Among the big surprises and performances of last night’s Grammy Awards is the historic win of composer Christopher Tin, who took home a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for the song “Baba Yetu.”
The track was originally written as the theme song for the computer strategy game “Civilization IV” in 2005, making it the first song written for a videogame to win a Grammy. The album on which it appeared, 2010’s “Calling All Dawns,” which also won a Grammy for “Best Classical Crossover Album.” It was Tin’s first album, first nomination, and first win.
Despite feeling a bit under the weather the day after the big night, Tin took a few minutes to speak with Billboard about his winning song, and what he thinks it could mean for the videogame scores going forward.
Q: Congratulations on your Grammy wins. How do you feel?
A: I’m extremely, extremely excited. I’m hopeful that this causes people to take videogame music more seriously in the future. And I hope I get the chance to write more quality videogame music in the future as well. I’m just thrilled this happened, and I’m glad for the industry and glad that maybe I can help open up a door to other talented composers.
Q: What were your reactions when you were first nominated, because “Baba Yetu” had been out for five years in the videogame before it ever got nominated as a result your including it in the album.
A: The day the nominations came out, I was nervous because I’d submitted it for consideration, but I was trying to avoid reading who the final nominees were. So I went to the local ice rink to play hockey, and as I was lacing up my skates I was just so nervous I figured if I played hockey in that state I’d get killed. So I fired up the iPhone and saw all the congratulatory e-mails. Then I went out and scored a goal. And I don’t score a lot of goals.
Q: Did you think it would get the attention it received within the videogame press as being the first song in a videogame to be nominated for a Grammy?
A: I did think it might. It’s something we talk about in the game industry a lot. There’s been a big campaign for the Grammys to set up its own category for videogame music. When my game industry contacts started spreading the word, I knew it would get attention. Then you guys featured my nomination in your A-Z guide to the Grammys, and I realized this bit of trivia was going mainstream.
Q: What result do you hope this will have on how videogame scores are treated?
A: I hope that people will take videogame music seriously. The big thing the videogame industry struggle with is that games don’t have artistic merit. There’s this feeling that if you see a videogame score buried amongst a list of film scores, the mere fact that it’s a videogame score means more people will be dismissive of it. But the fact is that videogames are huge sellers. They reach audiences much wider than a lot of films. And the people listening to this music listen to it way more than your average film score. I’m friends with some of the composers of the biggest games — your Halos and your World of Warcrafts and your God of Wars — and if you think about it, these guys have their music heard by gamers hours upon hours for weeks on end. If you watch a film, the score goes by you and you likely won’t hear it again unless you watch the movie again or buy the soundtrack.
Q: So what’s next?
A: These past few years I’ve mostly been doing feature films. I have one coming out April 29th called “Hoodwinked 2.” As far as doing more videogame scores, I’d absolutely love to do more. One of the funny things is that after I wrote Baba Yetu, I thought it would be my big entry into the game industry. But surprisingly, I didn’t get many phone calls from game companies. Maybe that will change now.