The Beat Goes On

This week’s issue of The Escapist is particularly fun, so I’d like to link and overview it. It’s all about game music – a niche topic that many of us tend not to think much about. My experience of game music is usually that I turn it off when it gets annoying. 😀 I’m glad they are broadening my consideration of the topic.

Good game music can stand out enough that I leave it on, and this I notice and appreciate – Sid Meier’s Civilization series comes to mind. There’s also a niche market of people who create new music for games, and people who listen to game music as soundtracks, and – who knew! – people who use game music as the basis and inspiration for serious professional music. All this and more is covered in the new issue of Escapist. I like that “high culture low culture” reference there.

Here are overviews of the articles:

Russ Pitts: Play On: The Composers Behind Today’s Game Music

“As with anything, an appreciation of music without an understanding of it can only take one so far. Music is nice, in other words, but how does it get made? How does one become a musician, and how does one then set about making abstract noise into what can be called “music”? More specifically, how does one do all of this for a videogame, and why?

To get behind this music, I asked the musicians themselves.”

Russ Pitts speaks to the composers behind some of today’s most successful games.

Kyle Orland: Bittersweet Symphony

“The melding of a high culture symphonic orchestra and music from the traditionally low culture world of videogames is not always an easy task. ‘Usually when we first start – when the musicians first get on stage and they look at the sheet music and see Super Mario and Sonic and Zelda and Warcraft – they look a little on the skeptical side,’ says Tommy Tallarico, a veteran videogame composer and co-creator of Video Games Live, another popular game music tour.”

Kyle Orland goes behind the scenes in the world where classical music and classic games come together to make beautiful music.

Allen Varney: Fat Music

“‘Maybe this is asking too much. Maybe I’m looking in an inappropriate place for Art. But game audio seems to have skipped from beating on log drums, right to record-company politics and robber baron aspirations. I had expected a Woodstock stage in there somewhere.

‘And you know what? I know I’m not alone, and I certainly haven’t given up hope.’

Indeed. The Fat Man has talked this talk for well over a decade. More to the point, in all that time, in significant ways, with increasing numbers of colleagues, The Fat Man has been walking the walk.”

Allen Varney speaks to The Fat Man.

Shannon Drake: Sephiroth Saves The Symphony

“‘[In] arrangements where we’ve taken very old themes – for instance, even Super Mario Bros. – and orchestrated it for full symphony orchestra, [the audience is] hearing it in a new setting for the first time, in a new arrangement. … It’s very challenging, especially when we have the audience there that knows all these themes and knows all this music really well.'”

Shannon Drake speaks with Arnie Roth, former member of Mannheim Steamroller, and the creative genius behind Dear Friends: The Music of Final Fantasy.

Carolyn Koh: Aural Fixation

“The sound element added a thrilling aspect I had not previously experienced in a computer game. Being a thief, silent movement was all important. I could run, but that would be noisy and might attract the attention of a guard patrol. I could walk gently; walk on grassy edges instead of the paved street. My heart was always in my throat, my ears always keenly attuned for any sound. I was hooked.”

Carolyn Koh explores the spellbinding effects of today’s games’ advanced soundscapes.


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