Category: Guest Contribution

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#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!

GameLark Records Volume 1 Released

Contributor: Allen Brasch, GameLark Records

GameLark Records is a new record label specifically for video games remixes and covers. The first album, GameLark Records Volume 1, features 19 tracks from 19 different artists in the video game remix community. I fell in love with the video game remix community while working on my Youtube channel, GameLark Remixes. As I scoured Youtube looking for new artists and remixes, I was astounded by the sheer diversity of the community.

Eventually, I was inspired by collaborative charity albums such as ‘Multiplayer: A Tribute to Video Games’ and ‘Operation 1-Up’ to create my own label. The goals were simple: find the most diverse group of artists possible, produce top-quality music, and build a platform for the selected artists. Believe it or not, most artists are busy making music and don’t always have the time to promote their work. The album helps to bring attention to all the artists on the label, both big and small, and new fans are created in the process.

This is just the first album from GameLark Records, but I believe the label has a bright future. Every song on this first album stands on its own, but I believe the myriad genres complement each other rather than detract from the album’s cohesion. After all, this album is as diverse as the community that it represents. GameLark Records Volume 1 releases today on Loudr, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy it.

Compositional Strategies For Programmable Sound Generators With Limited Polyphony

We are proud to publish the following article by Blake Troise (ThinkSpace, ProtoDome) 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: Blake Troise

A programmable sound generator (PSG) is an integrated circuit (IC) with the ability to generate sound by synthesizing basic waveforms.1 PSGs are often called sound chips, however not all sound chips are PSGs. PSGs were designed to be instructed by software commands and would usually be housed alongside a microprocessor as part of a computer system. The general benefit of the sound chip was that audio processing could be delegated to a dedicated system, freeing processing cycles for other functions, or simply, as Radio-Electronics magazine 1981 explains,  “[controlling] music or sound effects from software, without overtaxing the computer”. One of the main reasons for the popularity of PSGs was that microcontrollers capable of generating pitches had become cheap enough to manufacture at the beginning of the 1980s.23 This became a commercially viable option for computational sound generation as part as an affordable home system. As such, PSGs were commonly utilised in the video game systems of the 1980s to mid 1990s, for example the Nintendo Entertainment System (Ricoh 2A03/2A07)4, Atari 2600 (Atari TIA)5, Sega Master System (Texas Instruments SN76489A, Yamaha YM-2413)6 and numerous others. The chips were also included in early home computers7, especially those with gaming capabilities; the most popular example being the Commodore 64’s PSG, the SID chip8. Perhaps one of the main reasons for the ubiquity of PSGs in video game applications is the medium’s requirement for a multimedia experience9, with the desire for sound effects and music in electronic games predating software games10.


Due to the prevalence of inexpensive computers, the eighties saw the emergence of a synergy of both programmer and composer practices due to both software accessibility and thus increased development in entertainment software111213. Many of these musicians, such as Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka, treated the computer (in Tanaka’s case, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)) as a means of expressing ‘serious’ music and approached their composition as such14. Each PSG however, had a set of numerous musical limitations the composer would have to adhere to.15 One of the most compositionally influential of these restrictions (and defining characteristic of computer music of the period) is the PSGs limited polyphony.


The amount of voices a PSG could provide varied between the different chips. The NES’ Ricoh 2A03/2A07, had five separate ‘channels’ (individual functions for generating a single waveform16); two pulse wave channels, one triangle channel, one pseudo-random noise generator and a rarely used Delta Modulation Channel (DMC) for playing Differential Pulse-Code Modulation (DPCM) samples1718 (Figure 1). The Commodore 64 had four channels with a very similar set of waveforms to the Nintendo Entertainment System, however, unlike the NES, these were not restricted to a single wave function.19 Other chips such as the General Instruments AY 3-8910 (found in the MSX computer2021 and Sinclair ZX spectrum 12822, to name two popular examples) included very similar waveforms with a very similar amount of channels; in the AY 3-8910’s case, three square wave channels and a pseudo-random noise generator.23 The limited number of channels each PSG provided posed a significant compositional challenge as to how best to maximise the musical content with only a few voices.




