Authors: Anne Heller, Fabian Müller, Tim Reichert
The European-Western origin of the academic study of music in German-speaking countries, in short musicology (dt.: Musikwissenschaft) as we know it today, can be traced back to Guido Adler’s treatise “Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft” from 1885. For him, musicology is divided into two sub-disciplines. Systematic musicology, which includes aspects of the aesthetics of the art of sound, including acoustics, psychology and philosophy, is contrasted with historical musicology. Historical musicology aims to investigate and demonstrate the compositional and historical contexts. In addition to working with sources, the focus is on the analysis of music. Ethnology in musicology was still part of systematics for Adler, who called it Musikologie. It is clear that the methods of musicology have developed further since its foundation and that the subject is now more interdisciplinary. Likewise, the boundaries between the systematic and historical sub-disciplines are less strict than they used to be. In the meantime, musicology has also taken on film music and pop music. In the German-speaking world, the study of video game music has so far only been part of media studies, cultural studies, and game studies. For a long time, there was no study that followed the German-speaking tradition of historical musicology. Fortunately, this has now changed.
In Germany, video game music is moving more and more into the public focus. Since this year, German public-service broadcaster ARD has been hosting the podcast Levels & Soundtracks by music journalist Fridl Achten, in 2022 the contribution “A History of Video Game Music” appeared on the podcast of Bayerischer Rundfunk, and video game concerts have been present in Germany since the first symphonic game music concert at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig in 2003.
The scientific study of video game music is likewise not a novelty in this country. First publications by researchers such as Axel Stockburger, Axel Berndt, Michael Ahlers, Ellen Jünger, or Martin Pichlmair and Fares Kayali can already be found in the early to mid-2000s. Nils Dittbrenner’s Master’s thesis “Soundchip-Musik: Computer- und Videospielmusik von 1977–1994” (2007) was made available online and is one of the earliest comprehensive German-language studies on the subject.
Melanie Fritsch, currently an assistant professor at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf at the Institute for Media and Cultural Studies, gave a lecture in 2009 entitled “Zurück in die Jugendkultur – die Rückkehr der Musik über Computerspiele” at the alltogether now! Music Fair in Berlin. Since then, over the course of her career, she has published several fundamental German-language essays on the field, and her monograph “Performing Bytes: Musikperformances der Computerspielkultur” (2018). Furthermore, she spoke with then-Chancellor Angela Merkel about video games and was interviewed for several German newspapers. Melanie Fritsch is one of the more prominent researchers in the field, but of course not the only one.
Christoph Hust, professor of musicology at the Leipzig University of Music and Theatre, published the anthology Digitale Spiele in 2018. This volume included a section on video game music of over one hundred pages. Together with Japanologist and game researcher Martin Roth, he hosted the first Ludomusicology-conference in Germany the same year. Since 2022, he also leads the DFG project “Kulturen der Heimcomputermusik”, which has overlaps with video game culture as well.
Many German as well as scholars from German-speaking countries such as Austria and Switzerland have also participated in the Ludomusicology conference, such as Hans-Peter Gasselseder in collaboration with Maria Kallionpäa (“Re-Orchestrating Game Drama: The Experience of Dynamic Music in Videogames”, 2012), Fares Kayali (“Abstracting Music to Game Mechanics”, 2015) and David Roesner as the keynote speaker. In more recent years Reinke Schwinning (“Sense and Meaning in Video Game Music – Music as Information Carrying Part of the Game Inter-face”, 2018), Laurentius Alvin (“Introduction to Javanese-Balinese Gamelan music in video games”, 2022), Stefan Höltgen and Thomas Fecker (“From Daisies to @;&?$: Computer Voices in Early Electronic Games”, 2023) and Manuel Becker (“‘Donasdogama Micma’: Music from Hell in Dante’s Inferno (2010)”, 2023).
Therefore, it was about time that a German-speaking community is founded to offer a place for scholars to further their researches and interests in Video Game Music.
The foundation of the FVMW goes back to 2019 in Tübingen at the Institute for Musicology, when Manuel Becker held a seminar about music in video games. The seminar was one of the most well-attended ones at the institute in a long time. Thus, it is no wonder that many students showed interest in engaging with the topic even outside the curriculum. This seminar is also the place where the four founding members of the FVMW, Manuel Becker and the three students Anne Heller, Tim Reichert, and Fabian Müller, met. The novelty of the discipline impressed them, and made it clear to them that video game music should form a part of their own academic curriculum vitae. Therefore, the three students chose different aspects of this subject for their theses, which discussed the reception of Wagner’s music in video games, the technical developments in the Final Fantasy VII Remake and an answer to the difficult question of citing video game music. The search for usable literature that came from the musicological tradition we are familiar with was a challenge. Even while working on our theses, we met regularly to discuss the recent publications in the research field of Ludomusicology. It quickly became clear to us that the biggest problem in German-language musicology is probably the lack of an introduction to the subject area that is also aimed at researchers who do not otherwise deal with video games. Writing this introduction became our primary goal. We thus began to look into topics commonly found in ludomusicological studies and to work out the aspects that were important to us. During this time, we made contact with different researchers in this field, among them Melanie Fritsch. Following her advice, we started working on our secondary goal in 2022: the development of our own website where essays and other forms of contributions can be published.
The aim of the research community for video game musicology is to get to the core of the music and to classify the compositional aspects of the music historically. Likewise, we treat the video games as musicological sources. The methodology will be presented in an introduction to the new sub-discipline of video game musicology (Videospielmusikwissenschaft).
With our website we are trying something similar to LudoBande, an interdisciplinary community of students interested in the study of games. We want to provide a platform where students, scholars and people interested in musicology can come together and exchange ideas about the discipline. We’d like to help this research area grow and establish itself.
If you want to follow, support, or contact us, you can do so via the following links: