Bioshock (XBox 360 Game)



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September 14, 2007


Composer Garry Schyman
Big Bad Scorin' Daddy

High Score: The New Era of Game Music  - Tracksounds Special Feature

Started playing piano at 12.

Graduated from
University of Southern California with a degree
in Music Composition

IStudied under 12-tone composer George Tremblay.

Wrote a viola concerto "Zingaro".

Official Website

Composition Credits (Games)

Destroy All Humans 3

Destroy All Humans 2
Destroy All Humans
Full Spectrum Warrior:
Ten Hammers
Voyeur 2
Offworld Interceptor

Composition Credits (TV)

Magnum P.I.
The A-Team
The Greatest American Hero
Land's End
Treasure Of Lost Creek
Buck James
The Great Gondoli
Rags To Riches
This Is The Life
Father Murphy

Composition Credits (Film)

Spooky House
Lost In Africa
The Last Hour
Concrete War
Hit List
Penitentiary III
Never Too Young To Die








Listen to this soundclip of Bioshock

Bioshock Main Theme (358 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Bioshock

Cohen's Masterpiece
(323 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Bioshock

The Dock (352 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Bioshock

Bioshock Movie
(352 kb)



Composer Garry Schyman

"...I would hope, perhaps in some small way, is that BIOSHOCK might influence some game developers thinking process about music in video games. Maybe they will recognize a paradigm shift in game music."

Garry Schyman

The Interview

As 2KGames continues to get rave reviews for their ground-breaking effort BIOSHOCK, Tracksounds speaks with composer GARRY SCHYMAN about his work on the project, his thoughts about a potential paradigm shift in the gaming industry, if he'll be involved with a "Bioshock 2," and his most recent project DESTROY ALL HUMANS:  PATH OF THE FURON.

CC: Are you surprised at all with the success of the game or the very positive response to your music for the game?

GARRY SCHYMAN: Hmmm. I have to say that I am not completely surprised. I suspected that this game would do extremely well. It's probably doing better than anyone has expected and everyone who worked on the game is certainly happy about that. But I really did believe that it was a very special project. Early on I read or someone told me something that Ken (Levine?) said, which was that we were going to be working on something very special and unique. Sort of a "if we make it, they will come." Or maybe they won't, but whatever the case this project is not going to be a cookie-cutter game. So understanding that - I'm not completely surprised, but very pleased. I remember Ken's statement effecting me in a very positive way, because I knew that everyone was trying to be as creative as they possibly could and hope that world responds.

CC: Now you've worked on this project off and on over the course of some 7 months. Did that on/off process help or hinder your writing process?

GARRY SCHYMAN: I've worked in television and films as well as games and one of the things that is nice about games is more time to work on a project. So there is time to be really creative and come up with stuff...and also to have a life, which is kind of nice, since I have a six year old at home.   So 7 months is fairly elongated. That wouldn't be my what I would choose in an average project because it just ties you up for so long. But that's how it just worked out this time. It happened to work out with my schedule too, so I was able to hang in there.

CC: Why was it so long?

GARRY SCHYMAN: Well, the developers were really in crunch mode for almost 9 months. They were really working hard on the game. They were just taking more time than they had originally anticipated. They had all sorts of technical issues they had to resolve, so I'd work for a few weeks and then there'd be a few weeks where they really didn't have anything for me to do. In the end it all worked out. Although 7 months is a little long, it's not all that uncommon in the game industry. I know composers who have been on games for a year.

Big Daddy and Little Sis' from BIOSHOCK


CC: Now having the time in between, did you find yourself rethinking or second-guessing some of the things you had already completed?

GARRY SCHYMAN: There were a couple things that I went back and toyed with because I had the time to do it.  I went back and polished up one or two cues a little or got a little better recording of something. Mostly, when I was finished with something and they were happy with it, I would  prefer to move on and not keep dwelling on it.

CC: With having the work spread out over those months, did that allow you to hone your employment of specific techniques like musique concrete? Would you have been able to do that had everything been compacted down to a couple of months?

GARRY SCHYMAN: I think in this case, if I had had only a couple of months something definitely would have suffered a little.  I did require a lot time to find a lot of the sound elements and play with them. Still, sometimes its not good for the creative process to have too much time. It just unfolded this way this time and I'm really glad that they took the time to get the game right. You know, I am just adding my little piece to the puzzle and if they don't make a good game, well I'm captive to that. It's the same for when you score a film, you can't write a good script for them. You can't be a good actor for them or edit it for them. You can only do the music, so you are really dependent on them to give you something really good. So in this case, I'm really glad they took the time because it ended up being a better game.

CC: You mentioned that you've worked in the film and television industries as well. Would you say that the game industry is your preferred niche?

GARRY SCHYMAN: There are good things and bad things about all of them. I have had some of the most interesting creative opportunities in my career come as game projects. I have gotten to do some really cool stuff, so I am really happy to be scoring games. Still, I also love scoring films as I like scoring to picture. I grew up in the industry scoring to picture so I have gotten very accustomed to that. Ideally, I'd have the opportunity to do both, but if someone told me I could only score games for the rest of my career, I'd be very happy about that.

