This is the programme for Ludo 2014. Please click on the titles to reveal the paper’s abstract.

Day 1: Thursday 10th April

Registration Open
Welcome from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Clive Behagg
Mitre Theatre
Session 1: Immersion and “Reality”

  1. Michiel Kamp (Cambridge University), ‘Serendipity and Authoredness: Music and Natural Vistas in Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed
    What is the difference between the music one hears while climbing a hill and surveying the countryside in Skyrim, and climbing a View Point to ‘synchronise’ in the Assassin’s Creed games? While the musical cues I will be discussing are strikingly similar in texture, timbre, and even harmonies, the way a player will experience them is fundamentally different. In Skyrim we ‘stumble upon’ a distant mountainscape that matches the music we hear as if by coincidence; in Assassin’s Creed we hear the music as being designed for the experience. This difference in the way we encounter the music—serendipitously on the one hand, and as authored on the other—reveals two different way of listening: one aesthetic, one more semiotic. I want to compare these with the help of Ronald Hepburn’s seminal work on the aesthetics of nature, to argue that serendipitous encounters with music in video games have, at least phenomenologically, more in common with nature than art.
  2. Ryan Laliberty (University of Rhode Island), ‘First-Person Shooters and the Real’
    Good sound design can make or break a game. It can immerse a player, enveloping them in an interactive, realistic soundscape, or distance them through its poor implementation. Most contemporary first-person shooters strive to replicate realistic soundscapes and emulate our interactions with them – or how they would occur and sound in the “real” world, itself discursively constructed – while still featuring musical soundtracks and various alert sounds that have become tropes of video games; they strive to create immersive experiences. The relationship between sound design and immersive auditory experience is not a simple linear transfer; it exists in a web of complex relations – historical, cultural, and perceptual – between technology and player. Sensory regimes do not exist in vacuums. Thus, in audiovisually realistic video games, sound cannot be studied as just another narrative element, as it often has been. This paper approaches FPS game sound at the intersection between culture/history, the body, and technology. To understand how sound functions in video games, one must interrogate not only what is heard, but, to use the language of Jonathan Sterne, why, how, by whom, for whom, and through what means? Fundamentally, the focus has been on what these games afford in attempting to structure immersive aural user experiences, and how these affordances are tied inextricably, in a process of mutual influence, to the material history of audio reproduction technologies in game development, as well as to the aesthetics of realism as found in previous media, like war cinema.
  3. Andra Ivanescu (Anglia Ruskin University), ‘Torched Song: The Hyperreal and the Music of La Noire’
    Film noir is a genre that is essentially conflicted: not only does it have both love and death at its essence, but it is also a story about impending failure enveloped in style, beauty and smoke. This contradictory core is also reflected in a number of ways in one of the most prominent noir games of recent years, the appropriately titled LA Noire (Team Bondi and Rockstar Games, 2011). Not only does the narrative follow similar (if not identical) patterns, but the seemingly open world contradicts the linear narrative and, while the gameworld is firmly rooted in a meticulously researched historical past, it is also heavily stylized and it adopts numerous film noir tropes. This is also reflected in the music of the game: along with the original soundtrack composed by Andrew and Simon Hale and the torch songs written by The Real Tuesday Weld and performed by Claudia Bruken, borrowed music helps place the game both in a particular place and time and in a particular genre. This paper will explore the multiple roles and functions that music plays in LA Noire, including as a temporal signifier and as a reflection of the themes and tropes of film noir. Moreover, it will analyse how the selection of appropriated music relates to Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreal, in that it is both a reflection of real music history and the film noir genre.
