Introduction from the Editor:
Hi everyone! I wanted to briefly introduce the first interview in our Attack the Gap! series, highlighting women in game audio. This series is brought to you by composer Megan McDuffee (read her introduction post here for more info).
Today’s interview is with composer Taylor Ambrosio Wood – aka “Marimba Girl”. I won’t step on her toes, as she tells you about her background below, but I will suggest that you check out her website and Soundcloud to listen to her awesome music. My personal favorite track, while not listed in this article, is a track from Yandere Simulator – which is a game about a girl who is obssessed with her crush and will murder anyone who gives her competition. Yikes!
Enjoy the interview – and a big thank you to Megan & Taylor for sharing!
Tell me a bit about yourself – your musical history, background, influences, style, etc.
Taylor: I started playing music on the Zimbabwean Marimba and the mbira (Shona thumb piano) when I was 9 years old. Those marimbas are really cool because they have a “buzz” sound to them—kind of like Mexican marimbas. A few years after that, I saw people playing classical marimbas with 4 mallets, and I was like “I want to learn those!” So I took lessons at the local college and started learning Western classical marimba.
When I was 17, I was accepted to The Boston Conservatory of Music so I could study marimba with Nancy Zeltsman. During my junior year, I wanted to try writing music so I could compose my own marimba solos to play, and I took composition lessons. Senior year, I was accepted to the Master’s in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program at the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain, and I just finished that last year!
What has been your biggest career challenge? How about your biggest triumph?
Taylor: I haven’t been out of school very long, so I am sure that my biggest career challenges are yet to come… Haha! However, I think my biggest challenge so far was learning Western sheet music when I was younger. I had played Zimbabwean marimba by ear for so many years that getting my head around Western notation was really difficult for me. My biggest triumph was probably conducting my music with a live orchestra at AIR studios in London last year for my final thesis at Berklee. It was so incredible to be up on that podium and to hear my music being played by such amazing musicians!
Anything you feel is very important but often overlooked in this career?
Taylor: As composers, we often get so caught up in the newest plug-ins, fanciest sample libraries, and latest production techniques that I think we forget that music’s main job is to tell a story. I think we need to remember that we, as composers, are really articulating the underlining emotions of a game and communicating that through music. Unfortunately, that message sometimes get’s lost in wanting to over-produce a track and throw in everything but the kitchen sink. I think simplicity is super underrated because sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful!
What are your ideas about actionable items to closing the gender gap in game audio?
Taylor: I think “action” is the keyword. I know the gender gap in audio is a huge topic— one for an entire dissertation—but it ultimately falls on everyone to make the game industry more diverse. However, speaking directly to what women can do themselves to close the gap, I would say in the words of the great Shia Lebouf (Hehe!): “JUST, DO IT!” Go out and become awesome composers! Women need to keep making music, putting their work out there, and – just – keep – going! Become THE BEST; not just as good as your male peers, but BETTER! Be bold, unavoidable, and impossible to ignore!
I have seen a lot of my female friends, in both composition and percussion, quit or not work through the challenges, because they think they are not good enough or will never make it… Unfortunately, that line of thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
Do you want to see more amazing and famous female composers? Then, become one!!
Imagine you woke up tomorrow in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter are taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. How would you start over?
Taylor: Hmm… if the world is identical to earth now, then I guess I would still try to work in game audio. However, I would probably use the $500 to buy the Cinematic Studio Strings library because I’ve really wanted that! I don’t know; I don’t really want to “start over.” I would just try to live the same life I am living now! NO REGRETS!! 😛
About the Author: Megan McDuffee
Megan McDuffee is an award-winning game and film composer, specializing in orchestral and electronic music with a dark, melodic edge. Anything sci-fi, fantasy, or horror is her cup of tea (aside from actual cups of tea, which she enjoys immensely.) She’s worked alongside veteran composers and producers, including Penka Kouneva on the multi-award winning Rollers of the Realm. Other games Megan has scored include Galaxy Heist, Mimic: Arena, Solar Crusaders, Rose Racer,and Plunge. She is currently working on a dark, dreamy synthwave-triphop EP releasing early next year. To listen to Megan’s work and feel worse about your own website’s design, visit: http://meganmcduffee.com