Who is Daniel?
My Name’s Daniel Rosenfeld.
I was born in Eastern Germany in 1989, just when the Berlin Wall was still around. Which has the funny side effect that the city I’ve been born in still had the name “Karl-Marx-Stadt” (Stadt translates to city). A few months later after the wall fell, they quickly, slightly embarrassed, renamed the city back to its original name, Chemnitz.
My parents immigrated from Soviet Russia to Chemnitz with the hope that business is gonna be better than it has been near Moscow. They’ve struggled, but they did well! I’ve been raised in a family that always was able to sustain themselves. So I guess you could say I’ve had an average childhood in a small town maybe two hours south of Berlin.
I also grew up being quite the nerd. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I woke up one morning, to my brother’s birthday. My mum had a brand new PC that she got from her office so that my brother could learn how computers work. The only thing I was interested in was the silly screensaver that was running on it, about a guy stranded on an Island, doing random events to kill time. It was playful and I wanted to learn more about these magical toy devices.
This went so far that I bugged my brother to show me how to start and play Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I couldn’t read yet, but I managed to beat this text heavy game. My brother thought I was a boy genius.
Lo and behold I was perfectly mediocre at school.
However, in my later years I did learn that I had no troubles learning English, or understanding basic music theory.
Before I tell you how I started out making music, I gotta tell you about my brother.
My brother has always been creatively charged. Back in the DOS ages, he had this drawing program which could do slide shows, so he decided to make little movies by having the slide shows auto advance while recording sound effects, music, and narration on a cassette player. Then he learned that you can make music with things called trackers. Then he learned you can make 3D art. My brother did A LOT of stuff, but he never got very far in anything and kinda stuck to maybe making a song, or maybe not. You know, just jamming a thing out and letting it sit there as the unfinished project file that you never touch anymore.
Now, my brother heavily influenced me without me actually noticing. Every time he was creating a thing, art, music, 3D whatever, he always called me to ask me for my opinion. I was a kid, I didn’t care. So I always said whatever so he left me alone to play with whatever it is I have been playing with. Playstation? Anyway, he always kind of showed me that it is possible for humans to make music on a computer, and it stuck.
Now, 11 years ago, there was this moment when my brother excitedly told me that there is this software, Ableton, and even idiots can make music with it. This sounds like a joke, but it’s exactly how it happened. I thought I was sort of an idiot, so I downloaded it and made garbage joke music. Like, mashing up two songs to see what happens. While not understanding the limitations of audio and blowing up speakers because things are too loud.
Making music was a fun hobby. I SUCKED at it, but it was a past time that seemed productive and not useless, like playing video games forever. So I essentially never stopped making music. Over the course of, what, 3 years, I actually got sort of decent at making not so terrible music too.
Now, this is also the time when I learned about indie games, and communities based around that, like TIGSource.
TIGSource was always kind of a tight knit community full of hyper creative individuals, like Phil Fish and Derek Yu. Developers who want to prove themselves and be artistic, creative. I loved that community. I hung out on their IRC channel, which is probably where I honed my English skills, since I never really communicated with anyone in that language yet. This is also where I started to learn the infinitely complicated art of game design, and what it means to actually create a piece of software that people use for entertainment purposes.
It’s a community I cherish to this day. It’s also the community where I met Markus, or I guess you kids know him as Notch. Markus was a nobody at that time, like me. However, Markus had this great idea about this block game. And he really appreciated the art output I had to offer. So we decided to team up to work on what became Minecraft, the project that most people know me from. And to this date I am STILL working on it, adding more and more compositions to it.
Minecraft taught me the art of foley. And if you remember the olde times of yore, you know that it was kind of rough. I learned though, and I think I’m pretty solid at it if you tell me to do a thing!
But more importantly, Minecraft taught me the art of Minimalism in music. And the art of contrast. I wanted to create a soundtrack that does not fit to the visuals represented on screen. Minecraft is a pixellated chaotic mess. The soundtrack however is very calm and often acoustic, even orchestral.
People really appreciated that soundtrack, and it’s most likely the reason why you are reading this not-very-well written biography of myself.
While I’ve been working on Minecraft, I decided to quit my dull job as an assembly line person. Like, a really really dull job where you keep screwing the same screw in every 15 minutes over and over again. Though, the government wanted me to do conscription still, which ironically is a thing that doesn’t exist anymore nowadays. Forced military work for the country. Well, I declined to do that, so I had to do social work instead.
It felt really odd to have to work when I just decided I wanted to quit my job to become a full time composer.
I released the first Minecraft album while doing the social work. It was super successful, thanks to the help of my closest friends. It also kind of proved to myself that I could indeed be a composer and a composer only! It was great!
Once my social work time was over, I decided to move out of my family’s place to live in Berlin. Berlin is the only place in Germany that reminds me of all the other countries surrounding Europe. I appreciate it, but it was hard work finding a place and getting accustomed to being without my folk. I love my family, and I feel like I’m one of the few people that actually appreciates hanging out with them.
With my Berlin life also came a lot of travel. I travelled across the world to see all the different communities in the gaming world. GDC San Francisco, PAX in Seattle, DevGamm in Moscow, VCon in Mexico City. The list goes on. Now, in recent years I’ve also found a life in Toronto, which is kinda crazy to me. I love my family dearly and it’s hard for me to be so far away from them, but the game dev community in Toronto is so strong that I appreciate being in the city. I’ve done a ton of travel and I’ve learned so much!
That being said, I think my life is still a to-be-done list of drafts.
For example, I’ve never actually created a game on my own, from scratch. And I REALLY REALLY want to. So for 2017 I’ve been planning to finally attempt to do that.
Wish me luck.