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cheyenne_h on 09/26/2017 at 04:08PM

FMA Q&A: Visager

You may remember Visager from his Radio Free Culture interview or his albums "Songs from an Unmade World" 1 & 2, both of which are great in and of themselves, which he released using CC BY licenses to help support game creators with limited budgets. He's made a soundtrack for a new game and I couldn't wait to hear what he had to say about it! Here's our interview: 

FMA: Tell me about why you wanted to make "Songs from an Unmade World" 1 & 2.

Visager: The Songs albums are heavily inspired by another NYC composer named Eric Skiff. I came across Eric's Creative Commons album Resistor Anthems through an online game called Reprisal that had used his music. Seeing later that his work was used in so many other projects blew my mind, and people are still discovering and using his music today. Eric was nice enough to meet with me a few years back, and his encouragement ultimately gave me the push I needed to finish my own first album of open-source video game music, Songs from an Unmade World, in 2015!

Reprisal

 FMA: What's the appeal in making video-game style music without a game to score? Why do you share this music for free?

Visager: When I decided I wanted to focus on making music for games (I previously had done composition for theater and film), I felt like I needed to have proof in hand that I could make the kind of game music that inspired me growing up. I'm a visual person, too, so for me imagining a fictitious world and then making the music to fit it is a very happy way of composing. It was my hope that putting the music out in the Creative Commons would allow me to connect with other developers, while also being useful for folks who need music for small student games or animations!

FMA: What are your thoughts on 'retro' chiptune-style music? You seem to have moved away from it in your latest FMA release, "Songs from an Unmade Forest World."

Visager: Video game music is awesome; it's a really unique category of music. Although we have a sort of agreed idea of what stereotypical game music sounds like (e.g. chiptune, instrumental, electronic), I think video game soundtracks as a whole cover more genres and take more risks than any other medium, especially as games themselves have evolved to be more diverse and complex. With Forest World I wanted to explore the more organic side of video game sounds, borrowing ideas from composers like Manaka Kataoka (Breath of the Wild), Jonathan Geer (Owlboy), and Joel Corelitz (Tumbleseed).

FMA: So now you've scored a game called "Blossom Tales," which is coming out soon. How did you get involved in this project? Did the Free Music Archive help you get connected with the makers of "Blossom Tales" or was there a more winding path to this collaboration?

Visager: So Blossom Tales came out already for PC this past March, but the publisher FDG Games just announced this month that it's coming to the Nintendo Switch, which is really a dream come true for me! Blossom Tales is the biggest project I've worked on and it's thanks to you all at FMA. Just over a year ago now, the developers Castle Pixel had been using some of my music from the first Songs album as a placeholder in the game when they saw that I was active and looking for work. I had just finished Songs 2 and was looking for a project, so just everything about it was super lucky. I'm still very grateful to the whole team for taking me on.

Blossom Tales

FMA: Tell us about the game itself and what sorts of music you composed for it.

Visager: Blossom Tales is an top-down zelda-inspired game starring a rad female knight, Lily, who's out to save her kingdom from the clutches of an evil wizard. The story's told Princess Bride style, with a grandpa reading at bedtime to his grandkids Lily and Chrys, and the story changes a bit as the kids intervene. The music is a pretty cheery bunch of electronic songs. Sonically, it's a mix of sounds from SNES and Game Boy era games and each environment has its own dedicated music. The soundtrack is about 40minutes long in total. If folks are interested they can check it out over on my Bandcamp. Here's the trailer:

 

FMA: Anything on the horizon for you (that you can talk about)? Any advice for aspiring composers who want to break into the gaming soundtrack world?

Visager: This year has been exciting for me, in that I've been able to go to more game conferences than ever before! I've gotten to meet a lot of cool folks working in both 2D games and in the VR community, and there's some neat stuff on the horizon, but nothing I can quite talk about yet! I'm still very much in the start of my career so my advice, like anyone's, should be taken with a grain of salt - but in my experience the best thing you can do when meeting other folks from an industry you want to work in is just be a nice and genuine person and be supportive of others' work. If anyone wants to reach out I'm pretty active on Twitter and am happy to chat there!

Visager can also be found at his own personal website

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Visager on 04/29/2016 at 02:46PM

Making Music for Unknown Worlds

How do you make music for a world that doesn't exist? This was the question I began my project with. To answer it, I have just released an album -- Songs From An Unmade World 2 -- which features both standalone and loopable tracks that are available for indie game developers and designers to use in their own projects. These tracks are inspired by old-school adventure/RPG video game music, and they mix classic chiptune sounds with more modern electronic elements. In releasing this album, it is my hope fill a void for game creators by placeing high-quality music in the Creative Commons so that projects on a tight budget come to life!

As a composer and music producer for almost five years, I have worked collaborated with makers in dance, theater, film, and more. But making music for games, to me, feels like an entirely different, exciting category of composition.

The biggest difference comes in the way music is literally woven into the fabric of your players' experiences. In film, theater, and dance, music generally lives a linear existence -- bits of music are tied to specific moments that the performers and audience experience simultaneously. In this framework, music becomes strongly tied to emotional moments.

In video games, however, music often serves a much more textural purpose -- the player lives inside of your music. They encounter your notes, rhythms, and melodies around every corner as they play the game. Figuring out how to make an almost living soundtrack is a much more intriguing puzzle to solve than working on a linear project. Both Songs From An Unmade World 2, and its forerunner, Songs From An Unmade World (released on FMA last fall), were a fantastic exploration for me in this organic side of musical world-building. 

I hope you're reading this because there's something useful for you in one of these two albums! If so, I would love for you to drop me a line on Twitter. If you're just here because you are curious about video game music, that is awesome in and of itself -- there is so much great video game music out there to discover. Happy exploring!

You can find more music from Visager by visiting his website: www.visager.us.

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cheyenne_h on 11/12/2015 at 09:00AM

Radio Free Culture #63: Songs From An Unmade World with Visager

Image courtesy of Visager. Used with permission.

WFMU and the Free Music Archive are proud to bring you a fresh episode of Radio Free Culture, a bi-weekly podcast exploring issues at the intersection of digital culture and the arts.

In this episode, Cheyenne Hohman, RFC host and current Director of the FMA, spoke to the composer/producer Visager, a new FMA artist who recently released a video-game inspired soundtrack called "Songs From An Unmade World," to see what would happen. Within weeks, he had been approached about his work by fellow gamers, musicians, filmmakers and more! You can check out some of his tracks below:

Check out the podcast at WFMU, PRX, or subscribe to the Radio Free Culture on iTunes... or listen below!

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