Alumni Profile: Nobuko Toda '03

This contemporary writing and production major never expected to be scoring some of the most popular video games of all time.
May 29, 2011

Contemporary writing and production major Nobuko Toda hadn't even considered video game scoring when she came to Berklee from Japan. The 2003 alumna has since scored multiple games in the Metal Gear Solid series. Now back in Tokyo, she's one of 18 video game composers contributing to the Play for Japan benefit album, set for release in early June on iTunes, with proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross. The following is a condensed and edited account of our email exchange.

Were you interested in video games while you were at Berklee?

I was interested in scoring for movies, but I never thought about video games. There were times when I played with video games when I was a child, but it was something completely foreign to me after that. I never had an offer scoring for games while I was at Berklee, but there was one game called Myst that had beautiful graphics, which inspired me to score music for that trailer just as a private hobby.

What led you to study contemporary writing and production?

I entered Berklee when I was 27. It was extremely financially difficult for me to manage paying the school tuition and living expenses, so I was only thinking to enroll for a year or two to study what I want. But after entering Berklee I won various awards and scholarships, which gave me an opportunity to study longer, and I decided to study CWP as well as film scoring. What I studied in both majors was essential for me to be in the music industry.

"Reminiscence" by Nobuko Toda

What led you to work at Konami? What was your "big break"?

I was looking for an in-house job offer as a composer to start building a practical career when I found that Konami had a position open for a composer. My forte was film scoring, which differs from ordinary game music, but Konami was looking for a composer that could film-score at that time. Norihiko Hibino heard my demos and strongly recommended me, which led me to the job. I was assigned to be the composer for Kojima Productions from the first day. I worked for Konami as an in-house composer from January 2004 to March 2010. I'm freelance now, but sometimes score for Konami, too.

You've done a lot of work for the Metal Gear Solid franchise. How do you score for a whole series like that?

I was mostly assigned to score for cut scenes in the Metal Gear Solid series. It's a game with a lot of cut scenes—three hours of music for MGS3 and more than six hours for MGS4. The scenes are not given to me in the order of the story, and production of the game is a three-year project. So I had to be careful not to lose sight of the big picture, always keeping in mind what kind of image and direction the music should take by reading the script.

Have you done scoring for film or television? How is that different?

I sometimes scored for television and TV commercials while I was at Berklee, but not enough to call it a career. I am writing music for movies and television now (Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, MTV).

The rules and outlook change by different mediums. It's exciting, like learning a new job from the basics. But more than the difference in medium, the greatest challenge and enjoyment is if you can produce music that reflects the director's intentions and his or her message to the viewers.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on four different projects at the moment. I'm scoring for a new game on PSP and another on a 3DS platform; a short film produced by the Japanese Environment Agency, collaborating with Korea; and the main theme for a TV program on NHK (Japanese National Television). I intend to score more for film in the future.