Figure 1. Oscilloscope examples of the basic common waveforms various PSG provided. Top Left: Saw Wave. Top Right: Pulse/Square Wave. Bottom Left: Triangle Wave. Bottom Right: Noise.


Writing music with limited polyphony is not unique to the sound chip; for hundreds of years composers have written for three, two and even single voices.24 Pieces such as Adagio in Bb (for two clarinets and three bassett horns) by Mozart25, Jägerlied by Schubert (for two horns or voices)26, most of Bach’s infamous chorales27 and even solo piano works for a single performer, make use of a small collection of monophonic voices (or fingers!) to create music. Even commercial synthesisers during the seventies and eighties would occasionally be dedicated to producing a single, monophonic voice2829 and often, when polyphony was available, was still limited to a maximum of only eight voices.303132 What separates these composers works (and other electronic hardware) from PSG composition is the idea of necessity. Whilst traditionally the basic form of the woodwind ensemble is the quintet33, this is usually a creative choice and can be “expanded and contracted to meet the needs of the composer”. The piano composer in desperate need of further polyphony can simply add another performer to allow access a further set of ten (or more) notes. No such luxury was (in most cases34) available to the sound chip composer.


Perhaps the simplest (and most common) approach seen in PSG composition was to consider each channel as an individual instrument, a similar method to the aforementioned ensemble writing.35 The iconic Super Mario Bros theme36 by K. Kondo37 is a good example of this process (figure 2). All three pitched channels of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s PSG move together as a three part harmony for the first thematic section. In the second section of the piece, the triangle channel diverges from rhythmic unison and plays a very simple arpeggiating bassline. This approach can be seen in video game soundtracks such as Mega Man 2 (1988) by T. Tateishi and M. Matsumae (programmed by Yoshihiro Sakaguchi)38, Legacy of the Wizard  (1989) by Y. Koshiro39 and Castlevania (1986) by S. Terashima and K. Yamashita (programmed by H. Maezawa)40 (Figure 3). In fact, these soundtracks work so much like a traditional three part ensemble (with a fourth percussion instrument), they have a plethora of YouTube a capella covers (of varying successes) utilizing the original writing for each channel.4142434445


First thematic section.


Second thematic section.

Figure 2. Manuscript representation of the Super Mario Bros theme.


Figure 3. Manuscript representation of the Legacy of the Wizard ‘intro’ theme.


The ubiquity of this practice has resulted in the emergence of a common technique found in Nintendo Entertainment System music- dubbed the Famichord by chip musician Linus ‘LFT’ Akesson46 (Figure 4). The Famichord is essentially the removal of the dominant in a four note major or minor seventh chord (Maj7omit5 or m7omit5) to fit the NES’ three channel limit. Whilst not unusual in a wider musical practice, the fact many composers independently utilised this technique makes it distinctive in PSG compositional procedure. Examples can be found in the NES soundtracks to Mega Man II (1988)47, Duck Tales (1989)48, Super Mario Bros (1985)49 and various others (Figure 5).



Figure 4. Manuscript example of the C Major 7th Famichord.



Figure 5. D Minor seventh (b. 1) and C major seventh (b.3) Famichord in Super Mario Bros. ‘Invincibility’ theme.


The reason the ‘ensemble’ method of PSG writing was so popular was possibly because it was a very simple way of interfacing with the chip. Examining the documentation for the various sound chips, the way in which the microcontrollers expected to be instructed was with a simple ‘channel, pitch, duration’ format50515253, the way in which the MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) standard operates today.5455 A melody is easily built from instructions in this way and can be (and was often) very simply converted from score to code.565758 This could be done by either the composer himself, or given to a programmer to transcribe, which was common practice.596061 The downside to this technique is that the music is limited to as many instruments as there are PSG channels, resulting in a textually ‘thin’ soundscape. To fill the space, the prevalent mentality of trying to recreate externally composed music on the PSG had to shift to writing music for the PSG; treating the device as a unique, independent sonic medium.


