Videogames – an interview with sound designers Coda to Coda

Digital Media
September 10, 2018

For those of you who have already visited Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt – our recently opened exhibition that explores the design and culture of contemporary videogames – you’ll be familiar with the distinctive soundscapes that accompany you as you explore each of the exhibition’s environments. We caught up with Coda to Coda, designers of this sonic journey, to find out a little bit more about who they are and how they went about creating the Videogames sound experience.

Who are Coda to Coda and what do you do?

Coda to Coda is an audio production company set up by composers and sound designers Will Worsley and Sam Britton around 2007. Ten years on, we’re now a core team of four, including our producer Tanya Auclair, composer/sound designer Aaron May, and are based out of four dedicated recording studios we built in Hoxton, London.

Tanya Auclair, Will Worsley, Sam Britton and Aaron May outside Coda to Coda’s Studios in Hoxton.
Tanya Auclair, Will Worsley, Sam Britton and Aaron May outside Coda to Coda’s Studios in Hoxton,London.

Before starting Coda, Will and Sam cut their teeth in recording studios (Whitfield Street and Sarm studios respectively), working their way up to become engineers and production assistants on the pop and dance music of the time.

As digital media began to take over from the traditional broadcast media industry, Will and Sam joined forces and started Coda to Coda as a vehicle for them to collaborate with companies, brands and institutions, to explore the possibilities for sound and music in this evolving digital environment.

Recent projects include the complete sound design and music for the animated TV series Messy Goes to Okido featuring Adam Buxton; sound design and music for the feature film Kuro, that was released through the art film streaming platform MUBI, and music for the forthcoming exhibition The Sun: Living with Our Star, across the road at the Science Museum.

What is your involvement in the Videogames exhibition?

We are the sound and acoustic design consultants so we deal with everything and anything that involves sound! We were tasked with creating a concept for the overall audio experience, advising on all aspects of how sound will be incorporated and integrated into the exhibition, consulting on the acoustic implications of design and materials and finding creative solutions and suggestions, as well as composing bespoke music and soundscapes across the whole exhibition space.

What initially attracted you to the commission?

It’s the first time a major museum has looked into the culture of making videogames, a culture which in many ways has a lot of parallels with the history of modern electronic music production, in as much as they both rely on technology as their medium.

We are very familiar with the processes of electronic music making and we were really interested to see how it might be possible to ‘deconstruct’ both the sound worlds of the games themselves and the wider world of sound and music associated with gaming culture for an exhibition audience.

It’s been fascinating exploring both the audio palettes of the games and translating their concepts and sound worlds into an exhibition environment.

Will Worsley recording some modular synthesizer parts for the exhibition soundscape.
Will Worsley recording some modular synthesizer parts for the exhibition soundscape

Tell us about your creative process. How did you go about designing the soundscape for the exhibition?

Right from the beginning we were fortunate enough to have worked closely with the whole exhibition team – the V&A curators, exhibition designers Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio, A/V creators and hardware contractors. This allowed us to help design the space to take into consideration the huge number of A/V assets in the exhibition, right from the acoustics up to helping shape the way in which the overall narrative of the exhibition is delivered.

Each room of the exhibition presents the visitor with a different, distinct environment that unfolds the ‘Design/Play/Disrupt’ subtext of the exhibition and each had very different demands in terms of sound. For example, in one of the spaces we create a generative soundscape that tries to compare and contrast the game designers’ approaches and aesthetics across the space using samples from the games themselves, with the aim of hopefully encouraging visitors to do the same. By contrast, in another room, we have created a hyper-cinematic style soundtrack that attempts to collage together some of the diverse creativity online videogames have inspired in their players, followers and fans, exploding this into the room as a surround sound experience. Overall, our aim was for the exhibition to take the visitor on a journey sonically that was as wide and diverse as possible; hopefully we’ve got some way to achieving that in the ears of visitors.

I quite the like the sound of Sonic the Hedgehog when he collects a ring. Do you have a favourite video game sound?

That’s a classic. I think I’m going to have to go with the 8bit ‘bomb’ sound that features in a lot of 1980s arcade games – it’s basically the antithesis of a ‘bomb’, it’s just so fun! It also reminds me of one of the synths we used in the exhibition: the Polytik by Dirty Electronics, it’s pretty much a perfect exemplar of where DIY gaming meets music making.

The ‘Polytik’ synthesizers, designed by John Richards of Dirty Electronics and featured in the soundscape for Videogames.
The ‘Polytik’ synthesizers, designed by John Richards of Dirty Electronics and featured in the soundscape for Videogames


Listen to the full soundtrack for the Folk Design section of the Videogames exhibition

Coda to Coda website

About the author

Digital Media
September 10, 2018

I produce and commission digital things to help tell stories about our collections and programme of exhibitions and displays.

More from Keith Hale
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