2018, in review

Transitions, new beginnings, and setup for bigger horizons

2018 was a unique year for me. In the past, I’ve been lucky that each year seems to have one standout moment that utterly dominates my memories of that time (such as 2016, the release of ABZU; 2015 the release of AC SYNDICATE; 2014 the release of THE BANNER SAGA, etc etc). 2018 was no exception to this (spoiler alert: A Light in the Void) but yet it was a more diverse year than that. I’ve tried to break it down into basic categories:

GAMES

PODE

I was once again very fortunate to work on a variety of titles that released in 2018. The most unique, and one of the beautiful games I’ve ever worked on was Henchman & Goon’s game PODE:

I first became aware of this game when its creator / director Yngvill Hopen gave me a soft pitch many years ago. It seemed promising but I wasn’t prepared for how arresting and how charming the final results would be. The game is steeped in Norwegian influence and it was particularly joyous to write for duel Hardanger fiddles (seen above, played by Rachel Nesvig and Paul Cartwright). HIGHLY recommended, particularly for its poignant co-cop.

THE BANNER SAGA 3

This franchise has been one of the most cherished experiences of my entire career. Starting in 2012 with the outrageous success of the first game’s Kickstarter, I’ve spent the last 6 years riding alongside Stoic as they adventure to the end of the world. It’s been an honor, incredibly creatively free and challenged me as a composer unlike any other project.

Rather than go into detail here, I’m going to save it for a more in-depth piece. I’ve been gathering up notes and sketches in order to make a proper sendoff to the franchise (even if I’m publishing it the better part of a year after the finale’s release). In short, though, if you haven’t played these games, do yourself a favor and check them out.

COMMAND AND CONQUER: RIVALS

This snuck a bit under the radar for listeners of my work, but just before the New Year EA released the latest incarnation of the C&C franchise. I had been hired the year before and it was a sort of giddy moment, to be honest. Of course, plenty of people will instantly dismiss it on the basis of it being a mobile game but the final result is really engaging, deeply strategic, and made with love and respect to the legacy of C&C. As a hardcore C&C fan since the days of the Westwood original, it was a dream to join this series.

My soundtrack (a short 5-track EP) is available now on Spotify. There’s more on the horizon there so I’ll post when I can.

CONCERTS!

One of my goals from the starting days of my career was always to balance time in the studio, reclusively toiling away on scores, with live performances. Be it conducting my work or composing original concert works, I never wanted to get too far from the stage. There is something immensely powerful about feeling music acoustically move through a hall and to share that with an audience. I will never tire of that, and have tons of ideas for how to hopefully push the boundaries of that type of experience.

This year saw huge amounts of concert opportunities. I got to see the premiere of a new orchestral work, “The Fermi Paradox” with the West Michigan Symphony (for whom I have been a multi-season Composer-in-Residence), and lots of performances of Journey (particularly exciting among those was a performance by the Pacific Symphony with Roger Kalia conducting).

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One of the greatest thrills I’ve ever had was curating and conducting a concert entirely dedicated to my career thus far, thanks to the immense generosity of Satish Shewhorak and the Animex Festival. I was able to take music from almost every single game I’ve scored, plus a few I didn’t (such as Jessica Curry’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and Peter McConnell’s Grim Fandango) and string it together into a flowing stream of conscious.

I’ve never been honored with an entire show built around my work before and I could never thank Satish, and Gabrielle Kent enough for this. I will never forget it.

As if that weren’t enough, the Royal Philharmonic did an all-Playstation concert at Royal Albert Hall in London just a couple weeks later in May, and featured on the show were excerpts from Journey, The Order: 1886 (the theme I co-authored with Maestro Jason Graves), and most surreal of all: flOw. Hearing music originally written by 21 year-old clueless, out-of-his-depth Wintory at one of the most esteemed halls on the planet was truly beyond description for me.

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The moment the RPO began playing flOw

Just days later, I was invited alongside my muse Angela Bermúdez to perform at the Krakow Film Music Festival in Poland wherein I got to conduct Journey, ABZÛ and AC SYNDICATE to an audience of over 14,000 people! On the heels of that, Angela and I performed (with Tina Guo and Sara Andon) our improvised art+music show “Diálogos,” a show which remains among the most challenging and fulfilling I’ve ever attempted (the first of which was almost 2 years ago and written about here). We reprised it at the Game On convention in Lithuania (wherein I also conducted Journey, AC Syndicate and Bear McCreary’s killer main theme to the new God of War!). It’s been a glorious, exhausting, blurry and wondrous whirlwind.

I’m leaving out lots of others (it was a seriously busy year for concerts!), and maybe some time I’ll do a proper rundown of thoughts around concert music, but I must leave with the peak of 2018:

A LIGHT IN THE VOID

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this one. This was the most intense and personal thing I’ve ever undertaken, and the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I’d bit off more than I could chew. I am going to write a full debrief on it (maybe several), so for now I feel I should just leave this shot to try and communicate the absurd scope of it:

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https://www.litvconcert.com

The Road to 2019

At the start of this, I referred to2018 as a year of transitions, and I’m aware I haven’t gotten into that at all. Without getting into too much detail, it’s been a year of immense personal overhaul. I’ve seen lots of long-time personal relationships undergo huge changes (or disappear outright), new relationships emerge and others deepen. I’ve undergone a lot of reflection on what sort of composer I am, what I want to be, and how to grow. I’ve also had my ass kicked quite a bit. I’ll unpack a lot of that in future posts, but for now, I’ll say 2018 wasn’t a ‘banner’ year in the way many in the past have been. It was more like … the labor pains of a fresh start. That new start begins in earnest, I think, in 2019. I have a lot I’m excited about looking ahead.

Chief among those: in the final days of 2018, Giant Squid announced their next game: THE PATHLESS. I am extremely excited to be attached to this project, once again pushing myself to try and craft something new and as bold as their vision for the game. More on that to come.

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There are also many more planned concerts, releases, albums and pet projects for 2019. Angela and I will be performing in various venues around the world, so hopefully there are changes to meet more folks before / after shows, etc.

I likewise have much more planned for both my Youtube channel and this blog, so if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, feel free to comment.

Thank you to those who took part in this fascinating, grueling, and rewarding year. Onward to the next frontier!

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“A Decade in Games” by Angela Bermudez

Written by

Professionally curious about music. Composer for Journey, Abzu, Erica, John Wick Hex, The Banner Saga 1–3, AC Syndicate, Tooth & Tail, etc. Fan of humanity!

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