The first technique to artificially expand the sonic environment is channel sharing, or splitting parts over a single voice.62 This technique is especially effective when two instruments can be distinguished from one another utilising the unique functions of the PSG channel. Often, each channel had an alterable amplitude for ADSR (attack, decay, sustain and release) envelope shaping63646566, and pulse waves frequently had the ability to alter their duty cycle (the percentage between the high and low of the wave cycle), both techniques for textural changes and emulation of instrumental transients.67 Even more basically, a change in pitch will dictate a sequence’s sonic responsibility (Figure 6). Figure 6 is a piece written by the author for a single beeper demonstrating the channel sharing procedure in its extreme. The bass line is separated from the melody mainly by pitch, however has the impression of being an individual instrument. Percussion is discriminated from other instrumentation by rapidly altering the channel’s pitch semi-randomly, with a negative correlation. The final element in the expansion of the soundscape is structural; by frequently altering the instrumental character in a rhythmic fashion, the listener has the impression that multiple voices are present, all achieved on a single voice. This false polyphony significantly alters the compositional process; the chip musician looks for ‘gaps’ in the melody in which to fill out the composition.



Figure 6. Scored extract from original composition for an ATMega328 microcontroller, using only a single voice. Percussion is created by rapidly changing pitch.


PSGs often had multiple channels however, and more waveforms than a single pulse/square wave. The Commodore 64 was particularly flexible as each channel could alter its waveform, allowing for a more freedom when composing for the chip.68 One notable example of this technique is T. Follin’s work on the NES game Silver Surfer (1990), regarded as one of the best PSG soundtracks of the era.697071 Follin utilises the triangle channel as both bass and drums whilst frequently switching melodic ‘licks’ between available channels.7273 Lead instrumentation is given to the first two pulse channels; handled by varying ADSR envelopes and altering pulse width, however, when a pulse channel is unused, it doubles up with the bass to provide a thicker texture. Each channel is always doing something helping to imply a greater polyphony than simply four voices.


The most common use of the channel sharing technique in other soundtrack writing was the utilisation of the pseudo-noise channel included in various PSGs7475767778, typically dedicated to accompanying the melodic or pitched elements with percussion, mimicking the characteristics of an acoustic drum kit (Figure 7).798081 This technique is popular as a repeated hi-hat figure is heard over a snare, kick or other percussive element, even though, when shared on a single channel, it is not present. Again, this fills the soundscape with a ‘false’ polyphony using listener expectation to ‘fill in the gaps’.



Figure 7. Typical PSG noise channel writing for a drum kit pattern. Kick, snare and hi-hat are all represented on a single channel. Vertical placement is representative of speed of noise randomization, which is perceived as a change in pitch.


Perhaps the most idiosyncratic and recognized feature of PSG writing is the super-fast arpeggio 86.82838485 Essentially, this is the same technique as instrumental channel sharing, however has the unique purpose of providing a ‘harmonic compression’; reducing all explicitly stated harmonic content to the fewest voices possible, liberating channels for other purposes. Both the Famichord and the super-fast arpeggio are solutions to the same problem, however the Famichord can only accurately represent a chord of four notes or less using all available channels whereas an arpeggio can cover any number of extensions by rapidly iterating through the chord on a single channel (Figure 8). This technique’s conception is sometimes credited to M. Galway with the score to Kong Strikes Back (1985) for the Commodore 64868788 and often appears in soundtracks throughout the computer’s lifespan.89




Figure 8. A variety of super-fast arpeggio forms, all based on a C Major 9th chord.

The main drawback to the super-fast arpeggio, and many of the channel sharing techniques, is that they are both more difficult to program, demand more processing power and use more memory than simple three/four part writing.90 The Famichord may represent less extended harmony, with a less elegant approach to wave function economy, however it requires only three channel instructions to the sound chip to create a chord. The arpeggiation technique requires multiple instructions to a single channel, in a very small space of time (Figure 9). Often, the read only memory (ROM) on software distribution media was very small91 and developers would limit their music data due to memory constraints.92 Gratuitous use of musical content would quickly fill the memory limits, encroaching on space needed for the rest of the software.

A l64 o5 @00 c e d g e b g >c

e g d e c d c e d g e b g >c <g b e

g d e c d c e d g e b g >c <g b e g

d e c d c e d g e b g >c <g b e g d

e c d

Super-Fast Arpeggio, C Major Ninth, 1 bar

A l1 o5 @00 b

B l1 o5 @00 e

C l1 o5 c


Famichord C Major Seventh, 1 bar

Figure 9. Comparison of a single bar Famichord command compared to a single bar arpeggio command in ppMCK MML.


