Article: From Music to Music
Music has always been in my life, I started to play classical piano since I was 4 and now I ended up doing film and video game scoring. I’d like to talk about this process - why I changed my path and what the different major brought me. In the following paragraphs, I am going to review what I learned as a classical performer, concert music composer , film composer and video game composer; each of those majors covered different professional skills and different ways to approach music. At the same time, everything I learned from the previous major made me a better composer and musician. After all, I realized that all of the different majors have something in common - be humble and show your honesty to the audience through your music.
Chapter 1 : Classical Performer
I started playing piano when I was 4, and three years later, I started playing violin. But even before then, music was always in my life.
My grandparents provided me with serious classical music education ever since I have memory, so of course I went to music mid school (Nan-Men), high school (New-Taipei) and university (Fu-Jen) being involved with all the student orchestras, choirs and all kinds of music competitions. As every classical music training student in Taiwan (or somewhere else has similar classical music culture.) Those years of training gave me knowledges of music theories as well as solid training of performing skills.
I have been a pure classical performer for about 18 years, and as a performer, my job is to re-present pieces of music and try to get as close as I can to their original form. I enjoyed the process a lot and instead of playing music for my parents, I started to do it for myself.
Chapter 2: Being a Composer
From time to time, I started thinking about writing my own music and that maybe I could present something original, instead of doing research and guessing what the composer wanted (usually they were dead). I wanted to be my own composer once, and this idea totally changed my life.
Luckily, I found my mentor Chih-Ming Lu, I learned so much from him, from composition skills to the attitude of being a musician. I think that being a composer is a very crucial step to learn music. Composing totally changed the way I looked at music. When I looked at a score, I started to think about a lot of questions, and those questions definitely made me a better musician.
At this point, I started trying to present my own music clearly and connecting people emotionally with it.
For that purpose, I got to prepare myself with instrumental knowledge, notation software ability and being able to play and conduct my own composition.
Chapter 3: Scoring for Film
When I started to major in Film Scoring, the technical part was the hardest for me. I didn't have any background of using DAW softwares (sequencers). The only software I had very basic knowledge of was Finale (notation software). Also, composing with a piano and a pencil it's a very different experience from staring at the computer screen with a midi controller.
I spent about half a year getting used to this new life.
On the other hand, I really like the process of writing music for film/linear picture. From spotting the emotions with whoever you are working with to writing all the cues. Since everything needs to sync to the picture and be delivered to the audience perfectly, we got to plan everything out - emotions, style, instrumentation etc. It's a lot of things to cover and to think of. I practiced a lot with school projects to improve both my technical and composition skills. Besides school, I also learned very much from film composer Mason Daring when I assisted him, I got to know the whole process in the real world. I will definitely recommend everybody to do film Scoring, it's an amazing world and a very satisfying experience when you see a video playing with your own music!
Chapter 4: Video Game Audio
The biggest difference between film scoring and video game scoring is linear composing versus nonlinear composing. In video game composing, the audio needs to interact with the player’s choices as the game goes. In terms of composing, we have many different interactive skills that we don’t use for film scoring such as looping, layering, branching, creating stingers, transitions etc. But all those skills make the game more interesting and the players can trigger all those musical changes when they play the game.
We also learned to use some audio replacement softwares such as Wwsie and Fmod, to make it easier for the game designers to pull up the audio I composed in the games. In addition to that, we also need to have some basic knowledge of how game engines work, that’d strongly help our work as a video game composer.
Another good thing about scoring video games is that there is more freedom in the composition process. Most of the times, we can decide how we want the music to interact with the game, as well as other musical decisions. On the other hand, sometimes we might need to handle more than just music, especially when we are working with smaller groups, we might need to cover the sound effects too.
Having experienced all these different ways to bring music to an audience, I found out that there’s only one way to truly connect with people - being honest. Of course we need to have skills and knowledge, but nothing is more important than expressing what we truly feel, and we should try our best to deliver that emotion to the audience through our music. I felt grateful that I could learn all those different ways to perform and compose music, and I think all of them only helped me to become a better musician or even a better human being. I hope today my experience could also bring some thoughts to you.