Sony’s last major release of the year, LittleBigPlanet 3, is a real gem, dragging Media Molecule’s do-it-yourself series into the future with a laundry list of tweaks and improvements. It’s already winning awards as well, as composer Winifred Phillips has received a Hollywood Music in Media Award for one of her contributions to the title’s soundtrack. The song, ‘Ziggurat Theme’, is described as a complex classical fugue, incorporating an organic, world-music arrangement in support of an 18-voice women’s choir. It also happens to be awesome, if we do say so ourselves.
Incredibly, this marks Ms. Phillips’ third Hollywood Music in Media Award. Previously, she’s won the esteemed prize for her work on Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. She’s no stranger to PlayStation exclusives either, having contributed to Sony Santa Monica’s blockbuster God of War franchise in the past. Clearly a busy lady, the musical maestro also recently released a book on video game composition, which we both reviewed and discussed in detail earlier in the year.
Given recent developments, though, we thought that it would be fun to catch up with the composer about her latest work – and the acclaim that it’s already attaining.
Push Square: You've had quite a few nominations and awards throughout your career so far. Are there any nominations or awards that stand out to you above the rest?
Winifred Phillips: Of course, this latest award for one of the many songs I composed for LittleBigPlanet 3 means a lot to me. I’m tremendously proud to be a part of the music composition team for the LittleBigPlanet franchise. While we all composed separate songs for the game, we were guided by a single creative vision. The development team at Sumo Digital has been wonderfully supportive and artistically ambitious when it comes to the music for their game, and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) has always had fantastic commitment to artistic achievement. I’m especially happy about this award for my LittleBigPlanet 3 track – I’m proud of our work for this game, and I hope that people will notice all of the great musical achievements from the whole team.
This is your third Hollywood Music in Media Award. Of the three – ‘Ziggurat Theme’ from LittleBigPlanet 3, the complete score for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, and ‘With Hearts Sublime’ from Legend of the Guardians – is there a particular one that you personally feel more of a connection to?
I couldn’t possibly choose – it’s like picking your favourite child! I loved ‘With Hearts Sublime’ because it was the chance to create a theme that added a touch of heart and warmth to the overall combat-driven game score I created for Legend of the Guardians from WB Games. The Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation score for Ubisoft was an opportunity to explore world-music instrumentation and rhythms in combination with baroque techniques for a franchise that is steeped in history and a very inspiring narrative. The ‘Ziggurat Theme’ for LittleBigPlanet 3 allowed me to be very ambitious with counterpoint and complexity in a very serious classical way from within the whimsical world of Sackboy and his pals. I loved creating the music for all three projects.
Do you find that the pieces that you create with specific techniques or sounds tend to garner more attention from the groups that handle these awards? Or do you find that every corner of your catalogue in sound and feel has received the attention that it deserves?
It’s so difficult to predict or understand what musical style or technique will capture the imagination of the juries and voters for these awards programmes. I’ve been recognised for everything from funky electronic scores to dark orchestral ones – I think that these awards voters are looking for music that is high quality and appropriately supports the project in which it appears, and that’s where I concentrate my focus when I’m working.
Do you have one particular memory involving any of the awards that you've received that you'd care to share?
While every award is special to me, one was particularly memorable because it was such an enormous surprise. In 2013, my theme song for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was recognised with an award from the Game Audio Network Guild. This is a professional game audio association, so winning their award is a vote of confidence from my game audio colleagues – people for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration. I really didn’t expect to win. Across the board, the quality of game music has never been higher than it is now. All I remember about the awards ceremony was my tremendous shock and surprise when my name was called. It’s a great memory for me.
Have you found that the awards for the clear hard work that you’ve put into your compositions have opened up more creative avenues or opportunities that you might not otherwise have had?
I think that it helps to make more people aware of what I’m doing as a game composer. I’m grateful that these awards programmes exist that recognise the music of video games. The Hollywood Music in Media Awards is especially important in this regard, because the HMMAs recognise game music right alongside the music of television and film. This helps more people to be aware of the work that game composers do, and the quality that we work hard to achieve.
In my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, I talk a lot about the artistic accomplishments of game composers, and the deep history and wealth of musical accomplishment that has added life and emotional impact to video games over the decades. I’m proud to be a member of this profession, and I’m grateful that awards programs are recognising game composers for their achievements. I think that it helps more people to become better acquainted with game music, and that’s a very good thing.
We’d like to thank Ms. Phillips for taking the time to chat to us again, and also to extend our congratulations for her recent recognition. Are you as enamoured with LittleBigPlanet 3’s soundtrack as we are? Hum along in the comments section below.