  4. Richard Stevens and Dave Raybould (Leeds Metropolitan University), ‘Keeping it Unreal: Authenticity and Fidelity in the Military FPS’
    Most gamers do not have direct experience of war so their expectations are formed through exposure to news media, film and documentary, or YouTube footage. In this paper we’ll discuss how some military based first person shooter games, such as Battlefield (Electronic Arts) aim to heighten player’s narrative and sensory immersion by evoking the distortions and fidelity of different recording or transmission mediums in an attempt to make the audio appear more ‘authentic’ or ‘real’. We will examine the degree to which the military first person shooter could be said to present a simulated soundscape, and how the lower fidelity typically associated with ‘authentic’ media can sometime conflict with the aims of emotion induction and with other Ludic functions of the audio such as orientation. In conclusions the paper will also describe how some notions of authenticity might derive from the medium of games itself.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Address by composer Richard Jacques
Classically trained from a young age at the Royal Academy of Music in London with an extensive repertoire in multiple music genres, Richard Jacques is an award-winning composer for video games, film and television whose scoring credits include both critically acclaimed and blockbuster franchises such as James Bond 007: Blood Stone (Activision), Mass Effect (BioWare), Alice in Wonderland (Disney), Headhunter (Amuze/Sega) and Starship Troopers (Empire/Sony Pictures). He is internationally recognized as one of the A-list composers in interactive entertainment, described by PLAY Magazine (US) as “One of the truly distinctive music composers in the industry today.” Excelling in cinematic scoring Jacques was the first composer to secure a major budget for a live symphony orchestra in a video game soundtrack (Headhunter), the first to record a live orchestra for a Sony PSP handheld title (Pursuit Force), the first to have his music featured in art exhibitions as well as live concerts in Japan, Europe and North America (“Games Convention” concert series & “Video Games Live” world tour), and the first Western composer to have his game scores released commercially in Japan, Europe and North America. Working closely with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and Performing Right Society for Music (PRS), Richard Jacques was the primary driving force behind the addition of a new category, “Best Original Video Game Score” at the 2010 Ivor Novello Awards. A leading and respected authority in his field, he is also a prominent speaker at high profile industry events hosted by the Audio Engineering Society, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Develop Conference, MIDEM Music For Images, Game Developers Conference and TIGA’s “Games Meet Film” at Pinewood Studios.
13:00­–14:00 Lunch
Mitre Theatre
Address by composer James Hannigan
James Hannigan is a BAFTA Award winner and five-time BAFTA Original Music nominee. His many credits include entries in the Harry Potter, Command and Conquer, The Lord of the Rings, EA Sports, Theme Park and Warhammer game series and television series such as BBC America’s Primeval. Among James’s other credits are Dead Space 3, Transformers Universe, RuneScape, Freelancer, Red Alert 3, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, Evil Genius (BAFTA Nomination, Original Music, 2004), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (VG), BBC R4’s Neverwhere , Art AcademySim Coaster / Theme Park Inc., Sim Theme Park / Theme Park World (BAFTA Award, Audio; BAFTA Nomination, Original Music, 2000), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2, Brute Force, Republic: The Revolution (BAFTA Nomination, Original Music, 2003), Command and Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, Conquest: Frontier Wars, Privateer: The Darkening, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (VG; International Film Music Critics Association [IFMCA] Award; BAFTA Nomination, Original Music, 2009), various entries in the FIFA, F1 Grand Prix and Space Hulk series, Film/TV tie-ins such as Catwoman, Reign of Fire and many others. James is also co-founder of newly formed Game Music Connect with composer and industry commentator John Broomhall, and is Director of Game Art Connect.
Mitre Theatre
Roundtable with Richard Jacques, James Hannigan, and Stephen Baysted
StephenBaysted is Reader in Film Composition at Chichester. His passion for music began during his school years in London, singing and recording with the internationally acclaimed Wandsworth School Boys Choir and playing clarinet and bass clarinet in the London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra and London YouthSinfonietta.Stephen’s music education continued at Southampton University where he gained BA (Hons.) and MMus degrees in Music. He was a visiting research student in the Departments of Music and Philosophy at the Université de Rouen in France and was awarded a PhD in 2002 from Dartington College of Arts for a thesis entitled From le cri de la nature to Pygmalion: a study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy of music and aesthetic and reform of opera. Stephen’s practice based research is focussed on composition for the moving image, especially Film, Video Games, and Television.  Over the past decade he has composed music scores and designed sound for a string of award winning computer games and films. Recent works include the unique hybrid score for Electronic Arts’ AAA game Shift 2: Unleashed; EA’s Need for Speed: Shift; Atari’s Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends; Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Assault;’s World of Speed; the physiological feature drama Strange Factories directed by John Harrigan; and Life Lines – an international award-winning documentary.  Stephen has composed the music for cinema, television and radio advertisements, including high profile campaigns for Budweiser, McDonalds and Pizza Hut and writes for many leading music libraries. Stephen’s work has been nominated for two Motion Picture Sound Editors ‘Golden Reel’ Awards (Los Angeles), three Game Audio Network Guild Awards (San Francisco), and in 2011, Life Lines was judged ‘Best Foreign Film’ in Hollywood’s prestigious Action/Cut awards.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Session 2: Dynamic Music and Interactions

