When talking about influential music and what makes it great, we tend to think in a more traditional sense. Creative minds like Chopin and Mozart, all the way to more modern influences such as Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, come to mind. What we don’t hear much about are video game composers. Just a few days ago there was a conference to rectify that very issue.
The first of its kind, state-side
January 18-19, 2014 was the first North American Video Game Music Convention. Youngstown State University (YSU) in Youngstown, Ohio hosted the two-day event. The purpose of this conference is to highlight and discuss the academic perspective of music in video games. Ludomusicologists, if you will, hope their credibility aids in uplifting video game music into academic discussions.
Though this may not seem like a difficult task, only recently have movie scores been regarded as legitimate pieces for scholarly studies. Composers like Hans Zimmer – he created classics such as, The Lion King and all The Pirates of the Caribbean scores – have only recently been in the same discussion as Chopin and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Konji Kondo, who’s created scores for both Mario and Zelda, and Jack Wall, of the Mass Effect series are highly regarded in the music industry. These two composers come to mind when thinking of beautifully written scores. They’ve created music that really captures the essence and atmosphere in each game. experiences that bring the player and game together.
Up for discussion
Bioshock Infinite was a center piece for discussion regarding connectivity and nuance. According to a Wired article:
“It eschews a traditional score in favor of haunting, anachronistic covers tinged with irony. A barbershop quartet version of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” for example, exudes an air of quiet menace that hints at the terror soon to come. There is also a warped, tinny take on a Chopin nocturne that pops up in a scene where malevolent tycoon Jeremiah Fink interacts with his abused employees.”
That’s only one of many discussion about music in games at the convention. Industry and academic heavy hitters like Karen Collins, Canada research chair in Interactive Audio at the Canadian Centre of Arts and Technology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, gave the keynote address. Professors and directors from Yale, Harvard, and even someone from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music were in attendance.
A long road ahead
It was only two years ago that video games were officially seen as art. The Smithsonian held an exhibit about video games being more than just a past time. It made a point to show the evolution and creativity behind games both old and new. A vital part of the art aren’t just visuals, music is an instrumental part (pun intended) of that equation.
Looking forward, I hope we begin to see the industry’s most talented composers being spotlighted. Some of their works truly do deserve recognition on a scholarly level. I can only hope as discussions continue to happen in academia about Beethoven or Bach, video game composer will be contenders too.