2020 has been a catastrophic year filled with difficulties of every kind, but somehow I’ve managed to weather the wild ride and come out ahead.
As I’ve mentioned countless times, I went back to school in 2017 and have been working to complete my music composition degree since. In 2018, I went crazy and added on a piano performance concentration on top of music composition (more on this in a later post).
As a result of the piano, 2019 was an incredibly busy year filled with lots and lots of practicing, practicing, and more practicing. Did I mention practicing? I was so busy that even my 2019 year-in-review post was left by the wayside and still sits as a draft on my WordPress dashboard.
When the pandemic arrived in 2020, I found myself working from home with less time spent commuting and more spent doing what I love in one form or another. I think that’s what they call “free time” but I can’t be sure—2019 erased my memory of such a thing.
With my newfound free time, I decided I was going to search for an indie game to score. I started a spreadsheet of potential projects—games that were in development and didn’t have a composer. I scoured the indie gamesphere and had a spreadsheet of 30+ games, albeit with many rows covered in red from “Thanks, but no thanks” responses.
Eventually, around May, I came across Song of Iron by Joe Winter, a solo dev, and I noticed that a lot of his YouTube videos had stock music. The art style was beautiful—a dark and brutal 3D atmosphere—so I knew immediately that it was in my wheelhouse. I was inspired and a demo track practically poured out of me and into my DAW. Then, with a track in hand, I joined the Song of Iron Discord and sent it Joe’s way.
A few days later he got back to me with undoubtedly the biggest “yes” of my game composing career—Joe loved the track!
Suddenly it felt as though I had my first major game project. Not a green game developer building his first project, but someone who had over a decade of experience in the industry on games like Big Buck Hunter and Halo 5. Not someone who had a solid game without a following, but a game that already amassed thousands of followers across social media, soared to the front page of Reddit twice, and had earned a partnership with ID@Xbox. To be honest, it’s still surreal even as I type it months later. It all happened so quickly.
But that wasn’t all.
A few days after I sent the demo track, Joe told me the game would be featured in the Xbox Summer Games Showcase. Then, in December, it would be part of the Game Awards Festival. I feel like I’ve struck gold (iron?) with this project. Only a few short months beforehand I was wondering when I would finally get my break as a composer after years of grinding for just a chance. All of a sudden I landed the project I had always dreamt of.
That being said, the contrast of this extraordinary opportunity in the midst of a global crisis is not lost on me. There are feelings of guilt as I am hopeful and excited amid tragic economic disaster and loss of life. But, when I watch YouTube videos of people playing Song of Iron and enjoying it and commenting on it—and the music especially—I feel like I’ve done my part in some miniscule way.
I am only a composer and the world’s problems are far above my paygrade, but if I can make someone’s life better, even if just for a moment, then I feel that I’ve used my talents to contribute something good to the world in a time when it needs it most. After all, that’s the point of music, isn’t it?
Once Song of Iron is released, I hope to accomplish that tenfold.