  1. Enongo A. Lumumba-Kasongo (Cornell University), ‘Papa Sangre and the Construction of Immersion’
    Immersion is a problem that lies at the heart of sound studies. As Frances Dyson (2009) suggests in Sounding New Media, “Sound is the immersive medium par excellence. Three dimensional, interactive and synesthetic, perceived in the here and now of an embodied space, sound returns to the listener the very same qualities that media mediates…Sound surrounds.” In the context of games studies, a field that is increasingly engaged with sound studies, issues of sound and immersion have most recently been addressed in terms of instrumental potentialities, historical developments, and technical constraints.While this research helps us to consider how sound creates new immersive virtual environments, it fails to address the ways in which immersion is itself a construct in game design. How do those who develop these games construct the idea of immersion through their design and marketing imperatives and what does this mean for users whose existence rejects this construct?Drawing on research from an eight-week study I conducted on the popular audiogame Papa Sangre, this paper will challenge Dyson’s claim that sound is necessarily “the immersive medium par excellence.” A careful exploration of Papa Sangre reveals the ways in which its employment of ableist language and gendered audio cues directly contradicts the developers’ framing of immersion as being universally experienced in the game, which in turn sheds light on the embedded assumptions regarding Papa Sangre’s imagined audience of sighted male gamers. Ultimately my research suggests that without thoughtful consideration on the part of game developers, the use of sound as a primary form of feedback, for all its celebrated promise as a feature in the future of immersive gaming, may simply replicate limited representations of characters and experiences that plague other popular forms of entertainment media.
  2. Joshua Rayman, ‘Interactive Music and the Strategy Genre’
    While strategy games and other related simulation-style games  involve extended periods of player engagement, the music that is included is often a good example of the type of repetition that is commonly criticised.With slow evolving gameplay, it is an ideal candidate to explore interactive music. These games culminate in a variety of ways – in fighting a battle with an opponent; through the achievement of set tasks; or even no conclusion, seen in perpetual/continuous gameplay modes – so there isn’t a traditional narrative in the same sense as a story-driven title.However, these titles are often heavily statistical, with many metrics that can be used to interpret the game progress, as well as traditional markers such as battle events or other similar triggers which can be utilised by composers to direct a music system to react to the game in progress.Using the open-source game 0.A.D. to demonstrate a basic system of dynamic music in a real-time strategy, data is used in real-time to control a composition written in Pure Data, and provides a interface which can be utilised by other composers in a straight-forward manner to create their own works based on the same data.
  3. Keith Hennigan, ‘Bringing Dynamic Music Out of the Game’
    In recent years there has been a growing trend towards engagement and interactivity with the audience across the arts, asking viewers and listeners to actively take a role in participatory works. Interactivity in live performances, installations or other works is both easily applied and readily found; yet interactive recorded works are few and far between, perhaps due to the nature of audio recordings as fixed, immutable objects. When looking for examples of truly adaptive and interactive music recordings which have been created to date, only one genre stands out as consistently pursuing and developing the tools and systems necessary to create such works: video game music.
    This paper gives a brief overview of existing implementations of dynamic popular music recordings, and sets out what such works might hope to achieve. The existing tools which exist for dynamic audio in video games offer enormous potential for the development of standalone musical works; by separating control of musical structures and parameters from the visual, narrative and ludic elements of a game, and replacing with a simple user interface, simple programs which offer dynamic control over recorded music can be created. One such program is demonstrated here in prototype, and the possibilities for further development are discussed.
Drinks Reception Sponsored by The Soundtrack (Intellect Journals)
El Castizo
Conference dinner at El Castizo tapas restaurant
24 St Pancras, Chichester, PO19 7LT. Walking time: 15–20 mins. A delegation will leave the campus together.

Day 2: Friday 11th April

Mitre Theatre
Session 3: Video Game Music and Popular Music Traditions

  1. Daniel Murdoch, ‘On Several Levels: The Music and Sound of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)’
    This paper investigates the relationship between film and game music through an analysis of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). The film’s unique score draws on music suitable for, and sometimes literally found in, games. Sound effects and music cues annotate stylized visuals to represent an experience akin to playing video games. I will examine: how the film replicates a ‘game environment,’ what impact these alien qualities have on the film, and how a better understanding of this relationship might effect our analysis of game music as a whole.
