GameSoundCon: Melodic Composition, Part Two

GSC_Prt2_WP

Last week I posted part one of the video excerpt from my presentation a few months ago at GameSoundCon — the game audio conference.  Since my speech was focused on game music composition, it makes a good complement to my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, so I thought I’d make it available here.  Below you’ll find the second and final part of this GameSoundCon video, which includes the PowerPoint visuals and the demonstration music I used to explore topics related to thematic music in interactive constructs: “GameSoundCon: Melodic Composition, Part Two.”

GameSoundCon: Melodic Composition, Part One

GSC-Vid1

A few months ago I spoke at GameSoundCon — a terrific conference that explored all aspect of audio creation for video games.  My own speech focused on melodic composition for games, with a particular emphasis on the music I created for the LittleBigPlanet franchise.  Since that speech touched upon a lot of issues that are explored in depth in my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, I thought I’d post some of that speech here as a video presentation, complete with the PowerPoint visuals and video demonstration excerpts that I used at GameSoundCon. Here is the first installment of this two-part video presentation: “GameSoundCon: Melodic Composition, Part One.”

A Composer’s Guide to Game Music

Today, my book, A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, was released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.  It’s a huge day for me.

In December of 2011, I was finishing up work on my music contribution to LittleBigPlanet PS Vita when my music producer, Winnie Waldron, turned to me and said, “You should write a book about game music.”  Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that I might have something to share about my experiences as a game composer, so I initially laughed off her suggestion.  She paused, and then casually remarked that I should go and look over all those game audio books I owned (I have a pretty large collection) and then maybe ask myself if I had anything to say that hadn’t already been said.

A few days passed, and eventually I did look those books over. I took along a pad of multicolored sticky notes. Every time I felt like I could add something to what I was reading, I stuck a different colored note on the page, letting the edge hang out.  When I was done, I had a pile of books that looked like a rainbow had exploded inside them. Staring at all those little slips of paper convinced me to write the book.

I’ve been creating video game music for over 10 years, ever since my first project, God of War.  With every game score I composed, I learned so much… not only about the art and craft of game composition, but also about myself as an artist.  Game music composition is a thoroughly unique art form, imposing both technical and creative challenges that aren’t found in any other discipline. When I started in this profession, I didn’t really understand how complex everything would be… how much I didn’t know… how much I would need to learn.

A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC is a guidebook, from my perspective as a game composer with experiences to share.  It’s been over two years since I first started writing it, and I’m very proud to say that my book has just hit retail. It’s out of my hands now, and I’m excited that see what readers think of it.  I hope it proves to be a helpful resource.  If you’re curious about my book, you can watch this video trailer.  I’m interviewed in the trailer, and I got the chance to talk a little bit about my reasons for writing the book, and what I hoped to share with readers.  Here’s that video:

My book is available for sale on Amazon.com.  If you choose to buy it, you’ll have my heartfelt gratitude!  And if you enjoy it, I’d be grateful if you share your thoughts about my book on its Amazon.com page. The launch of my book is a tremendously special day for me, and I’m happy to share it with you!

Extra Credits: Video Game Music

Extra-Credits

This week I’m sharing an interesting video about game music that was produced in 2012 by the Penny Arcade network as a part of the Extra Credits video series.  This video, titled “Extra Credits: Video Game Music,” contrasts classic game melodies against modern video game scores. It breaks down a complicated subject into a user-friendly introductory lecture that sheds light on a topic of some contention in the game industry:

Should game scores be highly memorable, or should they set a mood and avoid drawing the player’s attention?

While this video doesn’t really address that subject head-on, it does outline the basic ideological rift between the two viewpoints.  A memorable game score possesses compelling melodies and arresting arrangements that serve to astound players while simultaneously exerting a strong influence on their emotional states.  On the other hand, an atmospheric game score tends to avoid melodies in favor of musical textures and effects that set the mood without impressing players. With such an atmospheric score, players might not even be cognizant of the existence of music at all.  This phenomenon seems to be what the video addresses when it expresses the dissatisfaction that some players feel with the state of modern day game scores.  In the video, writer James Portnow tells us, “modern game music has become a lot less memorable.”

Is that true?  Or do these early game scores enjoy the benefit of the numerous repetitions that each melody would receive in the classic loop structure that was so universally prevalent in older games? We all tend to remember something we’ve heard many times far more clearly than something we’ve heard only a few times.  Pop music in recent years has acknowledged this fact by making sure that the hook or refrain of a song repeats as many times as possible within the body of the song.  Take the song Happy by Pharrell Williams as an example, which repeats the refrain “Because I’m Happy” a total of 24 times – and this is just in its 4 minute duration as a single.  The song also has a long-form “24 Hours of Happy” music video in which that 4-minute song repeats constantly over a 24 hour period.  That is a lot of repetitions of the refrain “Because I’m Happy.”

While the Extra Credits video doesn’t discuss how repetition figures into how memorable a video game score will be, it does touch upon other interesting subjects.  These include the technical and artistic restrictions placed on early game composers by the limitations of the hardware, and how complex instrumental arrangements may alter a listener’s perception of a melody.  Here’s that video: