New Game Music and Audio Post Graduate Degrees

ThinkSpace Education, a partner of the Ludomusicology research group, have finally revealed their new programmes dedicated to Game Music and Audio! Our colleagues and friends at ThinkSpace were a major sponsor of our recent five-year anniversary conference, held at Southampton University in April, and their participation was a significant part of its success. We are very excited to see their hard work in putting together these new courses come to fruition.

To show how the ThinkSpace approach differs from other current options in the academic world, Matt Lightbound, Course Producer of the Game Music and Audio courses has very kindly taken the time to lay out for our Ludo audience what ThinkSpace is striving to do.

When I joined ThinkSpace it became abundantly clear that everybody at the institution cared about game music. Our staff are built of 100% active practitioners, I myself am a Sound Designer working in video games right now, and everybody else is either working on games or has very recently. It’s a great environment to be in and it’s a great opportunity to pass that experience onto our students. Unlike traditional institutions, everyone our students speak to have current experience in the field they want to be in. From contacting support or even calling our office, students get to speak to their own kind the whole way through their course.

thinkspace-faculty-2016This is because the main objective of all three courses is to get students the most up to date information possible, so they can go and work in the industry to the best of their ability. The courses are focussed on creating the same content you will be expected to make when working at the biggest or the smallest game studios. Again all our tutors work on games right now, some of which are successful Audio Directors on some of the biggest and most exciting games being made today.

It’s also a key factor on why we teamed up with the Ludomusicology Research Group. We are all genuinely interested and passionate about both the professional and academic side of the practice. Dr Tim Summers will be heading up our research modules on the courses and all our students will receive access to selected recordings of the Ludo 2016 conference.

Attending the event this year was a great experience, meeting the many different minds and workflows that build up the academic community in Game Music and Audio. Other presenters such as Blake Troise (PROTODOME), are staff members here at ThinkSpace, and he will be providing students with lessons on Chiptune composition for those looking to master that particular sonic aesthetic.

I have been asked what makes ThinkSpace’s courses different from the small number of GMA qualifications available currently. Apart from the fact it’s taught entirely by working, not past composers and sound designers, it is also online. Created in partnership with the University of Chichester, students from anywhere in the world are able to take part and still receive a fully accredited post graduate qualification.

To add to this, unlike other courses, our degrees are practical project focussed. Students will work on games, using the same technology they need to know in the industry. By the end of the course they would have built up a substantial portfolio of work, showing a variety of styles and approaches, as well as receiving vital information on how to find work, written by the employers and practitioners themselves. The entire purpose is to teach them in a non-isolated environment, to keep students looking at what trends and developments are happening now and in the near future.

If you want to see more about the course, check out the webpages here:

MFA Game Music and Audio

MA Composing for Video Games

MA Sound Design for Video Games

Feel free to get in touch and chat about our courses or about your current situation, we’d love to hear from you!

#Ludo2016 Conference Review

We are proud to publish the following review as part of our contributor articles series. Feel free to leave comments, and do let us know if you would like to send us articles to share with the wider community!

Contributor: Sebastian Urrea

I came into Ludo 2016 as a newcomer, not knowing quite what to expect. I was coming down from an extraordinary experience visiting London and the surrounding area during the week leading up to the conference, and I was excited to see what it would be like. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t in academia, hadn’t done research, and I didn’t have any papers to present. I just loved video game music. I had studied music, and enjoyed theory and musicology, and had applied it to video game music on my own. I was thrilled when I learned that there were others who were doing similar things in an academic setting. I had been planning a trip that happened to align perfectly to allow me to be in England at the time of the conference. So on a whim I had registered, hoping to see what I could learn and who I could meet.

What I found exceeded my expectations in many ways. First, the papers. The presentations included discussions and examinations of a very diverse body of music, and everyone had a different way of examining their chosen interest. Papers included discussions of classic JRPGs and Nintendo games through old arcade games, indie games, hip hop, horror games, and new virtual reality games. Some papers looked backward, at history and culture, and some looked forward, to innovations in the field and new possibilities for integrating music and games. I learned about music that I had never really listened to (for instance, arcade music of the 70s and 80s), and I learned about new music that I didn’t even know about (Elise Plans and David Plans’ discussion on new developments in music and biofeedback in games makes me excited to see what the future of video game music holds).

At first I was disappointed that the presentations didn’t include more subjects with which I was familiar. But really, that would have been less interesting. I learned a lot more from the really diverse set of presentations than I would have otherwise. The topics discussed had a great balance across different aspects of video game music, and I am certain that anyone in attendance would have found things both familiar and new.

Amongst such diverse music, everyone focused on something different. Discussions ranged from the analytical (James Tate’s examination of the musical style of Jeremy Soule, or Morgan Hale’s analysis of the music of Undertale), to cultural/ethnomusicological (Hyeonjin Park’s discussion of musical representations of deserts across games, or Keith Hennigan’s critique of Irish music in video games), to technical (Blake Troise’s discussion of compositional techniques with NES hardware), and more. It made me really appreciate how diverse and expansive video game music really is, and how much opportunity there is to delve into different topics and explore and discover new things.

The choices of keynotes were excellent. Having someone like Andrew Barnabas in attendance with such a history of work in the industry was thrilling to everyone. It allowed for a bridge between the theoretical and academic to the practical, and was a good learning opportunity for everyone involved. It also gave rise to some great discussions (did you know he was responsible for adding the snippet of singing in “A Whole New World” in the video game version of Aladdin?). Neil Lerner’s talk of Pac-Man and its sounds was a great reminder of the technical aspects of video game music, and how it can be important to consider how they factor in to composition and production.

