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Thoughts on Games

  • Tim Lang

Music and Video Games

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

Music. We all know it. We all love it. Just like the priest in Amadeus, I studied it in my youth. And without music, most video games would suck! So I just wanted to talk a little bit about video game music and its significance in culture.

Is video game music significant? As significant as say Mozart? Maybe. if not it's getting there. When I was in high school a local school marching band played the Super Mario Brothers theme song as their field show (yes, I was a band nerd. and proud!). It was great. I loved every second of it!

A few years ago I was contacted by an old classmate of mine who was working with a local student orchestra. She asked me to be a guest judge and speaker at their concert. I jumped at the chance and was blown away. These students, most around 11-15 not only learned their favorite video game music (including Minecraft, Mario Brothers, and others) to play at the concert, but also composed their own according to some simple specifications I gave. The specifications were simple and vague. I just wanted them to think about what kind of game their music was a part of, and what sort of emotions they wanted to convey. The enthusiasm they showed was amazing. The fact that these kids were excited about classical music (even if it was from video games) was great!

I was like that when I was that age as well. I became somewhat obsessed with the music for a building game called Adventure Construction Set. It was never particularly notable for the music, but for its time, it was outstanding. Listen..

As an anecdote that I've told a million times, I wrote a variation on the fugue them for my own fugure assignment in my music theory counterpoint class (David Warhol told me that it was an assignment in his contrapuntal harmony class as well). Here is the original:

...And here is my variations on it:

Another great example of how video game music is beginning to influence our culture is the Heroes Orchestra. The Heroes Orchestra is a group of musicians from the Chech Republic that plays the music from Heroes of Might and Magic, composed by my friend Paul Romero. (who also wrote some great music for the Might and Magic series as well!) Check them out!

There's also an entire sub-genre of experimental music called 8-bit music that uses old computers, toys, and other instruments to create popular music in the 8-bit music style.

So why is this? Why is video game music having such an effect on our society? Well, it's for the same reason all music does. Music's purpose in games is to enhance the atmosphere and create emotion. As an art form, I think video games are beginning to excel at creating emotions in games in part because of the music they provide.

One of the greatest things I've had the pleasure to hear was the inclusion of video game music on the classical music stations I sometimes listen to. It won't be long before video game composers will be mentioned among the great composers of all time!

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