It seems that, whilst PSG music was dramatically shaped by polyphonic restrictions, perhaps the main pervasive limiting factor is ultimately the available memory the composer has to work with. As with the Famichord versus the super-fast arpeggio scenario, the decision seems to be less founded in compositional choice but in a constant creative balance between musicality and pragmatics. Perhaps the main difference between the Super Mario Brothers and Silver Surfer soundtracks was not how well the latter utilised channel sharing, or the simplicity of the former’s harmonic writing, but how much memory was delegated to each respective composition.

A Tale of Ludomusicology 2015

Contributor: James S. Tate

James Tate has very kindly approached us with this personal and fun account of his first experience of a Ludomusicology Conference. We’re proud to share it here, unedited!


Day 1: Wednesday 8th April 2015

I curse my alarm as it shrill tones cut through my pleasant slumber like a scream from the witch in Left for Dead. I’m instantly alert; you don’t hear that sound and not be!

Rushing, I dump all of my stuff in the car and set off for Newcastle airport from Durham where I’m based. It’s a gloriously sunny day and I actually get to wear sunglasses. It makes me look like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution except without the stylish beard.

St. Martin's Cathedral, Utrecht

St. Martin’s Cathedral, Utrecht

Once through security, I aim for the currency exchange. Nothing like leaving things until the last minute! The flight itself barely takes any time at all and soon we’re touching down in Amsterdam. As per usual, baggage collection takes the longest and I feel like I do when I’m looking at the loading screen in Dark Souls II after I’ve died for the millionth time. Exiting the airport, I emerge into the central transport hub that is Amsterdam station and easily find a train to take me to Utrecht.

Once out of the station, I head to the university to see it ready for the next day and arrive at the Academiegebouw or Academy building. It’s spectacular. Donated by the city of Utrecht in 1896, it now serves as the university’s ceremonial centre where major academic functions are still held. Neo-Renaissance in its architecture, it’s quite foreboding, reminding me somewhat of one of the Castlevania castles, but in the bright sunshine I’m not expecting Dracula to appear just yet. From here, it was only a ten minute walk to where my hostel was so arriving, I met a very nice receptionist who showed me where all the facilities were before leaving me to it. Collapsing on my bed, I relax and email family/post on Facebook to say I’ve arrived.

Tate 1Once my body aches slightly less from the carrying of a laptop and a bag, I set out in search of food. Dodging cyclists galore, I meandered my way down various streets that looked suspiciously like ‘Delfino Square’ from Mario Kart Wii. Eventually I stumble upon Café Hofman and nervously ask the waitress if she speaks English. She does and happily translates the menu for me. I ask her what the most Dutch thing is on the menu and she points to a cheese fondue. Eagerly, I order for a) I like cheese, b) it is actually a Dutch meal and c) most importantly I’m hungry. It doesn’t take long for it to arrive and instead of being in a bowl, it is a bread bun (or cob, balm, roll, bap, balm-cake or any other version of that word) that has been hollowed out and then the molten cheese poured inside. On the side is a selection of fresh vegetables to dip into it.

Once I’ve eaten, I’m fully satisfied and with the sun fading, I make my way back to the hostel and begin this diary, writing as Alan Wake does in the game by the same name. Fortunately, nothing that I write comes alive and after a decent session, I turn in.

Day 2: Thursday 9th April 2015

A continental buffet starts my day and all for four euros! Cereal, bread, salami, cheese, a boiled egg and Nutella is consumed quickly before I return to my room, clean my teeth and head out into the bright outdoors. Feeling as if ‘The Traveller’ should be playing as I walk, (a crime that Soon Serenade was cancelled and Robby Mulvany’s music will never reach a wider audience) I arrive outside the Sweelinckzaal Room where Ludo 2015 will begin!

