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  #1  
Old Jun 20, 2010, 09:32 AM
Velcropants Velcropants is offline
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Hi everybody,

New member here! I'm a music student specializing in composition and I'm considering doing my Dissertation on the Evolution and composition Video Game Music. My only problem is finding good reference material at the moment.

I luckily ran into these forums while randomly googleing and, well from reading some of the posts here, you people seem to know quite a bit.

Would anyone here be able point me in the direction of any great sites (ones that would stand academically), books, documentaries, interviews etc. about the Evolution or Composition of Video game music? Just having trouble finding suitable material at the moment!


Cheers,


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Old Jun 20, 2010, 03:18 PM
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Let me start off by saying that's a ridiculously huge subject for a Dissertation. Obviously you shouldn't let me stop you but do think about that before starting!

The current best academic reference when it comes to game music is 'Game Sound' by Karen Collins. It's basically THE go to book at the very least in Musicology. I'm studying Musicology myself at Stockholm University (Sweden) and will specialize in game music, eventually trying to force some classes into the curriculum of Stockholm University where I'm the teacher. My current research project is a comparative analysis of "town music" in Japanese RPGs from SNES to PS2 and 'Game Sound' served as a great historical overview of game music.

Anyway, my main thing to say is that you should narrow your subject a bit. Talking about composition in a certain genre, a certain console or from a certain developer allows you to go much more in-depth than doing an overview (something that's also been done before and would require writing a book!). The fun thing IS to get knee-deep in a certain subject and to not compile previous research but come with new outlooks and takes on things, break new ground!

I wish the best of luck with your dissertation, let me know how it turns out and if you need any additional views on anything! From a fellow academic to another! Just e-mail me at mattias[a]anosou[dot]com I'd love to read the finished thing!
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Old Jun 23, 2010, 04:10 PM
Velcropants Velcropants is offline
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Ha! Yeah i figured it would be big, but i'd thought i'd stat throwing my ideas in that general direction to get my feet grounded! Thanks for the name of the book, I'm ordering it now, I have a feeling it will be a huge help, cos before i never knew these books existed!

My other ideas were maybe going to be talking about the music of kondo koji and how he revolutionized game music or even game music as 'the new medium 21st century music'. If you know of any others sources direct them my way, they're all good!

Since you seem to know a bit I might e-mail you in the next while with some more questions! I've written music for films and standard pieces for orchestra etc. but im not too sure how to approach game music or how to get started in the industry, any suggestions on how to get started? I as looking at your website and you seem to have quite a bit of experience!


Thanks again friend!


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Old Jun 24, 2010, 02:44 AM
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Glad to be of help! Feel free to e-mail me any additional questions you might have too.

Regarding how to "get started" in the game industry it's generally about contacts during the first phase. I hung out a lot on indie game forums, OverClocked ReMix, XNA dev forums and so on. Making your presence known is key because for most projects you don't need any additional knowledge about how to make the music beyond what you'd need for film music. It's usually about linear, looping tracks and occasionally some advanced layering of tracks but nothing that's new to you as a musician.

An interesting viewpoint on game music is that it's quickly becoming the field with the most need for composers. Hollywood productions are getting increasingly out-of-reach and low budget films more often than not borrow existing music for soundtracks. Making a career as a composer of art music is even harder (my teacher has some real horror stories about this). The most likely income and job opportunity as a composer seems to come from games in my experience. That's something you could research but might not be interesting from a musical standpoint.

Re: Koji Kondo I wouldn't say he revolutionized the game music at all. He was lucky to compose memorable melodies to great games and while he was indeed very skilled there were others before him on a similar level. The issue as I see it is that you'll have a hard time backing up WHY you think he revolutionized the game music without easily getting holes poked in your theory.

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy the book and your upcoming research
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Old Jun 24, 2010, 03:53 AM
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Re: Koji Kondo I wouldn't say he revolutionized the game music at all. He was lucky to compose memorable melodies to great games and while he was indeed very skilled there were others before him on a similar level. The issue as I see it is that you'll have a hard time backing up WHY you think he revolutionized the game music without easily getting holes poked in your theory.
just to expand on this, I think it's a similar thing with Nobuo Uematsu. both great musicians in their own right, but they were fortunate in that they composed for franchises that went on to become hugely successful. of course since the games are so popular it means the music reaches far more people, so while they didn't revolutionise writing for games they certainly have had a large influence. i guess Kondo was one of the first to utilise dynamic scoring in video games though (Super Mario World in 1990), however rudimentary. i can't think of earlier examples of this but maybe there are some.

good luck by the way! I'd be interested in reading it all when you're done.
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Old Jun 24, 2010, 06:54 AM
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Re: Koji Kondo I wouldn't say he revolutionized the game music at all. He was lucky to compose memorable melodies to great games and while he was indeed very skilled there were others before him on a similar level.
That's a very mean simplification. Nintendo can generally be considered one of the very few game companies which started early with and has since most consistently made use of musical sound interactivity as well as paid special attention that the music's rhythm fits to the game's rhythm. How much of that can be credited to Kondo may be unclear. But considering that he's pretty much the head of Nintendo's sound staff while being too shy to take credit for anything (watch any interview with him), I feel giving him no credit at all is disrespectful.

@Blitz Lunar: Sped up BGM when the time runs out was already in the first SMB and is the best known use of dynamic music in Mario games (extending to other genres like Mario Kart etc.).

