Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök composer Stephanie Economou won the first-ever Grammy Award for videogame music on February 5, claiming victory in the new category of Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media. Other nominees included Bear McCreary for Call of Duty: Vanguard, Richard Jacques for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Christopher Tin for Old World, and Austin Wintory for Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
Videogame titles have won Grammys in prior ceremonies, but this new dedicated category specifically “recognizes excellence in score soundtrack albums comprised predominately of original scores and created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current videogame or other interactive media released within the qualification period.”
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök was released in March 2022 as the biggest expansion in the Assassin's Creed series to date, and when discussing composers for the score, Economou’s name came up, as she had just scored The Siege of Paris for Valhalla.
Economou is a composer and violinist based in Los Angeles, with extended experience in film and television scoring that extends from drama to action to comedy. Her work includes Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy and Lionsgate/Starz series Step Up High Water, and alongside Golden Globe-nominated composer Harry Gregson-Williams, she composed additional music on scores such as Disney’s Mulan, Ridley Scott's Oscar-nominated film The Martian, and many others.
She also serves as a resident board member for the Alliance for Women Film Composers, and was the first and only woman nominated in the new Grammy category. Ubisoft News spoke with Economou to learn more about the importance of the Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games category, and how she came to compose the award-winning score for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök.
You’re a winner for the first-ever videogames category at the Grammys! What do you think the significance of this new category is?
Stephanie Economou: The Video Game Music category is extremely significant and well overdue! I think having a category dedicated solely to games and interactive media soundtracks serves as validation that we are collectively influencing the musical landscape and meaningfully connecting with audiences everywhere.
How have you seen the attitude towards videogame scores shift in your industry? Where do you hope to see it evolve further?
SE: I’ve seen so many colleagues and friends celebrating the depth of immersion and scope of narrative in videogames. I think there’s a common understanding that game music has been the new frontier for creative innovation for a long time. The music gets to be alive, ever-evolving, and transformative. It’s such a visceral experience for the player and offers an exciting space to create music. I hope we continue to see developers push the boundaries of how we as an audience experience storytelling, which in turn will propel the musical possibilities in new and unexpected directions.
The score for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Siege of Paris expansion was your first foray into games. What drew you to compose for this industry? What makes it different than composing for film and TV?
SE: I'm lucky that Ubisoft considered me in the first place! Even though I had worked in film and television for many years, I was totally new to the video game world when they hired me on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris. They really took a chance on me, and I'm indebted to them for creating opportunities for newer voices to come into the fold. I myself grew up playing videogames (Halo and Max Payne being two of my favorites), so I had always hoped I could be invited in. To this day, whenever I hear the theme for Halo, it instantly conjures up a powerful feeling in my gut; a sense of thrilling exploration and curiosity. That's what game music does. It gives us this cosmically indescribable emotional response that simply doesn't exist in other forms of media. Now, having a couple of game scores under my belt, I strive to transport the players to these vivid worlds in that same way. I want them to feel like they are the character they’re embodying. I want them to feel their intuition, their struggles, and their victories. It's a powerful responsibility and a hugely special privilege.
You can listen to the full soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök on all digital platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music. To learn more about Economou’s process composing the award-winning score, read her interview with Ubisoft News, and for the latest news on Ubisoft games’ music, follow Ubisoft Music on Twitter.