Music of the Teens

On a whim, I decided to take a look back at my career during this past decade and pull together the highlights. It quickly ballooned into a fairly deep-cutting examination of how I’ve spent my time these last 10 years and how far I’ve come. It’s hard to overstate my gratitude for all the opportunities I’ve had.

Below, chronologically arranged, is a rundown of each year with a few words about each one. Note that there are many, many projects not included; short films, projects to which I only contributed a little music as part of a larger team, and innumerable TV commercials, trailers, etc. This little exercise also made me realize that even though my career extends back to around 2005, probably 95% of my work has fallen in this past decade. It was startling to realize how few scores are left out when making 2010 the cutoff (most notably among them thatgamecompany’s flOw, and the films Captain Abu Raed and Grace).

In any case, thank you to all who’ve been along for this incredible ride. Excitedly we forge into the next decade!

2010

The River Why

Technically I started this film in 2009, but I decided to include it since it wasn’t finished until 2010 (it came out even later). This is a beautiful coming-of-age drama starring Zach Gilford, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan and a then-unknown Amber Heard. It was the first time I’d dipped my toes into the rustic Americana, and much is owed to the beautiful performances by guitarists George Doering and Tom Strahle, cellist Steve Erdody, and violist David Walther.

Leave

This is without question one of my favorite films I’ve ever scored. I highly encourage seeking it out however you can, and I’ll say nothing of what it’s about. The score was one of the most grueling experiences, with many cues often finalizing after 20–30 versions. The director, Bob Celestino, is one of the most compassionate-while-demanding I’d ever worked with before or since. He brought out my best, though the score is ironically very subtle, using almost exclusively textural electronics and ethereal vocals performed by the magnificent Ayana Haviv. Here is the end credit sequence, which featured famed guitarist Scott Tennant.

Majid

On the heels of Captain Abu Raed, I had the fortune to meet director Nassim Abassi and score his lovely coming-of-age roadtrip drama Majid, about two boys trying to find a photograph their parents in Morocco. It’s a beautiful and innocent film and it was a joy to explore music that felt accordingly optimistic and intimate.

2011

The Grief Tourist

In stark contrast to Majid, The Grief Tourist (re-titled on release to The Dark Tourist) is among the darkest and most anguish-infused films I’ve ever tackled. Written and produced by Frank John Hughes (with whom I’d worked on Leave), it stars Michael Cudlitz as a so-called ‘grief tourist,’ which is someone who seeks out places of death and pain. It’s an oddly spiritual film that goes to haunting places and the chance to explore my inner demons was something I’ve carried with me since.

Hostage

This film brought three wonderful people into my life: director Tony Glazer, producer/actress Summer Crockett Moore (both of whom I’ve worked with many times since), and tangentially actor Anthony Rapp. The film is a thriller in which 4 jonesing meth addicts accidentally get involved in a hostage situation while attempting a simple robbery. I recall that I rented a bunch of small percussion instruments, like dulcimers and toy pianos, to create a sort of broken and fragile score, which was set in opposition to these strange and surreal electronics (developed in part after brainstorming with a former addict currently in rehab). I wanted the film to feel childlike, as if these young hostage-takers were really just innocent kids whose lives had jumped the rails.

Gray Rain

Throughout my career I’ve tried to keep space for concert commissions and this was one of the first where after the fact I felt the piece truly represented who I’d become as a composer. In many ways, “Gray Rain” comes from a similar place as Journey, which was being written at the same time. The video contains a little preamble in which I explain it, so I’ll let it speak for itself:

2012

Journey

I’ve written and spoken about Journey rather endlessly over the years, that I don’t even know what to say about it here. It changed me in every way. It opened doors I’d never imagined, it brought new and wonderful people into my life, and it gave me the gift of participating in a game the likes of which I could never have dreamed of. It was a 3-year process that was often very difficult, yielding in the end an experience I’ll be forever indebted to.

