Composer Austin Wintory delves deep into his work on the game trilogy Banner Saga, demonstrating his craft with score highlights and insights on how he crafted its unique sound. Austin also shares about his career and his attitude towards the business of being a composer. This session was moderated by ASA board member Craig Marks.
About Austin Wintory
Austin Wintory has built his career on exploring and curiosity. He began his obsession with composing back when he was ten years old, when he discovered Jerry Goldsmith’s scores to Patton and A Patch of Blue.
After a busy high school career composing for the student orchestras, Austin went on to study at NYU and USC with composers Morten Lauridsen, Charles Fussell, and Erica Muhl. Never satisfied with working in a single medium, Austin has worked in the concert world, film music, video games, and miscellaneous others.
In March 2012, the PlayStation3 game Journey was released, after three years of work. The game instantly became Sony’s fastest-selling PlayStation title, and the soundtrack album debuted on the Billboard charts higher than any original score in gaming history. In December 2012, more history was made when it was announced that Journey had become the first-ever Grammy-nominated video game score.
The score subsequently won an Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences D.I.C.E. award, two British Academy Awards, a Spike TV VGA, and IGN’s “Overall Music of the Year,” five G.A.N.G. Awards and host of others. The score features the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra and a lineup of top soloists (Audio excerpts available here). Orchestral excerpts, and the stand alone mini-concerto “Woven Variations” have been consistently scheduled for concert performances all over the world since its release.
Beginning humbly as a Kickstarter campaign, Austin’s next major game effort was Stoic Studio’s The Banner Saga, a unique and mature turn-based strategy / RPG hybrid with a dazzling art direction. The score featured the Dallas Wind Symphony, America’s premiere wind ensemble, and an all-star trio of YouTube musicians: Malukah, Peter Hollens and Taylor Davis. The game and soundtrack were released in early 2014 to critical and commercial success; the score earned Austin over a dozen awards and nominations, including his 4th and 5th British Academy Award nominations, and won the first-ever peer-voted ASCAP Composer’s Choice Award for “Best Video Game Score of the Year.” He is currently working with Stoic on The Banner Saga 2, which was announced live, on-stage at The Game Awards in December 2014 to an audience of nearly 2 million people.
Most recently (released August 2016), Austin scored the debut title for Giant Squid Studios, ABZÛ. The score was an ambitious blend of orchestra, choir and large harp ensemble recorded in both the US and the UK. The game and score were both immensely well-received, earning a number of publications’ “Best Of” lists for top soundtrack of the year, in addition to Austin’s second D.I.C.E. Award nomination, a Hollywood Music in Media nomination, and others.
In 2015, Austin wrote and produced the score for Ubisoft’s latest blockbuster: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The music is at its heart a chamber score deeply rooted in 19th century traditions, featuring virtuoso musicians Sandy Cameron and Tina Guo, and an all-star ensemble recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. The score earned Austin his 6th British Academy Award nomination, and second ASCAP Composer’s Choice Award win, and has been lauded as among the top game scores for 2015 by major industry organizations like GameTrailers, IGN, Movie Music UK, the International Film Music Critics Association and the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
Austin has also scored nearly 50 feature films, and his first major film score, for the Sundance Film Festival-winning film Captain Abu Raed, was shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Original Score by the LA Times. His next major film, Grace, was also a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Austin’s score (which featured a wild array of custom-recorded sounds such as babies crying and horse flies, in addition to a large ensemble of clarinets at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios), was also highly lauded, earning a notorious Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination and being cited by “Visions in Sound” (a popular film scoring radio program) as among the Top 10 Scores for 2010. His most recent films are writer/director Adam Alleca’s Standoff, starring Thomas Jane and Laurence Fishburne, and Amin Matalqa’s The Rendezvous, starring Stana Katic.
Outside of games, Austin also maintains a busy concert composing schedule, with regular appearances throughout the world. Most recently he premiered the commissioned work “This Gaming Life” with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a theatrical work created in collaboration with the legendary comedians called “Tripod.” Announced in 2016 was also the unveiling of his partnership with the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble, with whom he will tour in a production of “Journey LIVE,” a recreation of the hit PlayStation title, performed interactively live. His chamber music show “Mythos,” combining his own music with other contemporary works, is also touring throughout 2015 and beyond following a successful world premiere in Manhattan at New York Comic Con in 2014. Forthcoming he will also have premieres with the West Michigan Symphony, Colorado Symphony and others.
Passionate about education, Austin is a regular public speaker at schools and events around the world, in addition to pre-concert talks and workshops. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Education Through Music – Los Angeles, as well as the Board of Directors for the Society of Composers and Lyricists.