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.

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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  • This looks great! Now release it already, I cannot wait to play it!

  • Would love TGC to spring a release date on us.

  • Absolutely beautiful music (1:37 <3 )

  • looks very .. interesting, though am a little surprised by the reply spielberg gave in regards to schindlers list ie there all dead,, personally i’d say they’re yet to be born,..possibly, But i am glad that this much effort is going into the score, as another composer once said the best compliment i can be given is to be told nobody ‘heard’ the music, meaning that it blends so well with the onscreen action it becomes kinda subconscious, Anway good to hear santa monica’s name above,, as their work in the kratos story speaks for itself..

  • erm yet again my comment is to be decided by a moderator….. and again i wonder why?… i did mention something that Without having read the Actual Blog Post may cause delay,… but you Never moderated the guys views who wrote the blog post, did you?… sorry but i am becoming very upset with this ‘constant’ moderation…For No Reason….

  • That’s beautiful music and an interesting story as to how it was concieved and later progressed.
    This could be the first time that hearing a piece of in-game music could actually convince me to buy the game once it’s released. If the mood and feel throughout the game matches this music, as I suspect it will, then it’s definitely something I want to experience.
    Thanks for this taster.

  • AS fascinating as the article is i do wonder what is up with Journey taking so long to be released. It’s had its beta, the game looked and felt pretty much done when i played it at Eurogamer, so why is taking an amazingly long time to release considering its a downloadable game?
    Just thinking out loud. Anyway if you get chance ask TGC about a release date, the longer we wait the more likely it is that we as a community will probably end up forgetting the game exists

  • Been patiently waiting for this for a long time now, but hearing that absolutely breathtaking piece of music just makes me want it right now.
    Amazing. Can’t wait!

  • I adore this studio and very excited for this new title. First day purchase for sure! Sony needs to do more projects such as this and get back to their experimental roots. Dearly miss those PS1 days and I know for sure Im not alone in that thought.

  • Wow, a real orchestra! I find the fake orchestras of modern gaming pretty tiring at times, although I appreciate the cost difference between a real orchestra and a PC digital audio workstation running an HDD full of audio clips. Beautiful score.

  • looks like a cool game.

  • Never heard of this game is it new?

  • hope i can buy the music after the game release.

  • I know this is Not the proper place to mention this but concerning post5, my previous post i wrote is still awaiting moderation, are you’s (the mods) going to start the silly games.. again, as i once waited moderation for 36 odd hours once, just to have it allowed, After complaining to the blog team etc… Why do you feel the need to single me out in this fashion,?.. Anyway i was going to wait and see if you would beat the 36 hour record, but i ‘suppose’ it will just be deleted now… and in case anybody cares (doubtfull) it was not offensive or insulting…

  • Absolutely beautiful music, it definitely fits the game.
    I simply can’t wait to try the game myself. :)

  • Amazing. Games as art debate getting settled in spring 2012! Can’t wait, but happy to wait if it makes for a greater experience.

  • Absolutely beautiful

  • beautiful. I’m really looking forward to seeing this game ready for release.

  • I can’t wait for this. The beta blew me away.
    Everything about this game is fantastic. The gameplay,the music,the visuals…release it already!!

  • Is it just me or do the characters in Journey remind anyone else of Klonoa? Something about the character design, they have a kind of similar look I think. Not to Klonoa himself, but other characters.

  • Great… But IF you would of taken 5 minutes or so to Reply to some of those comments And Compliments that the above nice people took time out to post, then i would be more inclined to give more than .. Great.
    I know it isn’t fair on the guy who’s posted this blog, but don’t you just Hate it when someone writes his views and story about a upcoming game, or event, only to just blank any comments, very rude, to say the least imo.. I say its not fair to post this ‘here’ as it happens on lots of blog posts, or announcements, not just this guys (interesting) post.. But how hard can it be to give a little time to interact with your ‘audience’?, or whatever it is we blog readers are known as.

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