Author: Michiel Kamp

French ludomusicology today: Something that was born some time ago, but we are not quite sure of what is it yet

By Fanny Rebillard and Antoine Morisset

What is French ludomusicology? It is kind of difficult to define a field yet to discover. This observation is what actually led to the French bibliography project that recently joined the SSSMG bibliography page. Strangely, the French ludomusicologist tends to be a wild species that never seems to cross his fellow’s path. This is connected to the fact that there is actually no official stronghold for this discipline: we came from all kinds of musicology faculties. Each of us had to deal, at some point, with a feeling of isolation within the great world of musicology. Are you studying the sacred XXth century field, its inner revolutions, or the birth of electroacoustic music? Do you prefer the popular music studies point of view? Or maybe you are a specialist in medieval analysis that has gone mad/an intuition and is now madly searching for occurrences of Landini cadences in adventure games? Can it be that you chose a new unrelated research field, such as records management or the sciences of education, and try to study videogame music from this unexpected perspective?

Sadly enough, all these fields within French musicology tend to be folded in on themselves. Our links are even more stretched as “la Musicologie” covers a wide range of disciplines and approaches once you are preparing a master’s degree or a PhD: a musicologist, in France, is not necessarily a music theory specialist. There are historians, sociologists, psychologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists… Without any French rendez-vous dedicated to the matter of music in videogames, most of the ludomusicologists will have only two choices when it comes to meeting people from the same sphere. First, they can attend meetings from their musicological field of origin and try to explain how game theory can be of interest from this point of view – if explaining the basis of ludology doesn’t take up all the speaker’s time. They also can go to global game studies conferences where every field is welcome, such as the annual MiG (Montpellier in Games) show, or one of the many activities in Lausanne and Liège University, in Swiss and Belgium.  But the legend says that there never were two ludomusicologists at the same time in one of these events (the « why » of this curse is still to be answered…).

“Why don’t they join us?”, you say? Well, if you never see any French ludomusicologist at the NACVGM or at any other English-speaking conference, there is actually two reasons. The first, and the saddest one, is that the French research field is in bad condition. Many universities are regularly on a strike because (amongst other problems) they lack money : most of the lecturers are never paid on time, if they are paid, and research grants are becoming increasingly rare. In this gloomy atmosphere, humanities and art programs are the most neglected, so there is little chance for a ludomusicologist to be funded for their PhD or any expensive symposium trip (and if a grant opportunity exists, there is a 75% probability that they’ll hear about it after they come back). The second and most laughable reason you don’t see many of us outside a French-speaking country is that we do have a problem with foreign languages. Most of us have cold sweat at the simple idea of speaking English in front of an audience. This is probably an early educational problem, but it is quite real: if you are not able to have a perfect accent (but which one? No one knows…), and to make complex puns and not a single grammatical mistake, you are convinced that you are an embarrassment and that everybody will despise you as a researcher.

Further, there are not many publications from French ludomusicologists, and if they exist, these ones are hidden in some obscure journals that are not easy to guess, and difficult to obtain. For example, we’d never heard of Arnaud Saura-Ziegelmeyer’s  article on the acoustic representations of Antiquity in videogames (https://books.openedition.org/momeditions/3359) until it was brought to us by people who attended the symposium. It was published as a special issue in a journal about popular culture and Antiquity, by authors close to archaeology, that are not very well-known in our field. Besides, until now, we can say that most of the French ludomusicologists had no idea that others exist, or if they did, they were nothing but distant figures to cite amongst a vast majority of English-speaking references. Some of us use small personal websites to talk about our work (such as Mickael Blum’s website, or some articles by Fanny Rebillard on www.musicaludi.fr), but most of the time, they are not well known and we don’t communicate much on social media. Most of the actual broadcasts and podcasts speaking on the subject are run by people who don’t necessarily relate to the academic research field. There is actually an important community of VGM lovers, who have a great knowledge of this world, but will never dare to dip their toe in this intimidating perspective that is ludomusicology. However, these people have been very important, in France, for promoting and upholding this musical culture. These last years, some events (such as the videogame music concert cycle at Paris’ Philharmonie in 2017) elevated videogame music to a higher status in the musical field. It is gradually coming out of the “beep-boop (not be-bop) funny but somewhat very nostalgic” zone and has garnered consideration as something complex and worthy of interest. This year, some of us have been contacted to speak about ludomusicology and the basis of videogame music history in front of academic and non-academic audiences. We realized that there is a strong interest in ludomusicology, not only in France but in other French-speaking countries and districts: Belgium, Switzerland, Québec, etc.