Last edited by Datschge; Jun 24, 2010 at 06:58 AM.
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Old Jun 25, 2010, 02:19 AM
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That's a very mean simplification. Nintendo can generally be considered one of the very few game companies which started early with and has since most consistently made use of musical sound interactivity as well as paid special attention that the music's rhythm fits to the game's rhythm. How much of that can be credited to Kondo may be unclear. But considering that he's pretty much the head of Nintendo's sound staff while being too shy to take credit for anything (watch any interview with him), I feel giving him no credit at all is disrespectful.

@Blitz Lunar: Sped up BGM when the time runs out was already in the first SMB and is the best known use of dynamic music in Mario games (extending to other genres like Mario Kart etc.).
I was just gonna jump in with sped up BGM in Super Mario Bros., that's very early!

Also I wouldn't call it a mean simplification. Like I said, he's very skilled and they did some good stuff but nothing that actually revolutionized game music. Obviously I mean no disrespect, the man's fantastic, but there were other games before the ones he scored that utilized similar techniques in terms of fitting the music to the "speed" of the game.

Saying "at all" was probably a bit of a stretch but my point still stands. I'm gonna have to re-read the first chapters of my book to come up with a concrete example of other games pre-Kondo though, my memory's a little foggy. And "mean simplification", "disrespectful"? I'm not trying to be an ass here, I just pointed out that many times Kondo weren't the first just the most known. No need to get testy just because we've had disagreements in the loudness thread, I respect your opinion and knowledge.
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Old Jun 25, 2010, 11:11 AM
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I'm not testy, and the other thread has no relevance here.

Interactive music in games (we can also count the invincibility jingle in SMB as such btw.) never really revolutionized game music as a whole outside of different area music since it's a part which has been mostly ignored and only slowly more widely used and very reluctantly in musical ways. Most other aspects (themes, leitmotiv etc.) can be considered as having been imported from other applications of music. But then I have the problem thinking of anything else deemed as revolutionary within the context of games.

Well if your book has more on the game music development before the release of SMB in September 1985 I'm eager to hearing about it.
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Old Jun 25, 2010, 01:06 PM
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I'm not testy, and the other thread has no relevance here.

Interactive music in games (we can also count the invincibility jingle in SMB as such btw.) never really revolutionized game music as a whole outside of different area music since it's a part which has been mostly ignored and only slowly more widely used and very reluctantly in musical ways. Most other aspects (themes, leitmotiv etc.) can be considered as having been imported from other applications of music. But then I have the problem thinking of anything else deemed as revolutionary within the context of games.

Well if your book has more on the game music development before the release of SMB in September 1985 I'm eager to hearing about it.
Very true and quite sad that interactive music still isn't a given. And like you say themes, leitmotifs and so on are mainly from Wagner (often via film music) so it's not revolutionary. Interactive music is definitely something games can flag as almost "their own" (even though early experimental music and way earlier improvisation sessions and similar can be seen as interactive).

In any case I'm gonna look some stuff up in said book when I get home again, I remember vaguely some other interactive stuff but hey I might even be wrong!
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Old Jun 27, 2010, 05:59 AM
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There we go! It wasn't as detailed in the book as I remembered it but I found an old article I've read before by Alexander Brandon: http://www.iasig.org/pubs/features/a...iveaudio.shtml

Of special note is Vanguard (1981) but hey, even Pac-Man has adaptive audio. The difference from Super Mario Bros. is that the track they switch to in SMB is a sped-up version of the original. In this way they make the player want to hurry more, they know time is running out. While that's very smart it's essentially similar to changing to a triumphant (but different) track when you're invinsible in Vanguard.

I will agree though that the speeding up of the level music was very clever, I wonder if it was the first instance of it... will have to research more! In this case I'm not counting Space Invaders even though that three-note ditty sped up as you played
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Old Jun 27, 2010, 02:10 PM
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Thank you and bookmarked. Will read it as soon as I have time to do so in one sitting.

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Of special note is Vanguard (1981) but hey, even Pac-Man has adaptive audio. The difference from Super Mario Bros. is that the track they switch to in SMB is a sped-up version of the original. In this way they make the player want to hurry more, they know time is running out. While that's very smart it's essentially similar to changing to a triumphant (but different) track when you're invinsible in Vanguard.
I would separate situation dependent sped up/re-arranged themes from situation dependent unique jingles/themes. The latter is more comparable with SMB's invincibility jingle (and can be considered an often musical extension of sound effects, which by definition always are "adaptive audio"). The former instead changes the game's base rhythm in the most direct way without changing the music. That's more like a variation on area based themes, just that in this case not the location is the cause for a change but the remaining time.

Another note, when watching older games I have a hard time drawing the line between just sound effects and actual melodies. Vanguard comes off as quite messy in that regard, I'll need to watch it some more times.

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Old Jun 27, 2010, 02:16 PM
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Thank you and bookmarked. Will read it as soon as I have time to do so in one sitting.



I would separate situation dependent sped up/re-arranged themes from situation dependent unique jingles/themes. The latter is more comparable with SMB's invincibility jingle (and can be considered an often musical extension of sound effects, which by definition always are "adaptive audio"). The former instead changes the game's base rhythm in the most direct way without changing the music. That's more like a variation on area based themes, just that in this case not the location is the cause for a change but the remaining time.

Another note, when watching older games I have a hard time drawing the line between just sound effects and actual melodies. Vanguard comes off as quite messy in that regard, I'll need to watch it some more times.
Yeah that's true. The technique behind the sped up theme is the same though, it's basically another track that's triggered under certain conditions. Wish I knew some more examples of this kind of use (faster music, arranged music) but I currently don't have the knowledge. It'd be interesting to see if Kondo and friends indeed were the first in this sub-area but I dunno, somehow I doubt it. I call Space Invaders
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