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« Blackwill's tempting case, stated as baldly as possible | Main | Deep Reads: "West From Appomattox" (2007) »
12:03AM

How video games may save orchestral music 

More on my continuing theme of the elevation of video games to an art from that challenges traditional Hollywood product when it comes to the allegiance of my kids.

When we travel in the car nowadays and the kids plug in their iPods, I find them shuffling more and more musical scores (far more classical than you’d expect) from favorite videogames.

Rob Garner really, really wants a set of timpani.

Garner doesn’t play the drums himself. He’s a graduate student at the University of Maryland, getting a degree in library science, and his instrument is the trumpet.  But Garner is also president of the GSO, a student-run 100-member orchestra that’s been performing several times a year since 2005.

GSO, by the way, stands for Gamer Symphony Orchestra. This group is devoted exclusively to the music of video games.  And timpani could really come in handy when performing some of the themes from the popular game Halo.

These days, a lot of people in the classical music world are worried that kids aren’t connecting with orchestral music. But the music of video games is emerging as one way orchestras may actually be reaching new audiences. It’s certainly proliferating.

Hmmm, and I was so ready to harrumph about kids today!

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Reader Comments (3)

Children are unduly influenced by music, minus the early 1990's when many teenagers rejected "old music" to embrace genres like gangster rap. Since then there has been a very progressive upswing
in music appreciation ranging from the classics to new genre. Rap and Hip Hop have also come of age as something of a force to be intertwined into the backbone of our musical culture. The shift hasn't been less in musical appreciation, but an actual increase.

I agree that video games are a part of the new medium. Video gamers have to maintain the illusion of a world, and have to be connoisseurs for various arts along with the sciences. It is the first truly synthetic merger between art and technology that has ever been created. With the rise of the MMO, this has only increased to connect with social forces.

While the FPSes and RTS led to the creation of loosely tied together "clans" which are a form of tribalism, it was the MMO that codified "clan"/tribes into "guilds" such as Afterlife and Fires of Heaven. Fires of Heaven boasts over 10 years or so 1,000 people have entered its membership in Ultima Online, Everquest, and then now World of Warcraft.

The real story behind Fires of Heaven was the rise of Alex Afrasiabi and his evolution from "Furor Planesdefiler" of Everquest fame that would lionize Everquest developer's inadequate and often rushed products and finally leaving after the release of Planes of Power expansion with its famous unfinished Plane of Time raid. To which his guild sat online until a Game Master said that the zone was incomplete. He left the game, and took his guild to World of Warcraft. Now Afrasiabi works as a developer for Blizzard, makes of World of Warcraft.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Alex_Afrasiabi

So it is not only music that's changing, but the global impact to go from disgruntled player with an ax to grind against bad production to lead world designer gives a whole new twist on the Horatio Alger stories for the internet generation. Minus of course the language of his early incarnation seen in Everquest.

August 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Longshanks

My coworkers actually play in the GSO and have seen how it bridges gaps among different cultures and generations. Maybe video games wont have us all holed-up in our houses until 3am, but rather connect us?

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Thank you very much for your mention of our group! I am a violist in GSO, and my entire family plays in it as well [my father the french horn, my mother an alto in the chorus]. I enjoy practicing all together, though rarely we compliment each other in our parts. Yet somehow, even with the three of us we make great [recognizable!] music.

GSO comes together to play for our love of video games and it's themes, but we do want to help expand the horizons on video game music as a genre. Magnificent composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Takeharu Ishimoto are changing the way gamers and non-gamers alike take to video game music. We've come a long way since the original Mario Bros. and Pacman themes.

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpecter Cross

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