Strangely in Love

In parallel with the final days of Journey was a very special and personal film, directed by one of my closest friends, Amin Matalqa (with whom I’d previously worked on Captain Abu Raed). This film is deeply infused with all that makes us who we are, particularly Amin’s oddball sense of humor and, below all the sarcasm, a big ol’ softy heart. It’s a borderline surreal comedy (a Chaplin-esque adaptation of Dostoyevsky!) and features the most throwback score I’ve ever done. Special mention is mandatory for Hermine Deurloo, whose jazz-tinged harmonica solos are the soul of this music. Also, Laura Vall and Thomas Hjorth’s song “A Simple Love,” which they wrote for the film and which the score references throughout, is divinely inspired.

It’s a Disaster

This one is an outlier here because I actually didn’t write any music for it. In fact, there is no score in this film. Todd Berger’s absolutely brilliant comedy came into my life via its producers Kevin Brennan and Jeff Grace (who both also act, fantastically, in the film) with the question “does our film need a score?” I spent a month or two trying a wide variety of experiments, from typical indie comedy fair, to classically-infused orchestral music, to even strange diagetic-ish sound design involving ticking clocks. At the end I confidently told them “I think the movie is brilliant without any music” and so it is. I can’t recommend it enough.

The War Around Us

I’ll forever remember this film and its attachment to Journey, as I was finishing the score during the fateful days when the game shipped and we got bombarded by a slew of overwhelming reviews. The memory stands out especially because the emotional highs of Journey and its reception contrasted to the utter heartbreak of this film. Director Abdallah Omeish created a devestating documentary about Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros’ experience as foreign journalists in Gaza during an upsurge in Israeli/Palestinian conflict in 2008. The music features the collective talents of Steve Erdody (cello), Roger Wilkie (violin) (both of whom are full-blown legends in the world of soundtrack recording), Charissa Barger (harp) and Holly Sedillos (vocals).

Horn

This was the first game I dove into following the release of Journey, and contrasting to its predecessor’s 3-year development, I had about a month to do Horn. The score was my first time diving headlong into the traditions of mystical fantasy, and considering it was an iOS game, I still marvel at its ambitions. It was the first original IP from Phosphor Games and I’m honored they tasked me with the score; we recorded a Hollywood studio orchestra right here in Los Angeles (a first for a mobile game, I believe!), featuring a wonderful chorus of penny whistles, and charming ocarina solos by Cris Gale. This one was a pure delight to undertake.

Kinect Party

One of my bucket list collaborators was always Tim Schafer and his Double Fine Productions, on account of my lifelong love of the LucasArts adventure games (above all, Grim Fandango). My dream was fulfilled when then-Audio Director Brian Min asked me to contribute a stack of cues to their XBox Kinect game Kinect Party, in which I was basically asked to just be zany and ridiculous.

2013

Monaco

Shortly before finishing Journey, our produced Kellee Santiago introduced me to an indie developer friend of hers named Andy Schatz, who was working on an eccentric heist game called Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine. The game is a Pac-Man-esque top-down stealth game with a wonderful secret — that the chaos unleashed by a failure of stealth actually creates its best moments. Andy’s suggestion: an all-piano ragtimey score in the vein of old silent films. It was a blast like I’d never imagined, and featured here is the sultry end title song featuring Laura Vall (who I was desperate to work with again following Strangely in Love).

Mercury Plains

This film, directed by Charles Burmeister, deserved a much wider release than it got, in particular due to its great performance by then-rising star Scott Eastwood. It’s a sort of arthouse drama about a kid swept into the world of vigilantes and drug cartels along the US/Mexico border, almost in the vein of Breaking Bad. The score is a mix of strange elements, leaning heavily on guitars (played by Tom Strahle), English Horn (Lara Wickes), viola (Rodney Wirtz) and weird, distorted harmonica (Ross Garren).

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded

One day after Journey came out I got a surprise call: Al Lowe, alum of the legendary Sierra Games Studios (creators of some of my childhood favorites, like the King’s Quest and Space Quest franchises) was coming out of retirement to oversee the remake of his 1987 cult classic Leisure Suit Larry. I was asked to do the score, and when I told them I’d love to go full 18-piece big band, I was only met with smiles and nods. Of course, I’d never attempted that type of sound before but they didn’t seem to mind (Al himself is an accomplished sax player, composer and big band leader with his own group in Seattle!).