  2. Martin Roberts (Derby University), ‘Hacking the Planet: Chipmusic Scenes, Transnational Networks’
    Almost from its inception, videogame music began to escape the confines of videogames themselves, leading to the emergence in the 1990s of subcultures organised around the production of “demos” and “chipmusic” (generated from the sound chips of vintage gaming consoles). Over the past decade, however, chipmusic in particular has exploded into a proliferating network of scenes around the globe, which position themselves in opposition to commercial forms of electronic dance music. In spite of this, studies of chipmusic to date have remained few and far between, and have focused on digital technologies and performance rather than the music’s social dimension. Taking as its starting-point Malcolm McLaren’s notorious embrace of it as the new punk, this paper investigates chipmusic as a global subculture, considering both its DIY aesthetics and its relationship to punk and subcultures more generally. Drawing on the author’s observation over the past two years of chipmusic scenes in Tokyo, New York, and the U.K., and interviews with some of its leading proponents, it approaches chipmusic as a case study in the increasing role of digital technologies as a focus for subcultural practices, as well as the increasingly global dimension of subcultural identities in the contemporary world.
  3. Robert Sanchez, ‘Influence of Video Game Music on Original Popular Music Bands’
    The purpose of this paper is to present how bands such as Anamanaguchi, The Protomen, and Cinemechanica are inspired and influenced by the music of video games. This paper will not include cover bands.Throughout the early 2000s, a new genre of popular music emerged: ‘video game music’ (outside of video games). Over time, the video game music community had split into subgroups, primarily ‘video game bands’ and ‘chiptune artists’ (the art of hacking a NES, Gameboy or using a circuit board to reproduce the exact sounds of an 8-bit video game). The use of ‘chiptunes’ (different soundwaves such as square, triangle, sawtooth, etc.), looping, white noise, basic percussion, and heavy use of fast arpeggiated chords are just some examples of what influenced these modern bands.Since research on video game music has only been conducted sparsely (e.g., Collins 2007, Boss 2012, Moormann 2012), this presentation will provide further details and an analysis of the compositional devices and techniques of video game music in the context of well-known games such as Super Mario Bros & The Legend of Zelda (composed by Koji Kondo). The presentation will then exemplify how similar compositional devices and techniques are used by ‘video game bands’. This analytical approach will be supported by comments made by band members about the influence of video game music on their original music.
  4. Michael Austin (Howard University), ‘From Mixtapes to Social Games: Gamifying the Music Playlist’
    In the late twentieth-century, the mixtape was a popular way in which hip-hop DJs and fans shared their taste in music with others in their social network; the author of a mixtape would record a compilation of music onto a cassette tape (or later CD), and presented this playlist as a curated, thematic listening experience for the recipient. Since then, the mixtape has moved beyond tangible recording media to online peer-to-peer file sharing services (such as Napster) and shared, user-curated playlists on commercial music streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. In recent years, these playlists have been gamified. Elements of competition, achievement, and self-expression have been added to curated listening experiences in games such as Song Pop, Bopler Games, Turntable FM, and The Sixty One (among many others) wherein players create in-game musical playlists, share these playlists with others, challenge other players to quiz games about songs in their favourite genre, etc.
    Viewing social music games as transmutations of the mixtape, I will discuss ways in which these games are emerging as vehicles of self-expression and taste sharing by examining the various degrees and methods of curatorial control afforded to players regarding the selection and sharing of musical content in gameplay.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Keynote Address 1: William Cheng (Harvard University), ‘Fake-Bit Fantasies’
William Cheng is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. His current research deals with aspects of digital games, social media, sound studies, performance, cultural politics, disability, queerness, and the historiography of musical technology. His first book, Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination has recently been published by Oxford University Press. It explores how gamers, composers, and developers creatively play with music, noise, speech, silence, and other audio phenomena via digital games. Additionally, it interrogates the perceived soundness of play, the oft-remarked sense of safety, impunity, and distance that individuals ostensibly experience in online and virtual settings. Liberties taken in and with games, I suggest, may ultimately teach us some profound things about what music is or isn’t, how it works, what it can do, and why and to whom these questions should matter in wider social, cultural, and intellectual contexts.
He is working on a monograph titled Misrule in Meritopia: Music, Power, Privilege and an edited volume called Ivory Tower Blues: Vox Populi and Critical Inquiry. Both books grapple with issues of privilege, rights, inequality, dis/ability, labor, social mobility, and accelerated collisions of discursive registers (say, of Internet trolls vs. academics) in the 20th and 21st centuries. Together, these projects contemplate not just how we value aesthetic and embodied capital (metrics & rubrics), but why (motives & incentives).  Case studies span experimental music, abstract art, street theater, blind auditions, horror media, reality television, deviant rhetoric, music-sim video games, YouTube celebrity, and more.