CC: And is that principally because you have more room for creative expresssion?

GARRY SCHYMAN: I can only go by my own opportunities, but I think I've had some very interesting games to work on - particularly in regards to music. And maybe that's luck or serendipity or perhaps now I'm getting the reputation of doing interesting projects.

CC: Now in employing musique concrete for BIOSHOCK, that starts flirting around the edges of sound design. Did that cause you to have to collaborate more than usual with the games' sound designers?

GARRY SCHYMAN: I worked with the audio director, Emily Ridgeway, almost exclusively. The music of course, is not wall-to-wall musique concrete. There are bits and bits and pieces here and there. It became sort of a "color" of music, almost like a percussive instrument. I found this website where this doctor who treated people with lung diseases had put the sound of sick people's breathing - their labored breathing. I mean it was some really crazy, really scaring sounding stuff - especially when you take it and manipulate it a bit. And I used it as an instrument. You almost can't tell that it is breathing, but it has a really scary quality. Of course, if Emily heard something that would be in conflict with what she and the rest of the sound team were doing, she would have told me. I don't think that ever happened though.

CC: You do something interesting things in the engineering deck sequences.

GARRY SCHYMAN: Yes - there I found and used another site that gives away free sound effects. I found sounds of this old machinery that had very percussive qualities to them. So I took them and chopped them up and used them as percussion instruments on the engineering deck. Although it does maintain some of that "machine" quality, you might not even know that it was actually a sound from a machine.

CC: Would you say that this project changed you at all as far as what you want to do as a composer, whether it be within the video game world or elsewhere?

GARRY SCHYMAN: That's an interesting question. I think, perhaps, it has. Composers write music for a project and you have to fit that project. The projects don't fit you, as the composer. You have to be a chameleon and you have to accommodate the project. You have to please the people who are hiring you. What I would hope, perhaps in some small way, is that BIOSHOCK might influence some game developers thinking process about music in video games. Maybe they will recognize a paradigm shift in game music. Now if they call on me to do the work, it would be very cool if I could continue to do things that are creatively on the cutting edge.

CC: So are you saying that inquiries you are getting or discussions you have are telling you that game developers have recognized this paradigm shift in gaming music and are wanting to do something similar?

GARRY SCHYMAN: I cannot really say if that is true or not, but just like in film, people are always looking at what is successful and then emulating it. This was a very risky venture for 2K Games and they really did take some chances in making BIOSHOCK. So, it's pure speculation on my part, as I have not had someone come up to me and say, "I want something just as different as BIOSHOCK." That said, I have gotten a lot emails or calls from people saying they really enjoyed the music. For me, there's only a hope that a change like this could be the outcome.

CC: The game developers and marketers have done an incredible job for this game. Even the BIOSHOCK website is a cut above. On it they released some 12 tracks of your score for free (which was a great and appreciated surprise). It was a pretty bold and brave move, when they could have sold them on iTunes or something like that. Do you know what prompted this decision?

GARRY SCHYMAN: My understanding is that there was a sense that some were disappointed that the CD that came with the Special Edition of the game didn't feature any of the score. One of the things they have been great about is how they respect the gamers and really care about how they experiencing the game and project as a whole. So I think they decided that since there was a demand for the score, they'd just give to it everyone. But they never came to me and asked what I thought about that move.

CC: Is there a more complete release coming on CD?

GARRY SCHYMAN: There's no plan for a CD that I'm aware of.

CC: Now, I haven't finished BIOSHOCK myself, but I'll ask you anyway. If there is a sequel, BIOSHOCK 2, do you see yourself involved there?

GARRY SCHYMAN: If they ask me, I would be very likely to say "yes." It was really a great project and if a second game was even close to being as good as the first, I'm sure it would really be a fun, creative opportunity. No one has said anything to me and I haven't heard anything official about a sequel, but I think there have been some articles online about the potential. Of course, whenever you have a successful game, there's an inclination to turn it into a franchise.


Those pesky humans get it again. This time in the 70s.
Destroy all Humans: Path of the Furon

CC: So now you've switched gears and are completing DESTROY ALL HUMANS: PATH OF FURON. Was that a difficult switch to make after completing BIOSHOCK?

GARRY SCHYMAN: It was perfectly welcome. I really enjoy doing different things. If had to write the same type of music for twenty years, I'd be very depressed. I enjoy the constant shift in styles and approaches to music. It was kind of nice to change things up.

CC: So how is DESTROY ALL HUMANS coming along?

GARRY SCHYMAN: This third game is set in the 1970s, and so I've gotten to do some really fun things with it. I just had an orchestral session on Monday and Tuesday of this week and had some of the best players in LA. They were performing some truly complex tracks. That era of scoring was so interesting and I have just immersed myself in it. And it's really been fun, but now I'm ready to move on to something different. I'll be done in a week to two weeks at most.

CC: Thank you so much for your time today and congratulations on the work you've done for BIOSHOCK. I know that gaming and score fans are looking forward to hearing more from you soon.

GARRY SCHYMAN: Thank you very much.

*Special Thanks to Greg O'Connor-Read (Top Dollar PR)

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