Christen Crumpler

2023 GRAMMY Awards: 5 Nominees to Look Out for in the New Video Game Division

By Christen Crumpler

The 2023 GRAMMYs is this February and there’s a new sub-category  that’s being introduced–video game music. Video game music is finally being recognized under the Music for Visual Media category. Here are some highlights about this new sub-category’s nominees:

Aliens: Fireteam Elite by Austin Wintory, composer

Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s playstyle is similar to the game World War Z and the Gears of War titles–but you’re in outer space fighting the alien creatures from the franchise Aliens. Its music can be described as having a modern, militaristic sound with a gritty character that shows off its grungy aspects. The game’s composer, Austin Wintory, explains this best by sharing his approach to combine the action and sci-fi/horror scores from the previous composers of the franchise’s films. You can find more in-depth details about the composition process within the videos on Wintory’s YouTube channel.

Video: How I Wrote 2 Minutes of Aliens Fireteam Elite Music

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok by Stephanie Economou, composer

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok is the final downloadable content (DLC) expansion for the title Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. You’re met with an atmospheric soundtrack that uses Norse music styles with elements of heavily distorted guitars and fast tempos from the black metal genre. In a Games hub article, composer Stephanie Economou says,

“One of the reasons it’s so rewarding to compose music for Assassin’s Creed is that you have these historically-driven narratives, and the music can echo the sounds of that time while still being hyper-modern and edgy and rule-breaking.”

Economou speaks more about how she made the soundtrack in the full article. If you want to listen to the full soundtrack of the DLC, click the video below.

Video/Audio: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök (Original Game Soundtrack) [FULL ALBUM]

Call Of Duty®: Vanguard by Bear McCreary, composer

Set during World War II, players join a special team of Allied soldiers to take down the last efforts of the Third Reich in Call Of Duty®: Vanguard. The game’s soundtrack takes a cinematic approach with orchestral and rock elements that put you right in the action. In order to match the personal perspective of the storyline, the musical foundation is laid with improvised melodies and then built outwards with the orchestral aspects. You can find more information on the creation of the soundtrack in a video with the composer, Bear McCreary. To listen to the full soundtrack, click here.

Video: Music Behind The Scenes | Call of Duty: Vanguard

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy by Richard Jacques, composer

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy has you protecting the cosmos as Star-Lord with the other Guardians. Its music brings the heroism from the Marvel films straight into the game. There are various musical themes used throughout the soundtrack–embracing the decision-making gameplay to enhance the player’s experience. The game’s composer, Richard Jacques, goes into detail about the different themes used in this video here and the creation of the score here.

Video: Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy: Scoring The Soundtrack

Old World by Christopher Tin, composer

Players are nation leaders preserving their legacy in the historical strategy game Old World–where each turn is a year of your dynasty. The soundtrack pays homage to the styles used within Arabic music. One way is through the music’s improvised nature–where the performers play a key part in the musical composition process. In a podcast episode, composer Christopher Tin mentions,

“The fundamental way that a lot of these musical forms are presented in Arabic music is actually more improvised–and its actually one that feeds off of a live performance where you get energy back from the audience, right? You sorta whip them into the state of like ecstatic-frenzy through your performance and they applaud and, you know, there’s a very interactive element to it. But if you take that idea–that authentic Arabic idea of a performance being the composition–where does that leave room for an outside composer like myself, if the performer is in fact the composer, right?”

Tin talks more about the process with the Lead Designer of Old World and the CEO of Mohawk Games in the full podcast episode here. You can find more about the game’s soundtrack on Tin’s Youtube Channel.

You can tune-in to the GRAMMYs on Sunday, February 5th, to see who wins. To see the full list of nominees, click here.

Pictured: Video game controller; Photo by Javier Martínez on Unsplash.

Q & A with Christen Crumpler: WDAV Announcer, Podcast Producer, and Video Game Enthusiast

Earlier this year, Christen Crumpler, host and producer of WDAV’s Power Play podcast, made the leap onto the airwaves as the host of Sunday Night Music. Last month, Christen traded in her night owl wings for a move to Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. 

A native of Charlotte, Christen studied violin and piano at Northwest School of the Arts and continued her studies in college, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music. In addition to her hosting and producing duties at WDAV, Christen is an aspiring songwriter. Now that she has settled into her new time slot, it’s time for a little Q&A to help listeners get to know her better. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of learning to host a radio show?

Figuring out what I want to say and how to shape it for a particular medium. College writing is very different from writing for a format like radio. So, keeping those things in mind, and still making sure that I’m able to translate my authentic self well.

Have there been any surprises along the way? 

I think finding out that I have a knack for radio hosting/voice work! When I began as an intern, my mindset was initially focused on the audio editing portion of production – since I was confident in doing that. I’m continuing to learn that my capabilities are much wider than I’ve allowed myself to previously think.

Give us the name of a composer who we should all give more attention to.   

Please delve into the musical world of Joe Hisaishi! He’s a Japanese composer who’s responsible for a large portion of the film scores to Hayao Miyazaki’s animations. Musically, Hisaishi’s able to enhance and bring to life the worlds Miyazki creates. And Joe Hisaishi’s music (within those films) was a key inspiration of mine when it came to orchestral music growing up.

What should listeners expect to hear when they tune in?

You can expect every now and then, in my shift, a look into how I experience music. Also offering space for you to think about how you interact with music too! A person’s musical experience can be enhanced by connecting with others – and so I try to do that as much as I can when I’m on the air.

When you’re not busy announcing for WDAV or working on producing the next episode of Power Play, what interests do you pursue? 

Well, these days, you can catch me playing video games on my Nintendo Switch! I’m no pro, but I do have my fair share of achievements and hours across different games and consoles. Also, I’m always working on writing songs and creating instrumentals for my own music that I want to release at some point. 

What advice would you give to others who – like you – are new to hosting in the Classical Music/Radio space?

Be kind to yourself. There’s not a lot of us noobs out here at the moment – and so, at times, it can feel like you’re not hitting the marks you think you should be meeting. It’s a growing journey. You’ll be able to reach the goals you’re wanting if you keep at it – like the hosts that have 20/30+ years in this space eventually did. Make sure you’re eager to learn and curious about how you can approach things differently.

You can catch Christen hosting on WDAV every Sunday between 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Listen closely – she might even mention her gamer tag. The latest episode of the Power Play, Spirituals: The Power of Community and Music, is out now and available at all major podcast platforms including Apple, Google, and Spotify.