Maybe, thanks to these people and events who set out the whole thing, the French ludomusicologists are finally coming out of their den. Beyond that, the fortunate meeting of a few of us, and the common finding that our references in our native language were completely split between us, led to the brilliant – and very late – idea to gather and to share the latest news in the field. That is why we put all of our bibliographic references into one Google-doc, opened a Discord server, and sent messages to our musicology-related email lists, hoping to reach for as many interested French-speaking people as possible. We wished to stay open-minded. That is why we also included publications from non-specialized authors, or video interviews and websites of composers. We believe that these elements can be of great value to study the late rise of French ludomusicology. So far, the operation is a success, but the vast majority of the titles we listed until now are yet to be read by many of us. There is currently no state of the art, but we hope it is a matter of time before we learn more about it. Finally, our wish is that all this will motivate young French ludomusicologists to stand out, collaborate abroad, and to reveal their work.

Ludo2019 Call for Papers

We are excited to announce that Ludo2019, the Eighth European Conference on Video Game Music and Sound, will take place April 26th – 28th at Leeds Beckett University.

Please share our Call for Papers poster online and around your institutions.

The organizers of Ludo2019 are accepting proposals for research presentations. This year, we are particularly interested in papers that support the conference theme of ‘Implementation and Preservation’. We also welcome all proposals on sound and music in games.

Proposed papers might be presented as part of planned sessions on:

  • Archiving and preserving game sound
  • Retro musical aesthetics in modern games
  • Approaches, implications and effects of implementation systems for game audio
  • Musical meanings: players’ interpretations and perceptions of music during gameplay
  • Playing (with) game music in game music cultures.

Presentations should last twenty minutes, to be followed by questions. The conference language is English. Please submit your paper proposal (c.250 words) plus provisional bibliography by email to ludomusicology@gmail.com by February 15th 2019.

Practitioners and composers may submit proposals to present work. We also welcome session proposals from organizers representing two to four individuals; the organizer should submit an introduction to the theme and c.200 word proposals for each paper.

The conference will feature:

James Newman (Bath Spa University) as keynote speaker, who is co-founder and curator of the National Video Games Archive, author of Videogames (2004/2013), Playing with Videogames (2008), 100 Videogames (2007), Teaching Videogames (2006) and A History of Videogames (2018).

Paul Weir (EARCOM), as keynote speaker, who is a composer, sound designer and audio director, known for his work in games, generative audio, radio and audio books. He has soundtracked over forty games, including the widely acclaimed No Man’s Sky.

Joe Thom (TTGames), as keynote speaker, who is a sound designer best known for his work on the Lego game series.

Lydia Andrew (Ubisoft), Audio Director for the Assassin’s Creed series at the Montreal studio, with Joe Henson and Alexis Smith of “The Flight”, composers of Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Hosted by Richard Stevens (Course Director, MSc. in Sound and Music for Interactive Games; School of Film, Music & Performing Arts)

Organized by Melanie Fritsch, Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers & Mark Sweeney.

Ludo2018 registration open

Registration for Ludo2018 is now open! Please register via the Google form link on the event page here.

Ludo2018 page up

The Ludo2018 event page is now online. You can find it here.

Registration will open in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can find information on travel and accommodation in Leipzig on the event page.

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