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'In a game, the focus is of course on game play, but the music seeps into the unconscious also – and is instantly recognizable if later heard.'

Interview: Cellist Tina Guo on Getting Her ‘Game On!’

Blogcritics recently had the opportunity to interview, via email, Tina Guo, a cellist who has a new album of videogame music. Game On! offers up 14 different pieces from various videogames, ranging from Tetris and Super Mario Bros. to more recent fare like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim.

Below, Guo tells us about the album and where it came from. A gamer herself, she also tells us about what (games) she’s currently playing. See below, too, for a video of her playing music from Zelda.

What brought about the idea of doing a “best of” videogame music CD?

I love games, have been lucky to record on various video game scores, and am also friends with a lot of game music composers! After I released my previous album of TV/film music, the next album was logically – a game music album! There’s so much amazing material out there from decades of fantastic games, it was really hard to narrow it down – the initial 10-track idea was expanded to 14 for that reason.

With so much great game music out there, how did you go about choosing what to include?

I sat down with my co-producer Steve Mazzaro, an amazing film music composer who works at Remote Control Productions with Hans Zimmer, also a gamer and game music fan, and compiled a list which we narrowed down. I wanted to encompass many different eras and styles, and we could have done so many more tracks. Of course, classics like Zelda, Super Mario, Final Fantasy, and Pokemon had to be included, and I also wanted really wanted to do music from Witcher 3 since that’s a personal favorite of mine – I love the whole ethnic/tribal/ancient music thing. Also, I played the cello solos for the Journey video game score, and we did a cover of that as well – I was so relieved when my friend Austin (composer of Journey) approved of the new arrangement! I was scared he’d hate it, haha 🙂

Were there any pieces you wanted to have on the CD, but which for one reason or another didn’t make it?

The list could go on forever!! I originally also wanted to include music from Call of Duty II or III by my friend Jack Wall – I also played on those scores but it didn’t end up working out. Also, Diablo, Hearthstone, and music from so many other Final Fantasy games – it’s a good thing we can always do another album of game music!

What do you think differentiates music for games from other types of music?

I’m a believer that all music is music – and I love that video game music isn’t limited by any genre, just like soundtracks to films and TV shows. I love being able to explore and expand into every style of music. It’s a lot of fun since the music serves the media, it can be any type and style! So much musical and relative freedom.

How does an audience’s reception/understanding of one of these pieces differ when it’s initially heard in album form rather than within a game?

I think in a game, the focus is of course more on game play, but the music seeps into the unconscious also – and is instantly recognizable if later heard. In an album format, the focus is solely on the music. In Game On! we made new versions/arrangements of these famous themes, while still doing our best to maintain a recognizable connection to the original.

Do you have a favorite piece of videogame music to listen to? to perform?

Ohhhhhhh I really can’t choose – there’s just too much great music, and for me the best thing about music is not being limited to one style, one song, or one game!

However, one of my favorites is the music in Witcher 3 – I think in another lifetime, I’ll have a ethnic/tribal music band playing on ancient instruments. On that track, it features the amazing Einar Selvik (Wardruna) on vocals, who I met through the TV show Vikings. He sings and composes music for that show, and I also recorded on the soundtrack. We performed the Vikings Suite together in Krakow a couple years ago at the Film Music Festival with the show’s main composer, Trevor Morris. Einar was the main singer for the track and replaced the ethnic female vocals with Viking style vocals. In addition to cello, I also recorded erhu, tagelharpa, and Mongolian horse fiddle, and sang on the Witcher 3 cover.

What about a favorite game?

I got my Nintendo Switch on release day and have been playing Breath of the Wild! So obsessed. I don’t leave the unit plugged in so that it runs out of battery after hours hours of continuous play to control myself, or I could just do it all day – there goes my music career! haha 🙂

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Guo has several West Coast tour dates coming up in April before performing internationally for several weeks. Game On! is currently available at Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by ‘deftly’ he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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