13:00­–14:30 Lunch
14:00 – 14:30 Closed Meeting (Invite Only) (E123)
Mitre Theatre
Session 4: Questions of Discipline

  1. Isabella van Elferen (Kingston University, London), ‘Ludomusicology and The New Drastic’
    This paper proposes a New Drastic Musicology based on the ludomusical premises of play, multimediality, and interactivity. Ludomusicology offers the exciting perspective of going beyond even the pioneering historical and technological overviews, case studies, and explorations of genre conventions that the study of game music has produced over the last decade. It necessitates innovations in three levels: (1) musical analysis, (2) musicological research themes and (3) musicological critical theory.(1)        Ludomusicology revolutionises the score analysis that musicologists have employed since the late nineteenth century. Since the concept of a score is obsolete in game music, ludomusicology must, rather, analyse the factors cooperating in the musical underlining of game plot and gameplay. I identify these as musical affect (connotation and identification), musical literacy (habituated signification), and musical interaction (play).(2)        The integration of these three factors into musical analysis leads to the genesis of entirely new musicological research fields. How does musical literacy in games relate to that in other multimedial genres? How does musical play in games relate to music-historical notions of play and performance?(3)        These new research questions, finally, evoke meta-critical reflections. Ludomusicology, with its pervasive attention to multimedial and interactive performativity, necessitates a rethinking of Abbate’s notion of “drastic” musicology.Ludomusicology can alter an entire discipline. Innovating the discipline on the levels of object analysis, research themes as well as critical reflection, ludomusicology can engender “The New Drastic”.
  2. Jonathan Herrick (Nottingham University), ‘Breaking Mario: Hardware and Software Indeterminacy in the Audio Canon’
    In 2006 Henry Lowood submitted a proposal for the Library of Congress to begin a project preserving aspects of videogame culture. Over the last seven years the collection has amassed over three thousand titles. There is a clear desire amongst many gamers to preserve and maintain an archive of videogames. However, the question of what is worthy of preservation is fraught with many aesthetic and technical issues.The problem with deciding what should be entered into this (or any other) canon of preservation is marred by the indeterminacies that surround the field of videogame studies. For a potential canon that is useful for the ludomusicologist, we must be willing to work alongside these issues of indeterminacy.Before forming a canon it is necessary to highlight some of the issues surrounding how the feasibility of a canon of videogame audio can be upset by an array of hardware and software indeterminacies. In addition to planned instances of reactive and adaptive techniques, it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of glitches, bugs and hardware restraints that challenge the idea of a soundtrack’s inclusion into a potential canon. This paper will explore the possibilities and limitations in extending ideas of the canon to the context of videogames, focusing on these particular issues of hardware and software indeterminacies.
  3. Jon Bash, ‘Pioneers on the Ludomusical Frontier: Electroacoustic Music and Spectromorphology in Video Games’
    Games like Silent Hill (Team Silent 1999), January (Disasterpeace 2010), and Limbo (Playdead 2010) have music and sound design that are closely intertwined through gameplay. Their use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound (and the blurring of that line) is calculated to create a sense of otherworldliness. Their soundtracks are practically compelling enough to stand on their own as electroacoustic compositions, and when analyzed as such and removed from their respective games, they can be studied from a spectromorphological standpoint to reveal a utilization of common electroacoustic tropes. This analysis can be extended to gameplay, which makes the game into a sort of ludomusical sound-art installation and the player into both performer and audience. In the future, composers and game developers aware of this interaction can utilize spectromorphological composition and analysis to bring a new level of artistry to video games. This paper explores the interaction between electroacoustic tropes in video game scores, sound design, and gameplay, and how that interaction is and can further be exploited.
