4 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018

  • Text
  • November
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Symphony
  • Bloor
Reluctant arranger! National Ballet Orchestra percussionist Kris Maddigan on creating the JUNO and BAFTA award-winning smash hit Cuphead video game soundtrack; Evergreen by name and by nature, quintessentially Canadian gamelan (Andrew Timar explains); violinist Angèle Dubeau on 20 years and 60 million streams; two children’s choirs where this month remembrance and living history must intersect. And much more, online in our kiosk now, and on the street commencing Thursday November 1.


FEATURE KRIS MADDIGAN Cuphead’s Musical Mastermind CATHY RICHES Performing at the Kensington Market Jazz Festival with Alana Bridgewater. SAM HURLEY When Toronto percussionist and composer, Kristofer Maddigan, was first approached by his friends back in 2013 to write the music for the video game they were developing, his first reaction was “no way.” Actually his Kris Maddigan second and third reactions were the same. He felt far out of his comfort zone. As a classically trained percussionist and someone without a lot of composition experience, he felt he just didn’t have the writing chops. But the brothers, Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, persisted. “I think I was the only musician that they knew!” says Maddigan. That turned out to be a very fortunate thing as – fast forward five years – the video game Cuphead is a huge hit worldwide, selling over three million copies within the first year of its release and garnering all kinds of accolades, including best game of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, a BAFTA for Best Game Music and an Academy of Arts and Sciences D.I.C.E. award for Outstanding Achievement in Original Music. One of the charms of the game is its artwork, which was inspired by cartoons and animation of the 1930s. The music has been really well-received too. Maddigan was nominated for a JUNO award for best instrumental album this year (a 4-LP deluxe vinyl set) and at one point the album reached No. 3 on Billboard’s jazz charts. Maddigan was also named “2017 Musician of the Year” by the Toronto Musician’s Association. One of the behind-the-scenes videos of the recording session for the soundtrack has gotten over 3.2 million views on YouTube, which is pretty much unheard of for modern big band music. As well, a live outdoor show of the band playing the score at the recent Kensington Market Jazz Festival was sold out to a very enthusiastic audience. Here, Maddigan gives us some interesting insight into the process for devising a game soundtrack. WN: So how did you get the gig? KM: I met the brothers Moldenhauer around Grade 5 and have been friends with them ever since. We grew up about two blocks from each other in Regina and I spent countless hours in their basement playing video games growing up. (I probably should have been practising.) Six or seven years ago when they had the idea for this little video game they wanted to make, they asked me if I was interested in writing the music. 8 | November 2018

What’s your musical background? Like many youngsters I started on piano, but also like many youngsters I found I didn’t have the patience for it. I wanted to be a rock drummer, so my mom and I compromised and I began taking classical percussion lessons when I was around ten. I continued playing percussion throughout high school and fortunately still ended up playing lots of rock drums, which was a great balance. While taking a year of general courses at the University of Regina I came across a poster for a U of R percussion ensemble concert and I said to myself, “Hey, I used to do that.”’ So I checked it out, and it reawakened a love of music that had been dormant for a few years. That fall I started my undergrad in percussion performance, and then moved to Toronto 11 years ago to do an Artist’s Diploma at the Glenn Gould School. I’m very fortunate to have been a member of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra since 2010. Was this your first major composition? Essentially the only other compositions I have done are a tune from my recital from my brief stint in the U of T jazz program and some processed marimba background music for a Nuit Blanche project. That’s pretty much it. I do have many other musical interests though. For the past four years I have been really into Brazilian percussion, and I’m always working on my drum set playing. I’m also trying to expand my composing experience and am currently digging deeper into theory and counterpoint. Tell us about the process for composing for a game. Were there style guidelines? Were there precise timings to adhere to? How long did it take? What was the most challenging part? The game development and the composition process took place pretty much simultaneously. I was sent a list of levels and bosses that would require music. [Editor’s note: In video gaming, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy. A fight with a boss character is referred to as a boss battle and Cuphead has been praised for its numerous clever and challenging boss battles.] My typical process was to just to write and we would match the tunes up with the appropriate bosses later in the process. Often, once it was decided which tune would go with which boss, I would then tweak the music to be more appropriate for the situation (i.e. adding train-like effects to the train boss, etc). Considering how long it took me to write the music, if I had waited until the game was finished to start, it still wouldn’t be out! The approach to the music of Cuphead is very different than the music of most games. There are no real precise timings to line things up with and the music is not reactive or dynamic as would be more typical for games. It was more important for us to capture a “vibe’” as opposed to following the action, so I ended up just writing standard three-to-four-minute jazz tunes. Typically a player won’t even reach the end of the tune on a given stage since the tunes are long enough that the player has either died and had to restart, or would have already completed the level. Thursday, November 15 at 8pm ENSEMBLE MADE IN CANADA Featuring Mosaïque, a special collection of Canadian compositions Quebec’s new music superstar Tuesday, November 27 at 8pm LOUISE BESSETTE, pianist Pre concert talk at 7:15pm Cuphead title screen 27 Front Street East, Toronto Tickets: 416-366-7723 | November 2018 | 9

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)