2014

Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown

The chance to work with Warner Bros Animation on such a storied and legendary franchise was something I still can’t believe happened. Especially in the strange context of it being a WWE crossover, featuring actual wrestlers like John Cena and T`he Undertaker. We did this old school, recording a jazzy band at Capitol Records in downtown Hollywood, and I even got to do my own take on Hoyt Curtain’s timeless theme.

Dark Summer

My second film with Paul Solet, whose earlier film Grace was my first true entry to world of horror films, this was probably the hardest I’d pushed on a maxed-out, hard-hitting electronics score. Paul always manages to force me to try things I’ve never done, citing his mantra “the only rule is that there are no rules.” Ironically, this opening credits cue is the only part of the score resembling ‘traditional’ acoustic music, as a long and virtuosic cello solo by Tina Guo gets eaten alive by walls of sound.

The Banner Saga

Rarely have I been so excited to start a project as I was on The Banner Saga. When Stoic’s Arnie Jorgensen, Alex Thomas and John Watson (all former Bioware game developers, who struck it big on Kickstarter) reached out to me I instantly couldn’t believe how lucky I was. This game is GORGEOUS. If you haven’t played it, go now. It’s also brutal, tackling mature themes with a steady hand and restraint. For the music, they told me to essentially do anything the game inspired me to do, and so what resulted was a large, somber score for string-less orchestra (ie, a concert band, or wind ensemble). We recorded in Dallas, Texas with the Dallas Wind Symphony, and the approaches to production that that required really changed me as a composer. It also brought a trio of amazing performers / YouTubers into my life, who’ve become dear friends: Taylor Davis, Peter Hollens and Malukah. My eyes were opened to new technical and emotional depths as a result of this game, and given that it was designed as trilogy, the best was yet to come …

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell

This is truly unlike anything else I’ve done. Volition’s creative director Steve Jaros had this idea for a Saint’s Row musical number and even came up with the tunes himself, in tandem with Ariel Gross and Larry Gates. I was called in to help tie it all together, and then orchestrate the DisneyHell out of it and make it sound like Alan Menken had finally plunged into the world of video games. We recorded the score in a gloriously huge manner, with Brussels Philharmonic, conducted by the incredible Dirk Brosse.

The Maze of Games

This is actually a playable book, written by puzzle mastermind and all-around Smartest Human Alive, Mike Selinker. I saw his Kickstarter for a “solve your own adventure” trending on twitter and impulsively backed it. Shortly after, we started messaging and he invited me to actually join the project, and find ways to concoct musical puzzles that are interwoven with the narrative. The idea was to release an album alongside the book, with no description for how to unlock the puzzles within. It gets incredibly complicated and yet, astonishingly, it’s all been solved. The music is a real showpiece (on account of how stupidly hard I made it) for soprano Holly Sedillos, and the merry band accompanying her (included among them in this particular piece is the legendary pianist Mike Lang). The music also features interstitial showy and bizarre violin solos from the acclaimed YouTuber Taylor Davis!

Soul Fjord

Another of my bucket list collaborators was Portal creator Kim Swift and so I was overjoyed when she/Airtight Games offered me the chance to work on their Ouya exclusive (sigh), Soul Fjord. Her challenge was “give me Viking Funk.” I had no idea how to do that and so, as always, I just recklessly dove head first. The vocals were performed by the inventive singer Joel Virgel and guitar/bass by my longtime friend Tom Strahle.

