Games in Music: Behind the Scenes with composer and UBC student Gabriella Yorke

We continue our conversation with composers Antony Knight (BMus ’22) and Gabriella Yorke (BMus ’23) and talk about their role in arranging medleys for the upcoming concert Games in Music: Halo, WoW, LOTR.

UBC School of Music student, Felix Rowe, sits down with Gabriella Yorke to learn more about her process in arranging the music for Celeste for this concert. You can find Felix’s interview with Antony here.


Felix: Can you tell me about what inspired you to start composition?

Gabriella: It was actually video games that inspired it! I remember one Christmas I got a GameCube. I fell in love with the music. I begged my parents to take me to piano lessons so I could learn the music. As I got older, I got into arranging video game music. I would transcribe and play them on guitar or piano. Later, when I discovered virtual instruments, I started arranging for orchestra, and it just grew from there.

Felix: What was your role in this concert?

Gabriella: I made an arrangement of the music from the game Celeste, orchestrated it, transcribed all the tracks, and made all the parts from start to finish for the piece. The game is mostly electronic music, chip tunes, and 8-bit music with piano and drums. This is my favourite kind of music to orchestrate. When you have electronic instruments, you can get really creative with textures and colour.

Felix: What kind of challenges does that create?

Gabriella: The biggest one is when there’s a specific sound, for instance, a synthesizer. You have to figure out how you can make it work with traditional instruments. A synthesizer can hold out a note for however long: some notes are held out for thirty seconds. You think, “that would be really cool in the flute”, but you can’t ask a flute player to play for thirty seconds. It’s striking the balance of what the music is supposed to be and making it so that an orchestra can play the music.

Felix: What was your process in arranging the music?

Gabriella: When you’re making a medley, the first question you need to ask is which pieces you are going to have in the medley. Which songs are iconic? Which songs work best for orchestra? Once I had the pieces selected, I went into each track to see what the best part is to include in the medley. A lot of the time, I had to capture two sections and mesh them together to capture the whole essence of the piece.

Felix: Can you tell me more about the game, Celeste? What’s the music like for the game?

Gabriella: The music is very uplifting. You’re climbing a mountain, and the music has these big, beautiful moments where you’re reaching your goal, like when you reach the top of the mountain. It’s also a game about self discovery and coming to terms with your inner demons. A lot of tracks have that anxiety in the music. Industrial sounding with heavy percussions and ostinatos in the low synthesizer. It’s very dire at times.

Felix: What do you think an audience member should look forward to when attending the concert?

Gabriella: There’s such a variety of music that’s being showcased. Great games with great soundtracks! Many times, video game music isn’t performed in the mainstream. It’s a great opportunity to hear this music in a context where you can discover new things and appreciate the music in a performance setting! When playing the game, you’re not focused on the music, because you’re focused on the gameplay. I think having a space where you can appreciate the music for itself is a great opportunity for anyone.

Be sure to purchase tickets for Games in Music: Halo, WOW, LOTR happening on November 4th at 7:30 PM. Details are available on the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts website