It has been two difficult years. And just when we all glimpsed better times ahead, a devastating war broke out in Europe. Recently I was lucky enough to attend the fourth Game Music Festival in the beautiful Royal Festival Hall. Pinning all the festivities together was not just a celebration of music and video games, but also a common purpose, a connection that brings so many of us together. As I walked around the room, I could see a diverse audience whose love for music transcended race, age and gender. Therefore, given the backdrop of current world events, this festival was even more special than it usually would be.
Incredibly, the weekend was organized by the small but talented Game Music Foundation. This Polish organization presented their concerts to an international audience for the first time this year, and luckily for us here in the UK they chose London.
The two-day event opened with a series of talks given by business professionals, which can still be viewed on the event page. official youtube channel. The second day consisted of concerts, The Jazz of Cuphead and The Symphony of the Spirits. On top of that, Q&As were hosted with industry figures, with the aim of inspiring and supporting those looking to break into the competitive world of video game music composition.
As I’m sure you know, Cuphead is a challenging action game that adopted a “rubber hose” style of animation. This iconic look expertly recreated 1930s cartoons and was a hit for Xbox. The delicious last dish is DLC, which marks Cuphead’s latest adventure, and will be released later this year. There’s also a Netflix animated series for those whose thirst hasn’t been quite quenched by gaming alone.
Kristopher Maddigan is the Canadian composer who won a BAFTA for his score of Cuphead. The eclectic and energetic composition showcases big band jazz, swing rhythm and harmonic progressions. A carefully curated tracklist was rearranged for the live performance, and the sound was absolutely fantastic. Despite being seated, I couldn’t help but jump to the beats.
At one point, an unexpected ballad dulled the energy and immediately transported me to an underground 1930s American jazz bar (I’m thinking Chicago’s mission of Time Separators 2 precisely). The fact that he managed to feel intimate in such a large hall was a true testament to the talent of Bartosz Pernal and his orchestra.
The evening session, The Symphony of the Spirits, was a celebration of the two Ori games – Ori and the blind forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps – and their enchanting soundtracks. Gareth Coker is the well-known creator of the series’ masterful score, for which he was nominated for BAFTAs for both games and won the Ivor Novello award for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. He has also worked on many other titles, including Infinite Halo. The fact that he presented the concert in person is a testament to the work of the Game Music Foundation and its accomplishments.
Hearing the enchanting soundtrack live, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, was a very special experience. The hugely moving score filled the room with the best-known pieces of music from both games, but another surprise awaited after intermission. This was teased at first by Coker who said, “What’s more exciting is that only half the artists are on stage right now.”
The second part of the concert welcomed the Hertfordshire Chorus, whose talent was simply magical. This combination of vocals and instruments set the stage for a truly epic performance, which lasted nearly two hours but went by in no time.
Both performances deservedly earned a standing ovation from a nearly full Royal Festival Hall. The passion, support and joy for this art form was palpable. I can only hope the event returns to the UK next year as I will make my attendance an annual tradition.
At the end of the concert, the Game Music Foundation President Mateusz Pawlak took the stage to say a few words. He really underscored the purpose and drive of his organization, which is to celebrate and demonstrate how powerful music can be. It connects us all, evokes memories and is created by individuals of immense talent.
What was particularly impressive was that these industry leaders were not only present at this festival, but clearly passionate, driven and driven to support the art form beyond. As I attended two Q&A sessions, it became clear how invested they were in the Game Music Festival and it was so impressive that such a small foundation organized such an event.
I was excited about the Game Music Festival before going there. However, I was unprepared for the emotional investment I would become. I’ve always loved video game music and video games themselves. But, after a few years of social restrictions, being able to touch the heart of the community that demonstrates that video game music is a dynamic and dominant art form in today’s world, was a real honor.
Many thanks to the Game Music Festival team for providing us with tickets to the event.