Denver native Austin Wintory says attending frequent Colorado Symphony Orchestra concerts and nerding out on video games and comic books inspired him just about equally as a kid, so Saturday's special concert "The Hero's Journey: A Symphonic Tribute to Comic Con" at 7:30 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall is "nothing short of the fulfillment of a lifelong dream." Westword caught up with the composer, who will be guest-conducting a piece from his award-winning and Grammy-nominated video game score for Journey and helped curate the rest of the program for the concert.
Westword: I understand this concert is something of a homecoming for you.
Austin Wintory: Before I went and got a formal degree in composition, so much of my training came from sitting in the audience, craning my neck and hearing and absorbing the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in a raw, uneducated way. It became a bedrock for me.
This has been a huge year for you, winning the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Original Music and earning the distinction of composing the first video game score ever nominated for a Grammy.
"Huge" is an understatement. It's been truly inexplicable and utterly surreal. I mean, I lost to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in the Best Score Soundtrack category at the Grammys, for their work on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and I lost along with the likes of John Williams, Ludovic Bource, Hans Zimmer, and Howard Shore, so there was no way to lose and feel like I got screwed. There's no shame in losing to any of those guys, and if I'd won it would have meant beating more than one of my lifelong heroes, which would have felt like a disturbance of the natural universe.
And you'll be conducting a portion of that score on Saturday?
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There's over an hour of music I wrote for the game, and the CSO will doing 8 or 9 minutes of it, a piece called "Apotheosis," which is the grand finale music from the game. The game itself swept the various video game awards pretty aggressively, winning almost everybody's video game of the year awards, and I was shocked and humbled that the music score rode that wave as well, taking home the Spike TV award, the BAFTA award, and a handful of others.
This particular piece has definitely been everyone's favorite from the score. I'll be conducting it myself and I don't know which is the greater honor: to have my music performed by the Colorado Symphony - nothing short of the fulfillment of a lifelong dream - or to actually be conducting the symphony as they play my music, or to have helped make some of the other selections for the program, which will be conducted by Scott O'Neil, the CSO's resident conductor. I'm nerding out on every front.
What else can we look forward to on the program?
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I helped produce the concert and there's a lot of really good stuff. It's a full-fledged tribute to Comic Con - adventure movie scores, video game scores, sci-fi and superhero movies - and they didn't just go for the obvious choices. We were able to put together a really unique program of music including a mix of favorites and crowd-pleasers along with some music that has never been performed live, like Danny Elfman's reworking of his theme for Batman that was used for the animated series in the 90s. We'll have the score for Bioshock, one of my very favorite video game scores, by Gary Schyman, and there will be music from Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Star Trek... I don't want to give away all the secrets. It's going to be a tremendous selection. Let's just say if you're the type of person who would enjoy attending a Comic Con, we're going to have some good sounds for you, and I understand cosplay is definitely being encouraged.