). Winifred's music from the Legend of the Guardians videogame won a Hollywood Music in Media Award. The music of the Legend of the Guardians videogame was also an IFMCA Award finalist in the category of "Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media" from the International Film Music Critics Association.

Winifred's other videogame credits include the following:

God of War was a smash-hit action-adventure game released by Sony Computer Entertainment America. For her work on this game, Winifred received an Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition). The music she wrote for "God of War" also received four Game Audio Network Guild Awards, including "Music of the Year".

The Da Vinci Code™ was a videogame tie-in to the blockbuster movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.

Speed Racer was a tie-in to the film starring Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox, Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon. For her work on this project, Winifred was a Hollywood Music Awards finalist.

Shrek the Third was released to coincide with the blockbuster movie premiere. Winifred's music for this game was nominated for a Game Audio Network Guild award.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released to coincide with the premiere of the film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton (who personally approved all of Winifred's music for the game).

Spore Hero, from the "Spore" franchise. Winifred Phillips was named an International Film Music Critics Award finalist for her music for this game..

SimAnimals, from the bestselling "Sims™" series.

The Maw, released in January 2009 as the number one bestseller on XBox Live Arcade, winner of the Audience Choice Award (2008 PAX-10 showcase), finalist at the 2009 Independent Games Festival.

Fighter Within, from Ubisoft Entertainment.

Winifred's film and television credits include the Canadian coverage of the Olympic Games in Beijing, the 15th Annual Critics Choice Awards on VH1, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the feature film "Violent Memories", and the TV series America's Most Wanted, among others.

From 1992 to 2003, Winifred was the producer / composer of the award-winning Radio Tales series, for which she wrote the musical scores for over one hundred music drama programs. The series first aired via National Public Radio and then received a ten-year weekly broadcast run on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. For her work as a composer on this music series, Winifred is a four-time winner of the Gracie Award for artistic excellence and outstanding achievement from the Alliance for Women in Media.

In addition, Winifred is a New York Festivals WorldMedalist, and has been honored by the NFCB Golden Reel Awards and the Audio Publishers Association Awards.

For the past five years Winifred has served as a nominating committee panelist for the Best Original Score category of the Interactive Achievement Awards, presented by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. Service on an Interactive Achievement Awards nominating panel is limited to the most accomplished video game professionals, and is a testament to career achievement in the interactive entertainment industry. Winifred is the owner of Generations Productions LLC, an award-winning music studio and production company."

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