Chris Larkin

Bachelor of Music (composition), Honours in Music (composition), Masters in Music (in progress), Composer and Sound Designer

From the Elder Conservatorium to video gaming, Chris Larkin has found an audience for his music well beyond the concert hall.

Chris Larkin: a game-changing composer

Music is shifting.

It always has, of course, but now it's in our pocket. Music for days; sewn into too many megabytes, taking up so much room on our phones that we're having to make real choices about what to keep and what to delete!

At the same time, we're making more of it than ever before. We're making it ourselves (thanks Garage Band) and artists are breaking onto the scene in such new and innovative ways. So how a musician makes money, without just playing gigs in pubs, is something many choose to explore at university.

Growing up with a music teacher for a dad, Chris Larkin has found employment in the music industry, by creating it for the likes of Pac-Man and post-apocalyptic pandas.

"I always wanted to do something creative in life, I guess," says Chris when we ask him about how he ended up being able to convince people into paying him to make music.

"I was getting into graphic design as well, and comics and all that sort of thing, but music felt more natural to me.

"And also some people kind of said, 'yeah, you should stick to music,'" Chris laughs, "so I kind of went along that route."

There's always room for insecurity though, especially when you're tying to line up a university degree with the very specific desire to do something creative in life.

Deciding to spend three years (and eventually a few more) focusing solely on music, Chris admits he had a cold feet moment. But despite not knowing what would be waiting for him at the end of his degree, something kept Chris on campus.

"I didn't really have much of an idea of how I wanted to make my degree work in terms of a job," Chris says with a smile, "but I did know that one of the things that inspired me was following a passion."

But will people really pay you for your passion?

Chris followed his lust for music to the University of Adelaide and then uni showed him what he was really passionate about.

A lecturer introduced Chris to some student filmmakers who wanted someone to create the soundtrack for their film. And it was like a light switch was flicked on.

"I ended up doing a lot of student films, and that sort of got me started on work outside of study," Chris says about his first foray into extra-curricular musical ambitions.

From this initial connection, Chris started to see the potential of his degree to take him deeper into what he loved – music – and combine it with another of his long held passions: gaming.

He approached some friends working in animation and video games to see what potential there was, all the while tailoring his studies towards electronic music and sound design.

"Sound design wasn't officially taught through the degree I did at the Conservatorium. And I never intended to be a sound designer," Chris says.

"If you're doing electronic music and you're changing the tone of the kick drum or something, that's essentially sound design, but it's also orchestration. I see a lot of these things overlapping."

Now Chris is furthering his career with several high-profile commissions.

Chris' credits include the University of Adelaide's own Seek Light ad campaign, indie film series Wastelander Panda, the meat-themed doco Central Texas Barbecue, and minimalist exploratory puzzle game Expand.

It's this final one that seems exceptional.

Chris' work on Expand opened his eyes to the challenges games bring for a composer, compared to film.

"Games capture the imagination in a way I think film doesn't, because in a game you can explore a massive world, and it's not just a pre-defined storyline," Chris explains.

The success of Expand brought Chris to GCAP (Game Connect Asia Pacific) to mingle amongst other video game enthusiasts, including a contact that led to him landing any young composer/game enthusiast's dream job.

"I met a guy who was an agent for composers. He was looking for a couple of composers to pitch on this gig, and I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before I found out what it was," Chris Explains.

"So I had to make a couple of sound effects for Pac-Man."

Chris won the job and was handed the original '80s sound effects for the iconic character's latest release, Pac-Man 256.

"I had permission to go free range on them," Chris says.

 

"What I tried to do is use as much of the original sounds as usual, and layer on top, or remix those sounds."

On top of working on a significant piece of childhood nostalgia, the job was also a way for Chris to incorporate the broad aspects of his studies into one project.

"In this game especially, I think the sound design is actually quite musical. There's a lot of melody to it," Chris Explains.

And as if contributing to the Pac-Man canon isn't enough, Chris' sights are set on larger projects still.

"I haven't done a feature film yet, so I'm going to be working on [a couple of independent films] and I'll be testing the water with that, but I'd like to be able to work on features," says Chris.

"It's still what I'm doing, but bigger and better."

Bachelor of Music (Composition)

Chris hard at work, making sweet, sweet music.

Games capture the imagination in a way I think film doesn't, because in a game you can explore a massive world, and it's not just a pre-defined storyline.

I was getting into graphic design as well, and comics and all that sort of thing, but music felt more natural to me.

Chris followed his lust for music to the University of Adelaide and then uni showed him what he was really passionate about.

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