A Musical Journey

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A Musical Journey

Probably the most frequently recurring difficulty in discussing my work on Journey is the fact that the game is called Journey! That concept of a metamorphosis, or emotional arc, is at the core of everything in this game, including its score. You can imagine, with a title this succinct, that the puns are both unintentional and constant! The video you see here will give you a taste of what we’ve been up to and the joy that it’s been to create.

A Musical Journey

One of the inspirations for Journey was Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey.’ The knee-jerk assumption is that something this big demands epic music on the most towering scale yet my gut led me in the opposite direction. While there are definitely some big moments, I would actually describe it as intimate overall. The orchestra seen here is the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra, conducted beautifully by Oleg Kontradenko in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

I set up camp in a mixing stage at Sony’s San Diego Studio with the Music team and Randall Lowe from the Santa Monica Studio, where we linked with the orchestra in real-time in Skopje. Meanwhile we were able to Skype together the core development team at thatgamecompany in Los Angeles, in addition to our producer Kellee Santiago who was in Virginia at the time, and producer Robin Hunicke and lead designer Jenova Chen, who were in Shanghai speaking at GDC China! This ended up being a wonderfully 21st century session: a spider web of interconnectedness spanning the globe! In addition to the orchestra, I also had the great pleasure of working with a handful of great soloists, including my dear friend and cello superstar Tina Guo. Their performances brought a vitality to the score that far surpasses the mere notes on the page.

Journey for PS3 (PSN)

And yet for how “high-tech” we were, this music is utterly unconcerned with technology. It is all about emotional meaning. This is part of what makes Journey itself so special. The game has no fluff, no filler. I think of it like a poem.

There is a famous story where Steven Spielberg, after first screening Schindler’s List for his long-time composer John Williams, asked, “so what do you think?” John Williams replied very earnestly, “Steven you need a better composer than me for this film,” to which Spielberg reportedly fired back “Yes, I know, but they’re all dead!” This is basically how I felt about Journey, especially once I got my feet wet and I started to feel that this was no ordinary game. The one advantage I seemed to have was time. By the end I had spent about three years on it. I was able to get around any issues of inspiration through sheer elbow grease, or so I hope. In fact, Journey ended up permeating virtually my whole output during that time. In April 2011, I wrote a miniature cello concerto for Tina (called “Woven Variations,” linked below) that we performed together in Los Angeles. The piece is not really a suite of my music from Journey, but more of an extrapolation. It’s an exploration of the material, taken to entirely different places. This ended up going even further the subsequent summer when I conducted a concert featuring the LA Master Chorale, where I created a single hour-long piece (based on the same ‘Hero’s Journey’ archetype) by stitching together various works in the repertoire and using my Journey music as the glue. Because Journey was still being actively worked on, I would then take the lessons learned from these concerts and apply them to the actual score. A peculiar process emerged from this, where the tangents started informing the core project, as if my career were a table of people all talking back and forth to each other, instead of a normal, forward-moving single file line.


I love writing in just about any genre of music you could name, and likewise there are basically no genres of games that I categorically don’t enjoy playing … and yet, if we were in an alternate reality where Journey did not exist and you asked me what my ultimate dream of a game would be (both to score and to play), I suspect I would basically end up describing Journey. Amazingly, we live in a reality in which this game does exist. I feel constantly in awe of what both thatgamecompany and Sony Santa Monica do, and consider it an almost surreal bit of luck to have been part of their … um, journey. You see what I mean???

Click here to listen to “Woven Variations”.

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  • Absolutely stunning work. Can’t wait to have this game, and most likely just like Flower, I’ll probably play it through over and over again just to hear the soundtrack. Sony, give this game a proper Blu-ray release, I want to see it on my shelf next to U3, Twisted Metal, and the likes!

  • Same here. I am very excited about it. Day one purchase for me. Great job guys.

  • Absolutely beautiful. I already was before, but now I’m even more so in on day one. Can’t wait!

