Interview with Winifred Phillips - SimAnimals and God of War soundtrack composer
Interview with Winifred Phillips - SimAnimals and God of War soundtrack composer
Hey, people! Today we have really unique person over there. It is Winifred Phillips, who wrote epic music for God of War and recently composed full orchestral score for SimAnimals. What is really, cool that Winifred isn’t ugly bearded man, but stunningly beautiful woman. Interesting? Read below!
First of all, tell us about yourself. When did you decide to be a composer and how this is happened?
My first job as a composer was for a long-running series of dramas on National Public Radio called “Radio Tales”. It was a great way to begin a career as a composer. The rigorous schedule of the series served as a great bootcamp for me, and writing music for a purely aural medium taught me a lot about the power of music to tell a story. When there is no picture to help you understand what the characters are doing and feeling, the music has to take on the responsibility of filling in those blanks. I was the composer for “Radio Tales” for over ten years, and then I transitioned into the video game industry.
Woman-composer is like woman-cosmonaut – quite rare brilliant in videogame industry. We are wondering how and when did you manage to get into this “dragon’s lair”? :)
There aren’t a lot of female composers in the videogame industry – although I’m certain that will change rapidly in the next few years as the development community adjusts its own male-female ratio in order to more accurately reflect the changing demographic of gamers. But at the moment, I think there are only one or two other female game composers working today. I began my career as a game composer when Sony Computer Entertainment America brought me on to create music for God of War. At the time, I was interested in entering the industry – I’ve always been a big fan of videogames, so I was very excited to work on the God of War audio team.
Do you have a classical education?
My education consists of a strong classical foundation that includes numerous music instructors and a university music education. I’m also quite fortunate that at an early age I studied MIDI orchestration and music technology with a private tutor, which afforded me an extra level of comfort with the equipment and working methods. Also, I received classical vocal training, which has been a great service to me in my current career. I’ve recorded my own voice for several of my projects.
I created a lot of ambient music for God of War, as well as some combat music, and my singing voice is featured in the game – I performed the vocals for the “Siren” miniboss character. Working on the God of War project was a fascinating experience. I’ve always enjoyed mythology, fantasy and ancient literature, so I approached this project with enormous enthusiasm.
As we can see you are universal composer. You can work both with electronic and symphonic material. But we are sure you are prefer one of this more than another, is that so?
I don’t let myself lean one way or another. As a composer for games, I see myself as a storyteller. Music is the vocabulary I use to communicate, and musical instruments are the building blocks of that vocabulary. My goal is to be as eloquent as possible, so I never want to limit my musical vocabulary. Some projects call for electronic instruments, or orchestral ones, or some combination of the two, and I think it is important for me to cultivate my own understanding and proficiency with all of these instruments.
Let’s get to the SimAnimals soundtrack. It’s very good orchestrated symphonic music. Orchestration is very difficult art. Often this kind of work is done by special guys called “orchestrators”. Did you do orchestration in SimAnimals by yourself or there were any orchestrators?
I did the orchestration myself. I’ve always done all of my own orchestration, and I’m very glad you enjoyed it! SimAnimals really required an uncompromisingly symphonic approach.
What was concept of soundtrack and what material did you receive when you start the work?
The development team at Electronic Arts had a vision for the music of SimAnimals that always included a symphonic style – they talked quite a bit about Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf at the beginning of the project. While the score I created for SimAnimals shares very little in common with Prokofiev’s work, I recognized the developer’s passion for a lush, orchestral score, and I kept that in mind while I was creating the music. All throughout the music creation process, the team at EA provided gameplay videos and concept art, as well as documents outlining the musical requirements of the game. One thing I really appreciated was their faith in my creative decisions. Once I began creating the music, they gave me a lot of room to create a unique sound for SimAnimals. Electronic Arts allowed me to define a musical style for the franchise. I found the experience very fulfilling.
This text will be replaced by the flash music player.How much time were you given to create this soundtrack?
I worked on SimAnimals from June to September of 2008.
You are working together with your producer Winnie Waldron, tell us about her role in SimAnimals project?
Winnie Waldron is an invaluable creative partner, and I’m enormously grateful to be able to work with her. We worked together on the Radio Tales series – she was a producer on that project. When I crossed over into video games, she came with me as my music producer. Winnie contributed to the planning stages, helping to define what the musical style should be for the game. During music production, Winnie provides oversight and quality control, offering great advice and encouragement.
There are amateur composers among our readers, so this part will go for them. What equipment (hard and soft) do you use for writing music?
At the moment I have six computers in my studio – four are running sound libraries via Native Instruments Kontakt, one is a dedicated DSP PC running T.C. Electronics System 6000, and one is my Pro Tools DAW (which also hosts sound libraries via plugins).
What methods of writing music do you use when you start work from scratch?
I think that a composer ought to always be listening to the work of other composers that he or she admires. There is nothing more inspirational than hearing a piece of music that pushes the boundaries of convention. After I’ve been briefed on the nature of the game I’m about to score, I listen to lots of music in divergent styles, all the while keeping my ears very sensitive to anything that may leap out to me. Then I begin creating music, with my ‘creative subconscious’ hopefully enriched by everything I’ve heard. I think that no artist should work in a vacuum. Music is a living language, and every composer and songwriter adds to its complexity and versatility.
Here goes another interesting question for our readers – one day from composer’s life. Could you tell us how your daily routine pass in the studio? How many hours do you spend on writing music and where do you get inspirations when your brain just can’t get any ideas :)
Every day is different. I think most composers would tell you that. Just like in game development, there are ‘crunch’ periods for composers, in which we work from early morning to late night. But there are also periods in which we can recharge our creative batteries. In terms of inspiration, my music producer Winnie Waldron sweeps to my rescue when I’m floundering for ideas. She has lots of methods for getting me out of my ‘composer’s block’, so I’m never stuck for long. I’m very lucky to work with her.
How much time do you usually have to complete the soundtrack? What was deadline for SimAnimals and God of War?
I had four months to complete the score for SimAnimals. Honestly, I don’t remember how long I had for the God of War project – it was over four years ago. :)
We know CIA will kill us but what are the projects you are currently working on?
I wish I could tell you! But for your own protection, I have to conceal the identities of the games I’m scoring at the moment. :) I can tell you that currently I’m scoring another title at EA. I’m also creating music for a really top-secret mature game at another publisher – but unfortunately I can’t say anything more about that.
What do you think about future of game music? How the evolution will go?
The future is in the hands of audio directors and game developers. I’m as curious to see what will happen as anyone else. The constant advance of console and PC technology has had an impact on game audio, opening up possibilities in terms of interactivity and surround sound implementation. It’s all very interesting!
Thanks for being our “first woman-composer interviewed by Game-OST”! We wish you peace and happiness, and also great new soundtracks and successful commercial releases!
I’m honored to be the first woman-composer interviewed on Game-OST. Thanks for the good wishes! Your site is fantastic. I wish you many more years of great content at Game-OST.
You can purchase SimAnimals Original Videogame Score at
Also be sure to visit Winifred Phillips official site where you can track latest news, info and demo-samples!
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