Our Curiosity

Compared with all the rest, this is a very tiny project. A short film co-directed by astrobiologist Jeff Marlow, I include it here because the other co-director was … me! My first time taking a crack at filmmaking, Our Curiosity is a love letter to NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, which was released on the occasion of its 2nd anniversary on Mars. The film featured narration by none other than Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Felicia Day, and is also the first time I got to express my love for science and music in a single project. More on that later …

2015

The Order 1886

This score is 99% composed by my dear friend and admired colleague, Jason Graves, but I had the immense pleasure of co-authoring its main theme. Our work on this occupied quite a bit of time and so even though it’s not really one of my scores, I am proud of the results and decided to include it here. It was also magnificently recorded at Abbey Road with a huge ensemble of violas, cellos, basses, low winds, and baritone singers. Plus, this was my first time working with the studio Ready at Dawn, and that relationship has borne some very meaningful fruit since as well.

This Gaming Life

Chances are you’ve never heard of “This Gaming Life” and that’s a damn shame because it was one of the most fun, challenging, and rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of. In 2014 the Australian comedy musical group Tripod got commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to create an evening length show, and what resulted is a sort of ‘orchestral cabaret’ show in which the group explores how their 20-year friendship has been forged on the back of playing videogames. I was brought in initially to simply help with the orchestrations and quickly they invited me to have a far more meaningful role in the writing of the show. It was my first time making a full stage production of this kind, and even though it’s had occasion to be performed multiple, it remains largely unseen outside Australia. The songwriting by Tripod is absolutely superb and the comedy is legitimately genius.

Standoff

The writer Adam Alleca, with whom I’d been friends for years, made his directorial debut rather amazingly with this constrained thriller starring Thomas Jane and Laurence Fishburne. The film revolves around two guys, each having shot the other and now slowly bleeding out, trying to get an advantage over the other before the inevitable clock runs out. Adam strongly encouraged stark, strange choices and what resulted was a kind mechanically dancing prepared piano, cello solos by Tina Guo, and various other weird sounds that I honestly have no explanation for.

Sunset

Yet another Bucket List game developer I’d always hoped to work with is the Belgian duo known as Tale of Tales (ie, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn) whose many games have been deeply influential in the industry (particularly their game Endless Forest, which was a definite influence on Journey). They approached me about their indie Sunset, in which you play as a housekeeper to an aristocrat in a fictional South American country undergoing a revolution in the 1970s. It came with an interesting challenging: all the music would be diegetic and found in-world on vinyl records. Meaning that it would be possible to play the game and never hear any music, if so you chose. On top of that, as a twist, via their Kickstarter we employed an army of non-professional (and a few pro!) collaborators to write these pieces with me, thus populating the game’s world with a huge diversity of musical voices. The entire album was unlike anything I’ve undertaken, but I can’t resist sharing this track in particular. The collaborator was a young woman I’d originally met at an autograph line during Video Games Live, and she had zero musical experience before doing this. Not only did she write the lyrics and melody, it’s her singing too, and the results astounded me:

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

It was a huge honor to join Ubisoft’s acclaimed Assassin’s Creed franchise, particularly in the context that it was their Quebec City studio’s first time leading one of these projects, and with that came a directive to be bold and risky. The Victorian setting of the game gave me license for a kind bladed chamber score, which we recorded at Abbey Road featuring some of the most extraordinary musicians I’ve ever worked with (and brilliantly captured by the great engineer Jake Jackson). The score also features outrageously challenging solos for violin (played by the inspiring Sandy Cameron) and cello (as always, by the legend Tina Guo). This score also gave me a chance to reunite with Tripod and write a half dozen parlor-style “murder ballads” which will forever remain a career high point.

The Rendezvous

Reuniting with Amin Matalqa for this 90s-style duo adventure film (starring Stana Katic and Raza Jaffrey) was unlike anything I have, or will, experience. The film was finished at a time when both Amin and I were experiencing enormous personal loss (which I wrote about here), and the score became the outpouring for all the pent-up emotion. But it’s also a grand adventure with liberty to go all-out, and as such I paired up with my childhood orchestra, the Colorado Symphony. It’s jazzy, and loud, and spooky and rambunctious. We cut no corners and the result is probably the most audacious-yet-traditional score I’ve ever done.

