The importance of videogame soundtracks to arts

This a repost from the column I wrote at Diggit Magazine, from the department of Cultural Studies at Tilburg University, here in the Netherlands. This an amazing initiative from a University, where students can write and develop their writing at a real published magazine, the articles are a bit long but are full of scientifically based information from humanities master students.

https://www.diggitmagazine.com/articles/importance-videogame-soundtracks-arts

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Videogames and their soundtracks can transpose strong  feelings and nostalgia to the players. They can put the players in a position of control that connects them with the games in such a way that the music is an essential part of the entertainment, as stated by Koji Kondo. I spent my childhood in a forest neighbourhood in north São Paulo. Videogames and music were, back then, my favourite kind of entertainment. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that all that instrumental music that I have been exposed to crafted an important part of my musical inspiration, to the point that I quite often find myself wanting to go and revisit all those songs from my childhood.

The videogame industry is one of the most important and lucrative industries of entertainment nowadays. Videogames are complex, as they simultaneously mix the visual and the auditory. They are also interactive, as they require players to have the ability to solve puzzles and problems, allowing them to develop their creativity and to expand their imagination to frontiers never wondered about before. Videogames put the players in focus when it comes to an immersion inside a world of visual, auditory, social and multimedia interaction that should not be taken for granted, as this has a big impact on society and contemporary culture.

Games can vary a lot in content and genre. They can be simulations, RPGs, strategy games, sports games, action games, or they can even be long journeys to new worlds with emotional stories that would make Tolstoy and Kubrick impressed, such as the epics of Metal Gear, by Hideo Kojima, or the Resident Evil Series by Capcom, for example. Some disciplined players can spend endless hours playing RPGs, such as Mass Effect by BioWare, Fallout 4 or Elder Scrolls, both by Bethesda. They can dedicate hours upon hours following a history, without necessarily having to finish the whole game, as readers usually do with long books.

There is an immense world of music production dedicated to videogames. Since the first games were invented, music has been an important part of this type of entertainment, as it was directly linked to the emotions and situations players are exposed to, such as having to deal with beating a difficult boss in final levels.

For gamers who spend hours and hours dedicated to solving all the puzzles they are challenged with, the soundtrack and sound design is an important factor that often goes unnoticed. The work of Koji Kondo, the composer of Super Mario’s catchy melody is a perfect example of the feeling videogame sountracks can cause players to have, even for those who only played Mario a little, it’s already part of pop culture.

The history of videogame music and that of electronic music made on computers go side by side, as the makers of first videogame soundtracks didn’t yet have the technology to use orchestras or highly developed analogic instruments, which was possible with the much more recent, orchestral, soundtrack of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The production used simple computer softwares that could be applied to the hardwares available, which helped develop an industry of music production that became more complex each time.

Electronic music is a very complex subject in terms of its history, but also how it has been created, from the first simple synthesizers and drum-machines to our well-developed MIDI platforms of Digital Audio Working Stations. It’s an endless world of bits, that mix both analogue and digital instruments. Indeed, nowadays there’s hardly a distinction between analogue and digital music anymore; all music produced by the industry will certainly have electronic features.

Everyone who dedicated part of his or her life to play any kind of videogame certainly knows its soundtracks by heart. Being exposed to Sonic the Hedgehog or to the 80s techno of Streets of Rage brings back not only emotive memories, but a sort of music entertainment that goes far beyond just playing videogame, if listened to in isolation.

Important artists are also engaged with the production of soundtracks for videogames, such as Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and the soundtrack for Quake, 1996. Some videogames use pop music, such as the famous Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Guitar Hero or Grand Theft Auto. This also allow players to experience well-known pop music while entertaining themselves with their games. Usually games associated with sports and action opt for non-licensed music, and this is for example what Fifa from Electronic Arts and Need for Speed are famous for.

Videogame soundtracks are usually a kind of non-commercial electronic or even orchestral type of music that is then turned popular. The same thing happens with cinema when the public is exposed to “non-popular music”. As an example, recently in Europe Distant World, music from Final Fantasy, is touring with an orchestra, featuring the original composer Nobuo Uematsu. The London Philharmonic Orchestra has released an album playing just classic videogame soundtracks in 2011, which debuted 23rd on the Billboard 200, the highest debut orchestral release since Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, in 2005.

Orchestras and videogames are closely connected since Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2003. Yoko Shimomura, a 48 years old Japanese composer, has even recently recorded the Final Fantasy XV soundtrack in the famous Abbey Road Studio in London, which was also used by The Beatles.