  4. Tim Summers (University of Oxford), ‘Canon Recoil: Value Systems in Video Game Music’
    What value systems are in play in the domain of video game music? What categories of value do players use when they discuss games, and how does academia replicate or subvert these same criteria?The paper begins by asking if game music has begun to build a canon, and if this is problematic or not? I will discuss how academic literature on video game music is creating a canon of game music, and what (if anything) can and should be done about this. I am particularly concerned with the relationship between academic discussion of game music and the broader academic traditions in which this study sits.To interrogate some of the value systems in play with this canon, I consider some examples of what have been received as ‘bad’ pieces of game music (and the categories in which they are seen to be deficient). Would creating an anti-canon of game music help, or simply exacerbate the issues? Secondly, I engage in a reception analysis of the music of Advent Rising (GlyphX Games/Majesco, 2005) through surveying reviews of the game, in order to reveal some of the categories that are used to create value judgments by those who play and write about games.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Interview and Q&A with Winifred Phillips (via Skype)
Winifred Phillips is a composer for video games, television, radio and film. She is a winner of the Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, a two-time winner of the Hollywood Music in Media Award, and the winner of several Game Audio Network Guild awards, including Music of the Year. Winifred’s book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, was published by MIT Press this year.  The book offers a practical guide that leads an aspiring video game composer from acquiring the necessary creative skills to understanding the function of music in games to finding work in the field.
Winifred composed the music for Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, which won a Global Music Award, a Hollywood Music in Media Award, a Game Audio Network Guild Award and a GameFocus Award. Previously, Winifred composed the music for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – The Videogame from Warner Bros. Winifred’s music from the Legend of the Guardians videogame won a Hollywood Music in Media Award. It was also an IFMCA Award finalist in the category of “Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media” from the International Film Music Critics Association. Winifred’s other videogame credits include God of War, a smash-hit action-adventure game released by Sony Computer Entertainment America. For her work on this game, Winifred received an Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition). The music she wrote for God of War also received four Game Audio Network Guild Awards, including “Music of the Year”. Winifred’s music for Shrek the Third was nominated for a Game Audio Network Guild award, and for Speed Racer, she was a Hollywood Music Awards finalist. For Spore Hero, Winifred Phillips was named an International Film Music Critics Award finalist. In addition, Winifred is a New York Festivals WorldMedalist, and has been honored by the NFCB Golden Reel Awards and the Audio Publishers Association Awards. For the past five years Winifred has served as a nominating committee panelist for the Best Original Score category of the Interactive Achievement Awards, presented by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.
Buffet Dinner
Music Room
Ludomusicology ‘Pub Quiz’ (Refreshments Available)
Optional BBC Radiophonic Workshop Concert at The Showroom (Separate Event)

Day 3: Saturday 12th April

Mitre Theatre
Session 5: Melodies, Songs and Motifs

  1. Mark Sweeney (Oxford University), ‘Songs of Skyrim: Diegetic Folk Music and Identity in The Elder Scrolls V’
    In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks, 2011), players may obtain an in-game book entitled Songs of Skyrim (‘Compiled by Giraud Gemaine, Historian of the Bards College, Solitude’). The book contains the lyrics to several popular songs that can be heard performed by various bards in the taverns around Skyrim. Focussing primarily on three songs from the book—‘Ragnar The Red’, ‘The Dragonborn Comes’, and ‘The Age of Oppression/Aggression’—this paper will investigate how music helps to create a sense of a Nordic saga—the ultimate aesthetic aim of the game. By making detailed comparisons with real-world folk songs, several specific musical features are identified that help to situate the player within a fantasy world that they can relate to. Furthermore, whilst all these songs reflect certain musical traditions of the Nords, the differences between them also help to locate the authors/singers within the unique political landscape of the game’s unfolding narrative.
  2. Andrew Fisher (Texas State University), ‘Hidden Secrets of Kazumi Totaka: Totaka’s Song and its Variations Analyzed’
    Kazumi Totaka, while being a renowned composer inside Nintendo, has not received scholarly attention. Although Totaka’s music is well known to anyone playing Nintendo games, not much is known about him. It should come as no surprise then that his hidden 19-note melody, dubbed “Totaka’s Song”, is equally insufficiently recognized. “Totaka’s Song” is an ‘Easter Egg’ that is hidden in video games and sounds only at specific places in a game after a waiting period or after a particular action the gamer has to complete. Most of the occurrences of “Totaka’s Song” are generally known, and one can find YouTube videos of these occurrences, but the song has not been analyzed, nor have its variations been compared in the contexts of the games. This paper will present a transcription of Totaka’s Song (original) and an analysis, considering the original 8-bit video game music technology. Furthermore, transcriptions of several variations will be presented and their differences discussed in the context of the games and its changing technology. Finally, some of the speculated appearances of “Totaka’s Song” will be analyzed. A catalog of “Totaka’s Song” will be presented that reflects the changing of music and technology over time.