Spending time with everyone outside of presentations was equally as fun. Many of the attendees were already friends from previous conferences or from shared work. But most importantly, Ludo 2016 provided a friendly, open atmosphere to everyone involved. After all, we were all there because we were critically interested in a pretty geeky and new area of music, and this conference created a unique opportunity for everyone to explore that interest freely and openly. The fact that any of us could immediately go up to someone and express our interests, by saying something like, “Hey, have you played this game?” or “Did you ever listen to the soundtrack from this other game?” made for a really unique and refreshing experience. When presenting, the whole group was engaged in every talk, giving positive feedback and sharing knowledge from their own areas of specialty. And I think everyone who attended the pub trivia quiz night enjoyed being stumped by the questions that were just as diverse as the presentations that were given.

Looking back at the conference, my biggest takeaway is my impression that the field of video game music is really a lot broader than I had realized. I had my own interests that I had honed in on, but seeing so many people studying such a range of topics was inspiring. I left feeling that there is a lot of potential to be explored in studying music from a range of games larger than I had realized, and in ways that I had never even considered. I have a lot of faith in the people who attended the conference and who are dedicating themselves to studying it, each in their own way and with their own perspectives, and it makes me excited to see what the future of Ludomusicology will be as it continues to grow. I look forward to what future Ludo conferences will bring!

Thank you for a wonderful #ludo2016!

Another year is over, and it has gone by very quickly! We are so grateful to be part of this (still-growing) community; 55 individuals attended the conference – a record number, and we also had a record number of submissions. The quality and diversity of the papers has been staggering, from the first session on Japan, two sessions on chips & chiptunes, a session on representation, ethnicity & national identity, and music ‘beyond games’. There will be a fuller (less biased!) review published in due course, but my personal highlights included ,  (I wonder how many of us have been frequenting eBay looking to replicate his gear…),  which was immediately followed by , ), and . And who will ever forget Tim’s efforts to demonstrate the death music in … We cannot thank the speakers and delegates enough for their amazing presentations and contributions.

Special thanks must also go to our keynote speakers, Neil Lerner and Andrew Barnabas. Neil’s keynote address was entitled ‘Hearing Death in VGM’s Silent Era: PacMan’s Failure Sound’ and reminded us of the importance of understanding the technical (software & hardware) aspects of VGM/S production. The audio code is a form of music notation and we would all do well to improve our literacy! Barn gave us unique insights into the industry, covering topics from composition and technology to business and client management. Barn also participated in a fascinating roundtable with Stephen Baysted.

Our sincerest thanks go to Kevin Donnelly for inviting us to Southampton and being such a welcoming and accommodating host. We’re fortunate to say that everywhere we’ve held the conference has been a great venue and location, but this year the atmosphere was really special. Of course, that is in no small part thanks to our wonderful local team who did so much of the behind-the-scenes work – thank you Alex Glyde-Bates, Geena Brown, Joe Manghan & Beth Carroll for your invaluable help in planning and running Ludo2016.

Finally, thank you also to Music & Letters and ThinkSpace Education for their sponsorship, without which Ludo2016 would not have been possible. We’d also like to thank the ThinkSpace Education team for attending, filming and participating – you were at once delegates, media & education professionals, and speakers; your knowledge and involvement throughout the conference was an important part of making Ludo2016 the success it was and we look forward to collaborating on future events and projects together!

We hope everybody who attended were suitably intellectually stimulated and that you all had as wonderful a time as we did. We forward to seeing you again in the near future.

Mark, Tim & Michiel

Steven B. Reale wins Inaugural Prize for Excellence in Game Audio Research

We are delighted to announce that Steven B. Reale (Associate Professor of Music at Youngstown State University) has been awarded the inaugural Prize for Excellence in Game Audio Research for his recent paper ‘A Musical Atlas of Hyrule: Video Games and Spatial Listening’, delivered at the 2015 conference of the Society for Music Theory.

Steven’s paper was judged by the panel to be outstanding in three areas – the significance and future implications of the findings, the quality of communication, and the quality of methodological practice. The full abstract from the conference is below.

 

A Musical Atlas of Hyrule: Video Games and Spatial Listening

Steven Beverburg Reale (Youngstown State University)

Abstract

Lewin’s “transformational attitude” posits a first-person agent moving through a musical composition with an analytical network serving as a map. In this view, transformational listening relies on a metaphor conceptualizing in spatial and often achronological terms the temporal, linear logic under which music is commonly understood to unfold. But in video games, interactivity creates possibilities for indeterminate storytelling; as a result, nonlinear musical experiences are common. Moreover, many video games establish virtual worlds with internally-consistent geographies that promote highly spatial gameplay experiences; by associating specific musical cues with specific game-world locations, composers can promote a spatial listening experience for the player.

The music from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise has received considerable attention from game sound scholars. The Ocarina of Time (1998) introduced to the franchise the now-standard conceit of an in-game instrument on which the player “performs” melodies that influence the game world, Hyrule. The game’s titular ocarina provides a limited set of pitches from which many of the game’s principle melodies are derived, creating both a kind of “tonic sonority” as well as a “pivot set” for much of the game’s score. Since specific regions have specific musical accompaniments, a transformational network exists that is isographic to the geography of Hyrule. The score thus articulates a musical geography through which players traverse while directing Link through the game world, collapsing the metaphorical space between the music and the analytical network describing it.

 

Full Presentation

With kind permission from the Society for Music Theory, you can view a recording of Steven’s presentation below.

Full citation:

Reale, Steven B. ‘A Musical Atlas of Hyrule: Video Games and Spatial Listening,’ paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, St. Louis, MO, October 29-November 1, 2015.

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