Videogames are still not considered part of the formal arts by the orthodox public and analysts of famous museums, but there are much things to be analysed when it comes to the visual, the musical, storytelling and interaction on them. Videogames can be much more than pop culture or entertainment for youngsters; they can show that the borders between what is pop and what is cult is not as simple as many can assume.

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Album Review: Four Tet – Morning (2015)

One of the best discoveries I made recently when it comes to good electronic music is this album, Morning/Evening, by Four Tet (producer Kieren Hebden), released in July 2015. I know he has been around producing good music for a long time (as it’s his eighth album), but the sample with the voice of the indian singer Lata Mangeshkar stroke me deeply. Morning side is an unconventional 20 min track that has been considered Hebden’s second greatest streaming, it’s not by coincidence that one day Spotify discovery algorithms suggested me this.

This album is a proof that electronic music has no boundaries and that the genre limitation is always possible to be corrupted with the producer’s creativity. Four Tet has been attributed as IDM, Intelligent Dance Music, very controversial. For me, I still prefer to think that electronic music, and music in general, should not be limited to a few types of genres where artists should be limited inside them, that’s why each decade more genres arise with talented artists. Genres are important, as they give ideas of how to proceed, but corrupting them shows the talent and creativity of artists.

Morning has an expansive vibe, with emotional synthesizers and drums, that can be dancing and yet evolving for mere listening at home. I would suggest listening it in the morning. As the name says by itself.

Techno Review: First Contact – Barchi

Dj and Producer Barchi’s debut single, First Contact, has an emblematic name, as it shows the first work produced by Barchi with the world of techno music. Although the name is First Contact, it shows that Barchi has large experience with minimal techno. Influenced by producers such as Boris Brejcha, this single has dancing tracks with catchy rhythms that are great for a techno Dj set. Jungle Demon welcomes the listeners with a cinematographic vibe. Great basslines that could bring this techno to a more tech-house style. Check below his Soundcloud page. He’s been DJing his tracks in São Paulo and plans new releases for the short term future. He’s also on Instagram.

Just shared on Soundcloud – Todd Terje Maskindans

Norwegian artist Terje Olsen featuring Gylne Triangel, with this amazing track, that keeps your head high while the vocals are shouting “Maskiiiindans”. The sound is very funky. Lots of synths and vocal samples with kind of industrial beat that looks like have been made by a Pocket Operator.  It’s worth listening. The single was released by Olsen Records in May, 2017.  Catchy bassline.

LPascolatti – Up Side Down. 2017

LPascolatti (also writer of this blog) ends 2017 with a new release. In order to start a new set of releases to be coming in 2018, he announces Up Side Down. This new single contains  three tracks exploring the limits of electronic music, mixing samples extracted from retro Brazilian anti-drug ads and a historic interview with cinema director Glauber Rocha. LPascolatti mixes digital and analog synths, subverting industrial techno with new beats and a more downtempo approach, with synthpop and ambient influences from the 80s and 90s.

LPascolatti is a music producer from São Paulo, Brazil and currently in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where he runs his own record label Capiroto Records and produces his songs. He has been self-releasing his indie-DIY electronic music since 2015. For 2018 he plans to explore techno, synthwave, post-rock and IDM.

YouTube:  https://youtu.be/fIiOZyfNI2A
Soundcloudhttps://soundcloud.com/lpascolatti/sets/up-side-down
Spotifygoo.gl/jhwTqC
Bandcamphttps://lpascolatti.bandcamp.com/
Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/lpascolatti/
Websitehttp://lpascolatti.com

Synths of Eden – Contemporary Prog Synthesizers

Cats and Synthesizers. credit ‘ESO/T. Preibisch’. Check more of this cute cat pictures in link http://jonasbirgersson.se/2014/12/20/caturday-cosis/
and here: https://www.instagram.com/catsonsynthesizersinspace/  

Today a new playlist was created in Spotify to share new artists and works of independent electronic music producers to share their releases. The aim of this playlist is to share indie and more mainstream, new and classic in the same space, as a way to combine popular with new independent works. The focus is on tracks with a high amount of synths and drums electronically produced, with a special touch of mindfucking prog vibes.

It is also an opportunity for new artists to submit their tracks, the playlist will be updated every week with new tracks released. It is also possible to send new submissions to synthsofeden@gmail.com

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