Top Score

Penka Kouneva and a composer's 'authentic voice'

Composer Penka Kounevacourtesy the artist

Top Score for April 30, 2015


April 30, 2015

A recent panel at GDC (Game Developers Conference) may have raised more questions than it answered. It was titled "Women in Game Audio," and it addressed one of the more controversial subjects in video games: gender.

The questions it raised are important to consider. Among them: Do men and women compose music differently? What is masculine music or feminine music? Is there such thing as masculine or feminine music? Is defining music this way inherently sexist? Is saying that women can compose like men solidifying the underlying belief that men and women are essentially different?

These questions don't have any "correct" answer, of course. But the panel, which included professionals from Ubisoft, Microsoft and independent studios, delved in nonetheless. They were led by composer and orchestrator Penka Kouneva, who talked with Top Score host Emily Reese about the challenges facing women in video games.

One takeaway from the panel, which can apply to all composers, is the importance of finding an "authentic voice." Regardless of gender, a composer should be instantly recognizable for his or her unique sound, approach, or instrumentation. That is what gets a composer discovered and ultimately hired.

Penka has been busy lately, too. Her recent credits include Gears of War 3, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The latest title to be announced, an album called The Woman Astronaut, is a crowd-funded project calling attention to a lack of female composers in media.

This interview, too, poses more questions than it answers. But sometimes that's the point.