YUJI SATO

Composer and Sound Designer

 
 

Current Project

Lyraflo: Music Theory in VR, 2021      https://projects.etc.cmu.edu/lyraflo/

Composer, Sound Designer, Designer

Project Description:

Lyraflo aims to explore how the unique properties of VR could be used to convey music theory concepts to musically naïve audiences.

My Role:

On this 5-person team, I have been working primarily as a sound designer, communicating closely with the artist and programmers to create interactions the integrate both visual and audio feedback to teach music theory.  

A Quick Overview:

Being constrained to certain music theory concepts was a big design challenge. For example, one of our prototypes explored how to convey the concept of major and minor using a mix of visuals and audio transformations. I was tasked with composing a series of musical pieces that could switch between major and minor based on player input.

Lyraflo Minor Example
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Lyraflo Major Example
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This is an early version of the major minor prototype. I composed the music that can shift between various tonalities.

Composing Musical Pieces that Sound Good in Both Tonalities

In order for players to clearly hear the difference in tonalities, the various music had to be composed almost solely in either major or minor. When composing, I first had to map out the chord progressions and plan out the music so that no matter when the player changed the tonality, the music would still sound good. This meant I could only use chords that shared the same root in both major and minor keys, such as the first, fourth, or fifth degrees. The melodies also had to incorporate a lot of thirds in order to make major and minor clearly discernable.

Making the Music More Tolerable

As you can imagine, music written with just these chords and constraints could become a bit monotonous. My first instinct was to write polyphonic music to make things more interesting, yet doing so confused playtesters. As such, I opted to compose music that would be mainly monophonic, and instead played around with timbre and pitch to create more sonically interesting compositions. After making these adjustments, playtesters had much more success hearing the difference between major and minor, with 20 out of 22 testers successfully identifying the tonality of various music.

Drawing Players' Attention to Audial Cues

Another challenge we faced was that many players did not focus enough on the audio. In order to remedy this, here are two examples of how I used sound design to highlight and draw attention to audio changes first and foremost. 

Creating Feedback Sequences

One such example is the use of time, and offsetting when the visual and audio feedback would happen. For example, when players triggered an interaction, we would often play the visual and audio feedback in sequence, instead of simultaneously. Having too much feedback simultaneously would force players to subconsciously choose one stimulus to focus on, which in most cases was visual stimuli. Playing around with feedback sequences created interactions that provided space for players to solely focus on audio feedback at given times, which better conveyed musical concepts.  

Creating Soundscapes with Intent

Initially, Lyraflo's soundscape was always quite full, with music, ambience, and sound effects in every scene. After playtesting however, it became clear that the soundscapes needed more design focus. For example, when players are being introduced to a concept such as major or minor for the first time, they only need to hear music showcasing these tonalities. Any other sound would simply be a distraction. On the other hand, if the player is being taught how different tonalities can create different moods and atmosphere, having ambiences and sound effects became crucial. Thinking about what kind of information the player needs at a given moment, and creating the proper soundscape to support that need was crucial to Lyraflo's success. Having a few right sounds at the right moments was much more effective at communicating information than having a panoply of sound assets.

Recent Compositions

Projects

Click on an image to go to the project

These are some of the projects I've worked on recently.

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See Through Me

An Interactive 2D Animated Story

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Scrapbook

A narrative VR experience for PC

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Pac-Whale

An open-world 'eating' game using webcam and mic as input devices for PC

Gnomes in a Robe

A cute 3-player co-op experience for AirConsole

Beloved Flower

A cute, melancholic story for PC

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CloudWorks 

A virtual platform for hosting the ETC Festival

 

CloudWorks (Sound Committee), 2020
Composer, Sound Designer

Description:

I volunteered to sound design and compose for CloudWorks, a project that recreated the ETC Festival in a virtual space in order to accommodate for the remote environment the Fall 2020 semester took place in. Since the project team lacked sound designers, they asked for some volunteers to help set up a Sound Committee to sound design for the experience.

Website: https://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/cloudworks/

Description:

I worked on the Sound Committee with two other sound designers, Noah Kankanala and Tianyi Cao, to compose BGMs and create sound effects for the experience. I helped coordinate between the committee and the main project team in order to ensure that our sound design matched with the creative vision for the festival, and also took on the scheduling and task management for the large amount of work that needed to be done for this undertaking. 

Working for Cloudworks was quite interesting in that I had to experiment with different styles of music to match the variety of environments and areas that existed in the world. Exploring new types of compositions was something that was extremely rewarding for me.

 

See Through Me, 2020
Composer, Sound Designer, Story Writer

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Description:

See Through Me is a 2D point and click adventure developed by a team of 5 in 3 weeks. I helped write the story and create storyboards, then composed the soundtrack and sound designed for the experience. 

The story is about a youthful romance, and I tried to capture the innocence and beauty of that by using shifting between A major and minor to create a bittersweet atmosphere.
Here is the link to the game:

https://rinder5.github.io/WebGLBuild/index.html

 

Gnomes in a Robe, 2020
Composer, Sound Designer, Level Designer

Description:

Gnomes in a Robe a 3 player co-op game for AirConsole developed by a team of 5 in 3 weeks. I was the sound designer for this project, and also dabbled in a bit of level design as well. 

