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Video: Game music maestro Garry Schyman

December 8, 2008 |  6:00 am

When Garry Schyman started his musical composition career after graduating from USC in 1978, he didn't anticipate how much games would play into his future. After three decades of writing music for movies, commercials and television, the Culver City composer now gets all of his composing gigs from games.

The video takes a look at how Schyman crafts music for video games, which are unlike movie scores in that game music has to adapt on the fly to whatever players decide to do. It's a complex task, one that echoes film composing but is far more technically and creatively challenging.

Turns out, there was a lot about the business Schyman didn't anticipate. For example, he didn't know that when he wrote a three-minute piano composition -- "Cohen's Masterpiece" -- for a brief scene in a video game called BioShock, he'd get a slew of requests from classical musicians for a copy of the score. Some have learned the piece and posted videos of their "Cohen's Masterpiece" performances on YouTube.

His work on BioShock won an award this year as the best original score from ...

... the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, the game industry's equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Listen to the BioShock theme song. You can also sample some of Schyman's other compositions here, courtesy of 2K Games, the developer of BioShock, and Sony, the publisher of Resistance: Retribution.

Schyman started dabbling in games early, with a 1994 game called Voyeur. But back then budgets were small and the technical limitations were large, so the 54-year-old stopped writing for the medium. Since then, however, budgets have ballooned and the creative range afforded by today's powerful game consoles make the industry much more attractive to composers, as we describe in greater depth in an article on video-game composing in today's Times. It's part of the Work of Play series, in which we profile interesting jobs in the video game industry.

-- Alex Pham

Video by Alex Pham