2016

The Banner Saga 2

The sequel to The Banner Saga brought me back into the encouraging arms of Stoic Studio, and their wondrous enabling of all my strangest musical desires. Again the score featured my trio of Youtubers, and string-less wind ensemble (this time recorded, hot on the heels of The Rendezvous, with the Colorado Symphony). The game, and music in turn, gets quite a lot darker and more dire compared with the first game, and the chance to really push into those emotional caves was something I cherished. It’s a fantastic facet of this line of work, that projects give composers the chance to channel emotions which would otherwise probably be immensely toxic and destructive.

ABZÛ

Thatgamecompany’s art director from Flower and Journey, Matt Nava, left the company in 2012 and founded his own studio: Giant Squid. Their first game was ABZÛ and I was very lucky to be asked to write its score. We worked together the entire 3 years of development, and the result is this sort of impressionistic, lush orchestral/choral score that proved equally demanding and rewarding. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much unused material for something as I did here, often racking up 45 minutes of sketches for each chunk of 5 minutes. The game was immensely well-received, which was exciting for me because Matt is one of the most incredible artists I’ve ever worked with, and I’d have been heartbroken if the world had not taken note of his work here. He suffered for the game like few will ever understand, and the validation it got on release was well-earned. This score featured oboe solos by Kristin Naigus, who has become a constant collaborator ever since.

The Last Movie Star

Adam Rifkin wrote and directed this beautiful film, the swan song of star Burt Reynolds, and graciously offered me the chance to score it. There’s actually very little music in the film, and what’s there is often a kind of quirky, strange blend of guitars and trumpets, meant to sort of live in the memory of the titular characters’ reminiscing of former glory. It’s a superb film that I can’t recommend highly enough, and a perfect epilogue for a legendary acting career.

2017

Deformers

I could have never expected that, after The Order 1886, my chance to reunite with Ready At Dawn would take the shape of a supremely silly online brawler. So be it though when my dear friend and brother Andrea Pessino (the game’s creative director and co-founder of RAD) asked me to write the score and said, essentially, “write anything you wish.” There being no storyline to the game (it’s a purely mechanics driven multiplayer experience), I had basically no parameters. I just went nuts. It’s legitimately insane throughout, topped off by Attenborough-esque narrations I wrote just for the album and performed by Troy Baker. The music features world-class accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, violinist Sandy Cameron, guitarists Scott Tennant and Tom Strahle, winds by Kristin Naigus, soprano solos by Holly Sedillos, harmonica by Ross Garren, and orchestras ensembles in both Macedonia and London (in other words, seemingly everyone I’d worked with in my career up to that point, thrown into a blender together).

Luna

After Journey shipped, producer Robin Hunicke and programmer Martin Middleton created their own studio called Funomena and the VR game Luna was its first title. Robin approached me with the score, asking that it be something very personal and unrestrained. Luna is a child’s lens look at grief and loss, and Robin knew I had experienced quite a lot of that in my life. She even went so far as to say that they would adapt the game to fit the music in case my musical exploration took me far afield. The result is something I don’t honestly know how to talk about. It’s intimate, it’s raw, and it’s very deeply me.

Bullet Head

My third time out of the game with Paul Solet, Bullet Head is a fantastic thriller starring Adrien Brody, John Malkovich and Antonio Banderas. It follows three professional thieves trying to hide out after a job goes south, who inadvertently get stuck in a building housing with a loose champion fighting dog. As with all of Paul’s films, the visceral images onscreen are masking the pathos below; he told me this was a film about the idea that monsters are never born — they are made. Even though the music is rather viciously tribal (with electric cello mayhem by Tina Guo), it has a soulful gospel choir buried in its heart, crying out for atonement. As always, Paul makes me a better composer (through a rather torturous process of endless iteration) and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Tooth and Tail

Andy Schatz, with whom I’d done Monaco, jumped into the world of Real-time strategy with this deliciously satirical, quasi-Orwellian game. After many conversations of what the RTS genre could be, we came to the conclusion that, at its best, it’s like a flirtatious dance. And so was born the idea that the music would manifest as tangos, tarantellas, wedding dances and waltzes. It’s a bizarre score but I am proud that its eclectic nature didn’t seem to fall into an incoherent mess. Plus it features some rather dazzling performers like (for the millionth time) guitarist Tom Strahle, wind extraordinaire Kristin Naigus and violinist Sandy Cameron.

