When I recently spoke with composer Austin Wintory about his score for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate he mentioned several things he believes are important to keep in mind as a young and aspiring composer. Here’s what he told me:
I try to make every project have something new that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I always try to push myself to feel like I’m uncovering some new hidden gem beneath rocks that I kick over. I don’t know if I always succeed but that’s always the goal and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was not different. It actually didn’t matter the size of the project or the scope of the game and so the advice that I tend to give is never technical advice, it’s never even musical advice.
I think a lot of composers when they’re first starting out are very self-conscious and afraid because they don’t know how they are going to build a career. I don’t blame them for feeling that way, I felt that way for a long time as well. So what I always want for them is to feel encouraged to have strong opinions and convictions. If they end up becoming generic people they are going to write generic music and there is an overabundance of generic music out there. The market is pretty saturated. And so the only way that people are going to be able to actually get work is by not being generic.
The way you succeed in that, at least my feeling on the matter, is by going out and leading an interesting life so that your experiences that you draw from when composing are unique to the life you’ve led. That will then in turn lead you to have strong and perhaps abnormal opinions on things. The simplest way to describe it is they should be divisive. They should go out and be divisive. In other words they should have strong opinions that they are not afraid of turning people off with because they are also going to turn other people on. People that are going to become very excited by their ideas and their work.
But all your instincts as a young composer fight against that. You are asked what you think and very often in an interest of just being well liked by whoever you’re talking to you’ll say just any old thing like “What do you think?” or something like that sort of a copy-out. I always want young composers to feel like: “No, your opinion is actually quite valid and quite interesting.” It doesn’t come naturally to most young composers.