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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