Absolver

French developer Sloclap reached out to me score their gorgeous and thoughtful martial arts game Absolver with very little overarching instruction, beyond “let’s avoid the orchestra.” The score is peculiar, featuring huge amounts of aggressive (though oddly dancing) percussion and winds, electric bass and for the big finale a grooving rhythm which I co-composed with the legend RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan. I’ve not really done anything like this before or since, and the chance to work with artist of that caliber is something I’ll hang on to forever.

Some Change

This was a little pet project cooked up with Troy Baker and Tripod’s Simon Hall. The three of us decided to write a “Christmas single” except leaning on a poetic spoken word with string quartet + piano accompaniment. We tracked it live, with Troy performing the carefully choreographed words, while I conducted the ensemble. For the release, artist Angela Bermudez made this beautiful pencil drawing. This project was very dear to me, bringing together some of my favorite people on this planet, and so even though it’s a fraction of the scope of everything else on this list, I couldn’t leave it out.

2018

Tread

Paul Solet, rather quickly after Bullet Head, had another film ready to score but this time, a documentary about the bizarre story of Marvin Heemeyer. The film walks through the disturbing case of an unhinged man unleashing anger and destruction on his quiet Colorado mountain town, capturing both his and the townspeoples’ perspective along the way. The score is titled towards the idea that this whole thing, in all its bizarre detail, is sort of a deranged carnival and, as ever, I’m grateful that Paul lets me indulge in these experiments.

The Banner Saga 3

At last the trilogy drew to its completion, after about 6 years of development. I will never be able to properly thank Stoic for including me in their epic series of games, both because of how fantastic the games themselves are, but also for how much they forced my growth as a composer. For the finale, we recorded one more stringless wind ensemble, this time a thunderingly loud group at London’s Air Studios Lyndhurst.

Command and Conquer: Rivals

As a kid in the early 90s, one of my favorite game series ever was Westwood’s RTS franchise Command and Conquer. Both narratively and for the addicting online multiplayer in which my friends and I would sink endless hours, this is a franchise that’s very special to me. When EA asked me to score the latest incarnation, a rather clever mobile game called C&C Rivals, I was overjoyed and honored. Especially because the title theme (below called “Rekindled Rivalry” and featuring Tina Guo on electric cello) let me play around with Frank Klapecki’s famed theme “Act on Instinct.”

Pode

Sometimes you just get lucky. I met the Norwegian studio Henchman and Goon’s founder Yngvill Hopen in the speaker’s green room at a conference in England and, on account of her sharp wit and deeply genuine nature, casually agreed to score her game. Years later she reappeared saying it was at last ready for music. I remember thinking “I’d forgotten I said yes to this” and proceeded to pray the game would be good. It turns out it’s really good, and visually overwhelmingly beautiful. The game draws from some Norwegian traditions for its folk-inspired art, and Yngvill encouraged me to do the same. The result is a score built around Rachel Nesvig and Paul Cartwright duetting on Norwegian violins called Hardanger fiddles. I mixed that with cellist Tina Guo, vocals by the magical Christine Hals (whose Norwegian vocals are featured in the original Frozen) and gentle orchestral strings.

A Light in the Void

Few projects have ever been more personal than A Light in the Void. The Colorado Symphony one day challenged me: “If we give you slot on our regular season to do anything you want with, what would you make?” I think they assumed I would pitch a video game concert but instead the idea was a TED-style conference featuring world class scientists, set to music like dramatic monologues. I partnered with a longtime friend, Tony Lund (himself a multi-Emmy nominated filmmaker of science TV shows like Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman and Breakthrough), and together crafted the show over a 2–3 year period. Tony also brought the idea that we also incorporate live theater into the piece and is the most ambitious undertaking of anything I’ve done to date. It almost killed me, but happily the show was a success and now (as of late 2019) we’re in the process of re-packaging it for future stagings by other orchestras.

