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Garry Schyman G

ame Music Connect is returning to London’s Southbank on 24

September backed by organisations including Sony PlayStation, Cool Music, Spitfire Audio, and Classic FM. Tis year, the game audio symposium event is also supported by the British Academy (BAFTA) – an appropriate development given it’s an open secret the Academy’s iconic gold mask is the most coveted of all European awards open to composers across the world.

Cut back to this year’s glittering BAFTA awards ceremony at Tobacco Dock and amidst the critical acclaim that the dialogue, sound, and music of BioShock Infinite was already receiving, came the impressive double whammy of both a nomination for Audio Accomplishment, and a winning BAFTA for Garry Schyman’s original music. Not bad by anyone’s standards. Talking to the Los Angeles- based composer, it quickly becomes apparent this was definitely a ‘passion project’, although the score’s immensely positive reception was still somewhat unexpected…

The original BioShock music was very popular with fans and industry alike – what were your expectations for the reception of this sequel’s score?

I’m really happy and a little surprised by just how well it’s been received. Initially, I didn’t think it would get as strong a reception as the original Bioshock score I wrote, but it’s gotten as much, if not more attention, which I’m overjoyed about. It’s interesting in some ways too, as although there’s obviously some complex music in the game, there’s also a lot of very simple, very tonal content.

And then to get awards for it and get honoured – it’s just one of the best things. You know, obviously other creative professions have awards, but to be able to do something and work really hard – to be really passionate and pour your heart into it – go and record fine musicians (which I love doing) and all that stuff, doing all

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those things you love… and then to get rewards is wonderful. It’s a hard business to be in – to be a composer – but when it all comes together, there’s just nothing like it. I’m really blessed.

That the overall aural experience of BioShock Infinite is something of a tour de force is in no small measure due to a very distinct musical sound and ‘voice’. How did that come about? Can you pinpoint the crystallisation of the game’s musical signature?

It was interesting – originally, the Elizabeth character was not nearly as significant. At E3, when they were showing some early in-game stuff, there was so much reaction to this character that it began affecting how things were structured – a moving target from the composer’s standpoint – because things did change significantly. Tis was a seminal moment in how the score evolved. I remember specifically realising –

“It’s a hard business to be in – to be a composer – but when it all comes together, there’s just nothing like it. I’m really blessed.”

Garry Schyman

‘okay, Elizabeth is very significant’ and I said to music director Jim Bonney I have an idea for a theme for her and I think it’s important. I want to record it with live musicians before I present it. I knew that Ken Levine (game director) really responded to live players and the emotion they brought to the table, so I didn’t want to use samples – especially as it involved solo instruments. I also knew there wasn’t any budget for this ‘experiment’ so I said, you know what? I don’t care. I’m just going to go and pay for it myself – which actually wasn’t terribly expensive as it was simply a viola and cello with overdubs to create a quartet kind of sound. (Along with most of the score,

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John Broomhall talks to maestro Garry Schyman about his BAFTA- award-winning score for Irrational Games’ epic title BioShock Infinite ahead of his appearance at this year’s Game Music Connect in London.

this was recorded at Martin Sound in LA.) When Ken heard it, he was very moved and it affected his view of how the music would work and how crucial it would be. Te simplicity of that raw emotional music led us to realise that small string ensembles would be the direction for the score. Tey did reimburse me, by the way!.

You’ve previously intimated that you feel one of the most important factors in BioShock’s music success lies in the creative collaborations involved. Just how important is that?

In general, the most creative music I’ve ever been asked to write has been on videogames and I think what people like about this score is that it’s different

from typical game music – and that’s not just about the composing, it’s also the fact that BioShock Infinite is such an unusual game. Plus, it’s down to the fantastic creative partnerships I have with Ken Levine, Jim Bonney, and Patrick Balthrop. Tey generated a fascinating and bizarre, crazy, super- creative world and then asked me to write some very unusual music… It’s a very creative process – not without difficulty, as in every project, but because of that struggle and experimentation, it made us generate a very interesting score – and I think that’s what people have reacted to. I was really into it and I felt very passionate about it. I was moved and it moved other people – and that’s very satisfying. 

Catch Garry ‘live’ at this year’s Game Music Connect where he will be featured in The BAFTA Interview, in association with The British Academy, as well as contributing to other panel sessions examining the art, craft, process, and business of creating best-of-breed videogame scores, from commissioning to implementation.

The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London Wednesday 24th September

For further details and registration, visit

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