Inspired by cartoons of the 1930’s, the video game Cuphead was a worldwide phenomenon, released in 2017 by Studio MDHR in Nintendo Switch, Xbox one, Pc and Playstation 4.  

The music of  the videogame, composed by Kristofer Maddigan, features nearly 3 hours of original jazz, early big band and ragtime music. Cuphead music earned a BAFTA for Best Game Music, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition at D.I.C.E. awards,  Best Music in 14th British Academy Games Awards, Breakout Talent of the Year (Kristofer Maddigan) in 16th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards and was nominated for Best Score/Music in The game awards 2017, Best Soundtrack in Titanium Awards, and many more…

The Music development

Cuphead was the first game by Studio MDHR, a Canadian indie game development studio consisting of brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer.  For the music, the brothers asked for help to their childhood friend Kristofer Maddigan, a drummer from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He wasn’t a composer, so he refused at first, but after the insistence of the Moldenhauer brothers, he accepted the challenge.

“I wanted to approach this so the songs could stand on their own, as an album of full music.”

– Kristofer Maddigan, The globe and Mail 

Madiggan insisted on recording full songs, instead of repeating looped bits and fade-out endings as most of the video games do. “The Approach to the music of Cuphead is very different from the music of most games. There are no real precise timing to line things up with and the music is not reactive or dynamic as would be more typical for games” said Maddigan in an interview with The Whole Note. For Maddigan and the Moldenhauer brothers, capturing the vibe of the 30’s era was more important than trying to follow the player’s action. 

The composition process and the game development started at the same time. Moldenhauer brothers gave him a list of levels and bosses that would require the music and Maddigan would start creating the music.

For Maddigan the most challenging part of the project was composing in the style while maintaining his own identity without ever letting it descend into a parody. “ I always approached this project more from the the standpoint of “What if the golden age of big bands and the golden age of video games coexisted side by side?”” said in his The Whole Note interview. 

“It was very important to us to approach the music in Cuphead with respect and a sense of history. And to understand and utilize the clichés that define a style while doing something new and original with them.” Maddigan emphasizes.

The music was recorded at Toronto’s Canterbury Music Company, each song played by live musicians, including a 13-piece big band, 10-piece ragtime ensemble, a solo pianist, a vocalist and a tap dancer.

Cuphead Original Soundtrack

Listen to the songs and learn more about who was behind the incredible sounds:

Historical Precedent & Creative Procces in the music of cuphead

Check out this lecture Kirstofer Madiggan to know more

Kristofer Maddigan

Kristoger Maddigan is a Canadian composer and drummer, BAFTA award winning and Juno nominated composer, who made his Billboard debut in 2017 with the OST album of the Cuphead video game.

After graduating from Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto as a percussion major, Kristofer earned a spot in the national ballet orchestra in 2010, where he now performs as principal percussionist. Kris also performs regularly with a wide range of groups including The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The National Arts Center Orchestra, The Hannaford Street Silver Band, The Esprit Orchestra, The Toronto Concert Orchestra, The Thunder-Bay Symphony, A Fantastica Batteria, and the Devah Quartet. Kris also works with numerous jazz, theatre and new music groups around the city.

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