2019

Remnants

Over the last decade I’ve written enormous numbers of demos and pitches for projects, and (unsurprisingly given the basic laws of averages) didn’t get lots and lots of those jobs. After a while, I realized I was sitting on a mountain of unheard music, basically relegated to the trash can. So rather than it just be lost (especially considering that quite a few were pieces I went far out on a limb for, hiring out-of-pocket full orchestras, etc) I compiled the best-of into this album. The video below, hatched with director Landon Donaho and featuring my wonderful muse Angela Bermudez, explains it all better than I could here.

Erica

This was a game unlike anything I’d done before, for the obvious reason that it’s a Full-Motion Video game; ie, one which doesn’t use animation and CG but is instead shot like a traditional film. Flavourworks’ debut title, led by director Jack Attridge and starring the magnificent Holly Earl, is a truly bold experiment that I was honored to compose for. The game is deeply branching with huge amounts of player agency in the unfolding of the story, and as a result demanded an absurdly reactive underscore. It’s probably the most detailed and complex score I’ve ever written, held up by Tina Guo’s cello solos, Caroline Campbell’s violin solos, Uyanga Bold and Laura Intravia’s vocals, and growling sax/clarinet solos by Ian Roller and Andrew Leonard. We also recorded two different orchestral groups, one of which consisted entirely of upright basses in Nashville. I highly recommend this innovative and courageous game to anyone, but especially those who might be more reticent to call themselves gamers.

The Bradwell Conspiracy

A dear old friend, Georg Backer, came to me years ago with a brave plan to start his own indie studio and make a puzzling, story-driven game in the fabulous tradition of games like Portal and asked if I wanted to score it. Of course I was also too eager, and his studio (aptly named A Brave Plan) was born. It took years to reach the finish line but eventually, in the waning days of 2019, The Bradwell Conspiracy was let loose onto the world. On account of Georg’s completely open-minded approach, the music is one of the most esoteric I’ve written, including the manner with which sound designer Ali Tocher and I implemented it into the game. It’s a score which, already weird musically, toys around with the 4th wall in-game and creates something hopefully unique and challenging in the process.

John Wick Hex

My final score for this incredible decade, John Wick Hex brought me another chance to work with a Bucket List collaborator: developer Mike Bithell. A fan since his famed Thomas Was Alone, I couldn’t have been more overjoyed at the chance to work together, and on John Wick no less! Mike’s approach was, typical for him, very unusual and he loved the idea that the score would be similarly a bit unexpected. He emboldened me to strike deep into the heart of heavy synths, pounding drums and screaming guitars. For an ever-curious composer who has spent countless hours in front of orchestras since he was a teenager, it was a beautiful thing to end the decade with a score that’s as opposite of that as any I’ve ever done.

Well, there you have it. There can’t be more than 4 or 5 of you reading by this point, but for those of you’ve stuck it out, thank you! And for the many tweeters, emailers, album streamers and vinyl purchasers who’ve supported me this past decade, ‘thank you’ will never suffice. And for those who’ve come see me in concert and told me your stories, I hope you remember those days as wonderfully as I do (this list completely left out the many shows I’ve been part of, from my improvised duet “Dialogos” with Angela Bermudez, to the touring Journey LIVE, and endless one-off concert with orchestras around the world). It’s been a hell of a 10 years.

As a coda, there are a few people who’ve been part of the majority of this adventure who I can’t fail to acknowledge: my orchestration team Susie Seiter and Mike Miller; my recording and mixing team Steve Kempster, Kevin Globerman and Matt Friedman; my music prep team led by Steve Juliani and Nick Fevola; and my incredible agent Sarah Kovacs (who took a chance on me as her first-ever client back in 2011).

I’ve been gifted many opportunities up ‘til now; I think I’ve made the most of many, screwed up only a few and am deeply grateful for them all. Now, the future looks very promising and as 2020 ushers in the next decade, I hope to live up to the foundation that’s been built so far.

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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