  • I’ve always been a huge fan of Tina Guo ever since I saw her shred with Bear McCreary on his “Apocalypse.” “Woven Variations” is absolutely lovely. Methinks awards are in your future :) So looking forward to Journey and to the soundtrack.

  • This game looks great and all (and I’ll be getting it day one), but come on and give us a release date already. I’ve seen several full retail games get announced and released since we first started seeing screens from this.

  • i dont know but in my opinion PSB lately has been posting some stupid things why dont you people post some more info on the ps vita that would be good

  • vita is gonna suck at launch that’s y bra just like every other console Sony is notorious for though. No XMb plz 3G who cares. btw thatgamecompany I just scanned this article looking for a concrete release date until then I cease to care

  • Will the first edition ps vita’s little deviants be a full retail game or a downloadable?

  • Beautiful music. I’m glad there is a lot of detail going into this downloadable game. I hope it gets a lot of success as well.

  • I can’t imagine this NOT becoming one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Right up there with the Lord of the Rings score for me. Can’t wait to hear more!

  • I’m glad to see that the game’s score is at the forefront of the game’s design, and I’m also glad to see that such a capable person is working on it.

  • My most anticipated game of 2010? no. 2011? nope. 2012? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! I’m getting this game day one, plan to buy the soundtrack (BTW please release a physical soundtrack with the soundtracks to all 4 games made by thatgamecompany; I really want something physical!), and when an artbook is released (PRETTY PLEASE) I plan to get it day one and treasure it the rest of my life just like I treasure every game made by thatgamecompany. Hope you guys never stop making masterpieces of game and art design!

  • Gorgeous. This is the kind of orchestral music that games need–thematic, memorable melodies that define what’s seen on screen. Can’t wait to hear the whole score and review it on my VGM blog (scorevgm.com)

  • Must. Have. Everything thatgamecompany does is stunning and revolutionary.

  • Sounds amazing! Will the audio assets be losslessly-compressed and/or 24-bit? The audio quality in the beta was okay, but didn’t have the dynamic range of other PS3-exclusive titles.

    Really, really looking forward to this — I played the beta through a few times and the “buddy” experience with limited communication was truly unique.

    • Thanks everyone so much for these incredible comments. It means so much to me and all of us here. We’re very proud of this game and are excited to share it!

      re: audio, the beta didn’t feature the finished music, including that we hadn’t yet recorded the orchestra. In fact, many details were far from complete at that stage. So, if we’ve done our job, the final will vastly overshadow what you heard there :)

  • Wow, incredible music. I can’t wait to experience That Game Company’s newest creation.

  • This game looks amazing . cant wait .

  • Excelent! I like the music a lot, now I’m hoping the game includes the music in high definition, I bought some SACDs, and the difference in quality is abysmal between sacd and a regular cd.

    Thank you!

  • Beautiful! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to playing, and hearing, this game soon!

  • LOVE IT!!!

    This games is not coming soon enough!

  • Sounds great, looking forward to this game.


  • I look forward to purchasing this soundtrack.

  • I’m impressed and thrilled. I love your work and the games that TGC develop. Huge fan here <3

  • nice very nice ❤

  • looks really good. i just hope there is more story to it than say, Outland & Limbo.

  • Oh man! what a gigantic improvement on the sound! I really enjoyed the beta, but felt that the lack of music was to highlight the Journey’s vastness, but I love the music in the video! Will surely buy this day 1(there was never a question about it) awesome job all you guys at TGC!

  • I had a wonderful time playing the BETA. Remarkable and stunning experience!

  • WOW. Beautiful music to a beautiful game. I hope this game proves to be just as stunning and amazing as flower.

  • I clicked the link but couldn’t listen, I want everything to be new when I play it. I can’t wait for this game.

  • Journey looks absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to play it! I just keep wanting more from what I see of the game play and the tiny amount of story which has been released but the music is breathtakingly beautiful.

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