Meeting a variety of people, we have a brief chat about where we’ve come from and soon, collect our name badges and have a seat. The room’s magnificent. Georgian in style; the decor is very elaborate but there’s some noticeable hi-tech gadgetry on the tables that are shaped in a horseshoe. In one corner is where the speaker will stand and in the other is a 75 inch television on a stand that is acting as our display. Mark Sweeney, Michiel Kamp and Tim Summers introduce themselves – these are the three that have organised the conference and each one of them is as friendly, knowledgeable and approachable as the other.

The morning is split into two sessions: the first, “Game Music Audiences and Interpretations” and the second “Technological Intersections” separated by a coffee break in the middle. I won’t go into any of the individual speakers because I’ll never do justice to what they had to say, except that absolutely everybody did themselves and their respective institutions proud. The coffee break I must mention though, because as this is my first conference, it was really great to chat with people. As I got to find out, many of us are in a similar situation – we’re either the only one, or one of only a handful studying videogame music wherever we are in the world. I devour some Celebrations that have been put out – did you know that the Dutch name for a Galaxy chocolate is Dove!? I mean, I’ve heard the expression “Wash your mouth out with soap, but eating it!?” – Apologies for those who don’t get that pun.

At lunch, a group of us congregate to ask where any of us would like to eat standing around like not particularly useful NPCs from Oblivion. Nobody seems to be able to make a decision so I suggest Café Hofman as it’s only about a two minute walk away. Ordering a ham, cheese and tomato panini and a beer, we eat surrounded by what is most definitely the European Café culture. It’s relaxed, people are enjoying themselves and life seems good.

The afternoon session is as good, if not better than the morning for people are more relaxed now that they know the format. During the coffee break I have a chat with one of my academic heroes – Karen Collins. Yes, I realise I’m a sycophant and if she reads this, I can imagine raised eyebrows, but suffice to say we have a laugh and talk about a number of things. She markedly points out when I say to her that she’s the foremost expert in ludomusicology that although that may be the case, it’s depressing that it’s such a small field. But I have hope having seen so many presentations today. We are her disciples; all of us have referenced her books in one form or another and although she is the pioneer of videogame academia that is still small, new works are coming out all the time. It is up to us, the next generation of videogame academics to push the field in as many different directions as possible. After listening to the presentations today, I am positive that this area of study will grow. Composers, audio engineers and academics alike can use our work to make sure that videogame audio gets the recognition it deserves both today and in the future.

Pancakes at De Oude Muntkelder

Pancakes at De Oude Muntkelder

After the break, we have the day’s keynote delivered by David Roesner who talks on the topic: “’Beyond the Score’ – A Performative Approach to Music-Based Gaming”. His fantastic presentation is sadly the last of the day and so with a round of applause, the hard work for the day is done. We have two hours before the evening meal and so we each part ways to drop back bags/laptops at our various places of residence looking forwards to a conference dinner at De Oude Muntkelder.

I don’t know what to expect, but I’m delighted to learn as I take my place that it serves sweet and savoury pancakes! It was a difficult decision, but in the end, I opted for a goat’s cheese, pine nuts, apple and honey pancake which was delicious! Lively conversation ensued but eventually, like with all good things – for example Half Life 2: Episode 2– they come to an end (or not!!! Where is Episode 3 Valve!?). And so it was that Thursday became Friday.



Day 3: Friday 10th April 2015

Again, I’ll resist the temptation to describe everyone’s excellent talks and I’ll skip to Richard Steven’s ‘A Practical Demonstration of Game Music Implementation Methods’. This, as the title suggests was a practical demonstration of how to integrate audio into games either via middleware such as wwise or directly into a game engine itself such as Unreal 4. Taking us through various real world examples, he shows us the good, the bad and the ugly. Highly informative, I have wanted a talk like this for a long time and here, finally, I have the chance to learn – even if it is a whistle stop tour through various capabilities of the programs.

And then it was the talk we’d all been waiting for: Karen Collins’ keynote and it more than met the occasion. How do I begin? Well, perhaps with a comment. As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate with just her university commitments, she is the director of a new videogame-audio documentary coming out in 2016 called Beep.