I tried to capture the magical, yet whimsical and silly nature of this game by using instruments such as the accordion and bassoon to create a fun atmosphere. I also tried to shift between major and minor often to introduce a magical feel to my music.

 

Scrapbook, 2020
Composer, Sound Designer, Story Writer

Description:

Scrapbook is a single-player VR experience that depicts the struggles of a young film maker. I was in charge of sound design as well as some parts of production for this project. 

I tried to capture the melancholic yet hopeful atmosphere of this work by having the music be predominantly in a minor, but having the melody always end on a ascending note. I also designed the BGM so additional instruments would be layered on based on how the game was progressing. The BGM would evolve from the bell solo version to the full orchestral version as the game's narrative progressed.

 

Pac-Whale, 2020
Composer, Sound Designer

Description:

Pac-Whale is a single-player experience for PC where you control a genetically modified Shark, Whale, Eel hybrid using webcam and mic, and your goal is to devour everything in your path. I was the sound designer and assistant producer for this project. 

To capture the watery/ocean feel of the world, I got a lot of inspiration from classical pieces such as Frederic Chopin's Ballade in A flat major as well as Maurice Ravel's Barque sur le Mer, and translated it into a form that would be more 'game-friendly'.

 

Beloved Flower, 2020
Composer, Sound Designer, Producer

Description:

Beloved Flower is a single-player experience for PC, where you play as a ghost trying to help a little bunny find flowers for her grandma. 

For this work, I created a musical leitmotif that appeared throughout the whole game, and made variations of it. When the bunny is in a relatively safe situation, the waltz version would play. When the bunny is in a dangerous situation, the march version would play, allowing the soundtrack to enhance the immersion a player would feel at any given moment.

The Starry Sea, 2020

Description:

For this assignment, prospective sound designers were given a few videos with no audio to choose from, and our task was to create a immersive audio track for it. 

I chose this particular video because I enjoyed how it conveyed the beauty and wonder of space, while also introducing cuteness and fun through the character designs, so I tried to build upon that with my sound effects, ambience, and music.

Compositions

These are some of the pieces I've composed over the last few years.

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Description:

There were three things I wanted to try with this composition. First, I wished to incorporate Japanese instruments and sounds, since the music was inspired by Ghost of Tsushima. Second, I explored ways in which I could combine vastly different sections of music in a coherent manner to create a sense of narrative. Lastly, I tried to infuse more energy and power into my music which tends to be rather delicate and sensitive. I found the Japanese instruments such as the Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and Taiko to be surprisingly comfortable to work with, and combining them with voice and European instruments was quite enjoyable. I decided to reuse the theme from Song of the Vale because I thought up of a fun variation that I really wanted to include.

 
mountains-valley-river-trees-forest-suns

Description:

I decided to write this piece after listening to a woodwind ensemble. I was fascinated by how woodwind instruments could create depth and distance in music through minute adjustments in volume and resonance. Using this characteristic, I tried creating a piece that would create different atmospheres through the same melody. For example, the middle and lower family of woodwinds such as the clarinet and bassoon give the melody an earthly, pastoral feel while the upper family like the flute and oboe create a more austere, serene mood. That, combined with changes in accompaniment and phrasing, allowed me to explore ways of expressing different ideas through the same melody. The combination of pastoral and ethereal elements evoked an image of a valley, hence the title of the piece.

alarm-alarm-clock-analog-analogue-280254

Description:

There are few things I dread more than the sound of my morning alarm. This piece was an attempt by me to make my mornings slightly more bearable, by designing an alarm song that was annoying enough to wake me up, but endearing enough to soothe any ill will. The upper electronic melody infuses energy into the piece, while the two middle tones provide a fuller sound pallet. Finally, the woodblock emulates the ticking of a clock, while the drums imitate what I sound like when I fall out of bed realizing I hit snooze one too many times.

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Description:

I was inspired to write this piece after working with some violinists and vocalists. Aside from including multiple active melodies that one can often find in chamber music, I also tried to emulate the fluidity that my fellow musicians had displayed during our performances. The tenor provides weight to the piece, which is counter-balanced by the ocarina's light, flowing melody. All the while, the harp provides a steady forward momentum.

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Description:

This is the very first BGM I composed back in 2017 inspired by the student project Aer. I tried to capture the cuteness of the game's visual style as well as the challenges that would be faced by the players. The three parts of the piece each represent a different aspect of the game. The bass notes represent the player's foot steps as they make their way to the finish line, and remains steady and solid. The accordion like melody fluctuates to represent the player's emotions as they play. It begins in major, and evokes a positive mood. However, as the game becomes more difficult and the obstacles more frequent, the melody shifts to minor. However, in the end the player overcomes the challenges to finally make it to the end. The upper bell notes are meant to express curiosity, the ever forward moving aspect that drives both the music and the player forward.

Performances

Ravel Prelude and Toccata

Chopin Etude Op.10 No.1

Scarlatti Sonata in B minor

Scarlatti Sonata in G Major

 

ARTIST INFO

Yuji Sato

I am a composer and sound designer based in Pittsburgh. I have composed in a variety of styles ranging from electronic to video game music, and what I enjoy most about composing is incorporating the bits of music I come across everyday into my own style, and broadening the scope and possibilities of my music.

I studied Economics and Music Performance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and participated in music festivals at Brevard and Bowdoin. Currently I am pursuing a Masters of Entertainment Technology at the Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University.

 

CONTACT

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