  3. Rodrigo Gil Berná, ‘Under the Influence of Loop’
    In the short history of academic analysis of videogames, we find that the functions of music have been relegated to second place behind the musings of ‘narratologist’ and ‘gameologists’. Nevertheless, some articles do exist which examine the function of music. These observe that music serves to immerse the player in the game, helping to guide his emotional response as well as his actions, thus becoming an integral part of the videogame experience. Despite this progress, music’s possibilities of providing meaning have so far not been researched working from the context in which it occurs, from its very nature as continuous repetition or ‘loop.’ Unlike other audiovisual media, such as cinema, music in the videogame is not synchronised to image, but is rather a somewhat repetitive element in the majority of videogames. This paper aims to examine how loop music determines its capacity for meaning. We shall see how it is linked to the action on the screen (also mechanical and repetitive), and we shall suggest that music provides temporality to the action of the game. To do so, we shall analyse several genres, e.g. platforms and RPGs, and investigate their differences, such as the use of music as spatial characterization, or the resort to structural uses—typical of RPGs—which, under the influence of cinema, attempt to overcome the limitations of the loop. To conclude, we shall look at those videogames that attempt to obviate the loop element by modifying game structure, as seen in the so-called rhythmic videogames.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Keynote Address 2: Kevin Donnelly (Southampton University), ‘Play is Purposeless Art: Theorizing Video Game Music’
Kevin Donnelly is a historian and theorist of film music and film sound. He is a Reader in Film at the University of Southampton. He attended the University of East Anglia and the University of Cardiff. He taught at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Staffordshire University and the University of East Anglia before joining the University of Southampton as Reader in Film Studies in 2007. His doctoral thesis concerned the relationship of popular music and British cinema since 1960.
Kevin is the author of Occult Aesthetics: Sound and Image Synchronization (Oxford University Press, 2012), British Film Music and Film Musicals (Palgrave, 2007), The Spectre of Sound (British Film Institute, 2005) and Pop Music in British Cinema (British Film Institute, 2001); and editor of Film Music: Critical Approaches (Edinburgh University Press, 2001) and co-editor (with Phil Hayward) of Music in Science Fiction Television: Tuning to the Future (Routledge, 2012). He has recently co-edited a book on video game music, called Music in Video Games: Studying Play (Routledge, 2014). He is the editor of the ‘Music and the Moving Image’ book series for Edinburgh University Press and am on the editorial board of the journals Music and the Moving Image, the Journal of Film Music, Music, Sound and the Moving Image, and The New Soundtrack.
13:00­–14:00 Lunch
Open Discussion: What Would a Game Music/Sound Journal Look Like? (All welcome)
Mitre Theatre
Session 6: Geographies, Real and Virtual

  1. Iain Hart (University of Sydney), ‘Massively Multi-Musical: The Diverse Musical Experience of EVE Online’ (via Skype)
    EVE Online (CCP Games, 2003–) is one of the largest and longest-running massively multiplayer online (MMO) video games currently in existence. Its subscriber base exceeds 500,000 accounts, with a regular online player count between 20,000 and 50,000. It is set in space in the distant future, and employs a unique server configuration that allows all its players to interact within the same game universe. Gameplay foci include warfare, exploration, commerce and piracy, and players may engage in multiple in-game enterprises, as a solitary player and/or as part of a much larger corporation or faction of players. EVE Online players can also interact with the players of DUST 514 (CCP Games, 2013–), an MMO first-person shooter (FPS) set planet-side in the same game universe. Consequently, the gameplay experiences and cultures related to EVE Online are both global and diverse, with this diversity reflected in EVE Online’s musical experiences.
    This paper discusses a broad range of music related to EVE Online, including the in-game score, the game’s title themes, the player’s options of musical silence or non-game music to accompany gameplay, player-run internet radio stations, player-published internet video, developer-published internet video, the music of DUST 514, and the use of EVE Online’s music outside of the game context. These examinations, though necessarily brief, illustrate the diversity possible in the musical experiences of MMOs (together with video games in general), and further elucidate the complex and fluid associations between game and music in a variety of contexts.
