The Summer Arts connection between a music alum and a video game score

Pianist and composer Michael Krikorian

It’s funny where we find inspiration. Playing video games as a child, Michael Krikorian‘s interest in pursuing music was sparked by the musical scores of the games he played.

Later, he took a Summer Arts class in scoring for visual media. That connection with teachers he met there led him down a path that resulted in an opportunity to write the score and perform the music for a video game released earlier this summer — “The Fidelio Incident,” by “God of War 3” Art Director Ken Feldman.

“The Fidelio Incident,” a single-player, first-person thriller set off the coast of Iceland, was inspired by Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio.” After a violent plane crash, Stanley must search a desolate frozen island in search of his wife, Leonore, while covering up any traces of their identity. Rescue help is on the way, the past must remain hidden.

Krikorian began studying with Fresno State Professor Andreas Werz when he was just 12 1/2 years old. He continued his studies with Werz during his time as a student at Fresno State, graduating with his undergraduate degree in piano performance in 2011. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music in 2014. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Question: Tell us about the courses you took at Fresno State when Summer Arts was hosted here before.

Michael Krikorian: I took a course in scoring for visual media (games, film, television) in 2009. We had workshops with composers such as Jim Dooley, Garry Schyman and a few others. During the course I got some experience composing in Logic and learned how to navigate some of the unique challenges of scoring for games. Garry Schyman is currently one of the advisors on my graduate committee.

Q: How did your experience with Summer Arts result in this opportunity?

MK: In 2010, I took a piano and strings intensive course. During this time, I met and took lessons with Antoinette Perry, whom I currently study with at USC.

Q: Is scoring a video game soundtrack a different kind of accomplishment from what you are generally accustomed to in your  professional experience?

MK: Yes, it is very different! As a pianist, most of my accomplishments are related to the preparation and performance of repertoire. At the end of this process we are rewarded with the opportunity to perform a recital where we can share the fruits of this labor.

I love performing, but I feel that practicing and learning music is the most rewarding part of the process. For me, it is all about the journey, not so much the destination. But somehow there is never really a sense of completion in preparing a recital — it feels like there’s always more that could be done, or like there are secrets still waiting to be discovered in the music — even after spending months with a piece!

The nice thing about composing is that once it’s done, it’s done. I can sculpt every track to be exactly how I want it, and it’s always going to be the same. As a performer, this is not the case — quality fluctuates from performance to performance depending on a whole bunch of different variables. But strangely I enjoy that element of risk — those little (or sometimes big) imperfections that show up in recitals are like affirmations of our humanity.

I also have to admit that I’ve played quite a lot of video games throughout my life, and video game scores are one of the things initially sparked my interest in pursuing music. It has always been a dream of mine to compose for games, so seeing my name pop up in the credits for the Fidelio Incident gives me chills every time.

Q: What would your advice be to other music students coming up, either those who might be studying at Fresno State or specifically at Summer Arts?

MK: I think the best advice for music students is PRACTICE … but don’t overdo it. Improving your craft, whether it’s performance or composition, should be your absolute favorite thing to do. However, you shouldn’t let it consume you.

Allow yourself time to meet people, socialize, read books, go to concerts, see movies, play video games. Music is about communication, and if you spend all your time in a practice room you probably won’t have too much to say. Plus, so many opportunities come from the people you know, so don’t neglect that aspect of your college experience!

Q: Anything else?

MK: I think Summer Arts is great because it gives you an opportunity to meet students and professionals from outside your program or institution who you might not have any contact with otherwise. Something I’ve discovered is that the music world is pretty small, so the chances are good that the people you meet in programs like this are going to stick around.

I also think students should feel very lucky to have the opportunity to study music at Fresno State. Some of my best memories are at that school, and some of the most important things I have learned came from my teachers there. I had opportunities at Fresno State that most people don’t get in bigger music programs.

For example, the Philip Lorenz Keyboard Memorial Concert Series brings some of the greatest pianists in the world right to the Concert Hall! And we would often get to participate in master classes with these artists, which is a pretty rare opportunity at other schools. I think every music student should take advantage of these concerts, not just pianists.

The trailer for “The Fidelio Incident” can be viewed on YouTube.


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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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