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John Broomhall talks with Classic FM’s Sam Jackson and Game Music Connect co-founder James Hannigan

A sound connection: Why Classic FM is backing Game Music Connect

Game Music Connect’s inaugural event brought together a rich mix of video game composers, audio directors and music execs to discuss the art, technology and business of creating today’s and tomorrow’s soundtracks.

The organisation’s co-founder James Hannigan says the aim of the event is to celebrate and explore the world of game music, offer a platform to the talent behind it and provide a forum for musicians to learn about working in the medium.

“Why do we have music in games? What does it exist to say?” he asks. “Should we be adopting the conventions and language of film and television? Should we return to unique ‘old school’ gaming values?

“Game Music Connect presents an opportunity for music creators to talk about the value their work adds to the gaming experiences which millions of people enjoy every day, as understood by them through the lens of personal experience.”

As the event returns to London’s famed arts hub, it not only boasts support from the likes of BAFTA, PlayStation and COOL Music, but also an impressive media partner in the shape of broadcasting giant Classic FM. But why is a classical music radio station getting behind Game Music Connect, and how do they view music for games?

“We believe we have a responsibility to grow the audience for classical music among a new generation of listeners,” says Classic FM’s Sam Jackson. “Playing game music is one such way of doing this. But we’re also keen to profile the genre among our wider audience, giving them the opportunity to judge it on its merits.

“For music to be included on-air, we have to be confident that it will be popular with our audience. On a purely musical level, we take the same approach as we would with any other piece – whether that is a symphony, a film score, or something else entirely.

“Essentially, is this good music which our listeners will really enjoy hearing? When it comes to the question of ‘is this music classical?’ – which is one we’ve been asked many times – we would argue that video game soundtracks are an example of incidental music written for another art form. In the 1900s, that art form might have been ballet; in the 20th century, it could have been film scores; and today, it can be game music.

“Over the last few years, many gamers have voted video game soundtracks into the Classic FM Hall of Fame – the world’s biggest annual survey of classical music tastes, which we count down every Easter weekend. There are two such soundtracks in the Top 20 alone and, having greatly increased the exposure given to this music on Classic FM in recent years, we now want to deepen our relationship with the people who work in the field.”

Classic FM has also been experimenting beyond its Hall of Fame poll. The broadcaster runs several game music editions of ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ – aired on Saturdays between 5pm and 7pm, and presented by noted composer Howard Goodall. Broadening the scope of this show to include video game scores has prompted great reactions from both gamers and non-gamers alike.

According to Hannigan, this growing appreciation for the musical creations found in today’s interactive entertainment titles is reflected in the interesting mix of delegates attending Game Music Connect. 

“Year one demonstrated that the event draws a very diverse audience, fairly atypical of games industry events,” he said. “We’ve seen soundtrack fans, musicians, aspiring composers and established industry figures sit side-by-side with academics, journalists and composers from other industries, which
I think is a truly wonderful aspect of this outward looking event. 

“This year, we’re making an effort to be more inclusive than ever by inviting more speakers working within the independent games sector. Also, as part of our strong connection with the British Academy this year, Game Music Connect will also feature – among others – award-winning composer Garry Schyman, who won the Original Music BAFTA for his striking BioShock Infinite score.

Hannigan described the Classic FM media partnership as “an important breakthrough on several levels”, expressing his gratitude for their involvement: “It provides yet more evidence that the music of games is at last being taken seriously by the public at large, the media and the music establishment.”

Game Music Connect 2014 returns to The Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre on September 24th. You can find out more at www.gamemusicconnect.com, and find Classic FM at www.classicfm.com.

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