Top Score

What's old-school is new again for Michael Schiciano

Composer Michael Schicianoprovided photo

Top Score for July 16, 2015


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July 16, 2015

Old-school game composers are the picture of efficiency. Given roughly as much space as a text document, they created memorable soundtracks with the smallest data footprint imaginable. To put this feat into perspective, Emily recently sat down with composer and Full Sail University teacher Michael Schiciano to talk about old-school and modern approaches to composing.

Jargon warning — we were lost about 30 seconds in.

It turns out the art of low-data composing is still alive and well, thanks to the burgeoning mobile market. Much like retro games, which were limited by low computing power and slow processing speeds, mobile games present their own challenges — limited space, demanding download speeds, and taxed processors all demand a smaller and smaller data footprint. And many composers solve this problem with old-school techniques.

Michael has experience arranging for mobile and handheld games, most notably the Nintendo DS. He walks us through one of his more dramatic data decreases, and explains some of his strategies, including tracker-style music, MIDI performance, and looped segments. With competitive names like Halo entering the mobile market, game composers have to find a way to pare their pieces down just as much as ever. Michael makes data sound like money. "We gotta make as much as we can on as little as possible," he says.