  2. Dana M. Plank-Blasko, ‘“From Russia with Fun!”: Tetris and the Ludic Soviet’
    2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Alexei Pajitnov’s puzzle game Tetris. The simple, addictive interface created an instant sensation upon its 1989 U.S. release. The anniversary thus represents a convenient occasion to reexamine this 8-bit classic, now a vaunted member of the ludic canon. Reflecting anxieties about what lay behind the Iron Curtain, video games of the 1980s tended to represent Soviets as vodka-addled adversaries. Tetris was the first to present Soviet elements in a more positive light, illuminating changing U.S. attitudes at the end of the Cold War. Once Western game developers obtained marketing licenses, they emphasized the game’s origins with red packaging, images of the Kremlin, and the hammer and sickle. Russian musical selections added geographical specificity and commercial interest. The Soviet elements drew gamers’ attention, and the game’s addictive nature created habitual—even compulsive—players. Tetris afforded gamers a metaphorical connection to previously forbidden, exotic territory. The construction of a new ludic Soviet sets Tetris apart from other games of this era. By exploring Tetris’s historical narrative in a context of more hostile representations, we craft a new understanding of the game’s role in constructing a new cultural discourse situated at an important moment in U.S. history.
  3. Giulia D’Angelo, ‘Social Networks and Video Games as Collectors of Ethnicity – An Anthropology of Feeling Oneself Musical’
    Suggesting the socialization but also emphasizing the possibility of creating an autobiographical profile, social networks have a “blurred” nature. Giving the possibility of playing “like” our idols, video games create a world that sums up a long practice of learning.
    The question is always: intimacy or appearance? Web musical contents show how our musicality has been achieved through not making music, but posting music on line, sharing tastes virtually and shortening important stages of learning. Has technology reached a level in which persons don’t need to be musical thus they can rely on their idols for the quality of their appearance? The slow and patient construction of the knowledge in music is forced by the speed of socialization to a synthesis of expression: an intimacy and a musicality delegated to the art of other persons, or to a simulation of being musical (For instance: being a Guitar Hero Player/Musician) In my research I’ll show the overlap and differences between musical practices arose from western art music and musical practices sprang out from social networks and video games.
Tea & Coffee
Mitre Theatre
Session 7: Performing Games, Performing Music

  1. Gaute K. Andersen, ‘“How Fast do you Aim?”: Music in Gaming Montages — Time and the Body’
    Popular musicologists has argued that understanding dance music demands a critical reappraisal of the predominant linear and teleological models of temporality in Western society that includes a negative evaluation of musical repetition. Similarly, game studies has recently addressed temporality, however in ludomusicology, temporality only implicity surfaces, perhaps because repetition is commonly seen as an obstacle, yet implicated in any discourse on temporality. Sharing affinities with dance music, repetitive game music takes on a specific significance in the ways it frames the movements of the player through the musical polyrhythms of play — especially in instances where music can act as a social trigger for choreography. Looking to how music is employed within the player-generated montage genre, I argue that as they synthesize several gaming events into a video — aestheticizing player movement as dance — and disclose clues about how an ideal performance of a game session is envisaged. Through attending to how music structures the experience of game time and affords expressive movements, investigations into gaming choreography, planned or spontaneous, inside or outside of games, can shed light on music’s role in the temporality and corporeality of gaming.
  2. Daniel O’Meara (Princeton University), ‘Uncovering Implicit Music Theories in Rocksmith
    At the peak of its franchise, Guitar Hero III sold over sixteen million copies. Since 2008, however, sales of music games like Guitar Hero have plummeted. For some, this failure emerged from an implied comparison to “real” musicianship. Given rock’s persistent ideologies of authenticity, the game’s “fake” guitar controller eventually encouraged a turn away from the genre.Recent games like Rocksmith bridge this gap by marketing themselves as “authentic guitar games” where players “plug in any real guitar.” Combining an explicit pedagogical aim with an aesthetic akin to Guitar Hero, Rocksmith presents players with songs, lessons, and mini-games encouraged to develop techniques like fretboard navigation and harmonics. Crucial to its instructional purpose is Rocksmith’s dynamic difficulty system, which continually adjusts the musical texture based on the player’s accuracy. Simultaneously, Rocksmith seeks to appeal to experienced guitar players by “gamifying” instrumental practice.Rocksmith’s adaptive difficulty embeds an implicit tonal hierarchy; certain notes are regarded as essential at every level, while others appear only at higher difficulties. In order to designate what notes make up each of the difficulty levels, gamemakers integrate pitch and rhythm alongside gestural considerations. I suggest that Rocksmith’s ontological tension between game and teacher shapes its music-theoretical underpinnings.
17:30 Concluding Thoughts, Conference Disbands

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