Citing the fact that 80% of the audio and knowledge about it in silent films have been lost, you can see her passion and determination when she says that she will NOT let this happen with games. We see various pieces of raw footage of various interviews she’s given. It is awe-inspiring stuff – composers, audio directors, vocal artists – they all want to tell their tale. And Karen is providing them with the means to do that. I hope you will forgive me within this account of citing a website, but I felt this is too important to just brush over, so therefore please – reader of this journal – please check out

After lunch, we return to the conference room for the final afternoon of talks and I await my turn to speak. Finally, it’s here: my analysis of Nobuo Uematsu’s One Winged Angel. Half an hour is nowhere near long enough to talk about this piece – I could have happily spoken for twice or maybe even three times that amount! But the reaction I got at the end was brilliant; I truly felt part of a community and that I had presented something that could be useful to people in the future.

On a high, I spent the entirety of the break that followed my presentation talking to other people about it and trying to answer any questions that they had. A Skype talk with Stephen Baysted – the composer of Project Cars along with his collaborator Tim Summers followed and then after two more presentations we were at the end. Two days, eighteen talks and several million new ideas discussed. Sadly, as is often the case, some people had to dash off straight afterwards due to flights, but for those of us that were staying around, the organisers – Mark, Michiel and Tim had organised one final treat – a pub quiz at an Irish Pub, all about videogames!

Getting there just before eight o’clock I half expected to hear ‘A Watering Hole in the Harbor’ from The Witcher 2 as I enter O’Leary’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. A warning to all future Ludomusicology attendees: Tim takes no prisoners with his questions. I mean seriously – name that tune… answer, Super Tennis for the Sega Mega Drive!!! Swine Tim, swine…

So sadly, upon finding out the winners, losers and everyone in between like a particularly manic game of Team Fortress 2, we began to say our goodbyes. But as we began to part ways, I know that it’s not the end; these people around me are no longer strangers. They’re colleagues, fellow academics but perhaps above all, friends. At the end of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, you hear the piece ‘Cloud Smiles’. This is the piece that needs to be played at this moment. Touching and heartfelt.

Day 4: Saturday 11th April 2015

My flight is at 12:15 and I need to get to: a) Utrecht Station, b) Amsterdam Schipol, c) Newcastle Airport and finally d) home (Durham). Easy!

It starts off well. I leave the hostel like you leave Candlekeep in Baldur’s Gate although in fairness, not under quite as mysterious circumstances. Although having said that, two guys at the hostel were drinking port and 7:30 in the morning. Strange things happen in Holland…

I make my way to Utrecht station – all is going according to plan. I buy a ticket to the only Amsterdam option available (thinking nothing of it) and get on board the train. Arriving in Amsterdam Central, I think to myself that I just need to go one further stop to Amsterdam Schipol. So I stay on board until a female ticket conductor comes into the carriage and orders me off! I learn at this point that there’s engineering works between here and the airport and this is as far as the trains are running.

I leap off the train with ‘Bombing Mission’ from Final Fantasy VII thudding through my mind and head down the stairs to the ticket desk to find out what’s happening. Fortunately there is a replacement bus service and I just need to go one step on another train and I’ll find it there. I buy a ticket and discover I have 20 minutes before the train leaves, so seeing a piano in the entrance hall of the station I began to play ‘Fear of the Heavens’ from The Secret of Mana. I recently discovered this track and it’s nice and easy to play but it’s a beautiful melody and the Dutch public seemed to love it. I moved onto some jazz soon after and got cheered on. But then, like Batman in Arkham Asylum, I quickly evade their detection and got the replacement bus.

The flight was without incident and soon I was back in England after a fantastic four days.

  • Cue ‘Faith’ from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.


Author’s note:

I wrote this account as a memory for those people I met at Ludo 2015 and the fantastic time I had there. To Mark, Michiel and Tim – these three guys truly deserve a massive round of applause for organising such a tightly run conference and even though I was a newby at the conference, I felt very welcome and appreciated.

But I also wrote this journal for those people who might be contemplating about whether to come to Ludo 2016. Please do. The above account is from someone who had never been to a conference before, let alone spoke at one. But I am truly glad I did. I got such a lot out of it and to meet people like Karen, Steven and David – three truly knowledgeable people in this field was an honour. Please join us next year and help push the academia of videogame music and add to the knowledge of ludomusicology.

James S. Tate
April 2015

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