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Patrick Burns

Give your thoughts -- help me study

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Hello, everyone. I'm doing a little ethnographic survey, and I think some of you guys might be able to help me out. Just follow the directions below if you're interested.

Step 1: Don't scroll down to see other people's responses before you respond. Just read these steps and give it a shot.

Step 2: Choose/download ONE song from the following list -- from a game that you know very well (you may listen to as many as you want, but choose one):

(If you don't see a game you're really familiar with, you can choose your own song if you wish.)

Step 3: Listen through that track. (Obvious, but it needs to be said.)

Step 4: Now you're going to write a little bit about the clip you chose. You're going to write three different short paragraphs (try to keep it somewhere around 60 words per paragraph, give or take a tablespoon -- but if you want to write less or more, go for it). Each paragraph will have a different reader in mind:

1) one will be directed towards another big fan of the game

2) another will be directed at a typical person in the game music community (someone familiar with the sights, sounds, and people of game music)

3) the last will be directed at someone who is unfamiliar with anything game music related

Now here's what I want you to write. (This is going to be a really vague prompt, but do your best.) In each paragraph, write in order to give that listener a sense of the track before they hear it, as if you're about to play it for them. Write as if you're talking to them; you're not going to be singing the track. Describe whatever you think they will hear, whatever will be the most prominent or immediate things happening for them, be they feelings/sounds/thoughts/images/notes/associations/ or anything. You want them to feel as little surprise, if you will, about the track as possible, based on your sense of the situation. Basically, translate their experience into words before they hear it. Obviously, there's a hundred ways people could approach this; just chose what seems natural to you.

I know this is vague, but I can't provide a writing sample without affecting what you would think to do naturally. I can't casually list possible approaches without affecting your response. There's no specific right way to do this.

*****

Some thoughts:

• I know we can't begin to encapsulate what music does to us in 60 or even a hundred thousand words. Just do your best.

• If the precise name of the clip or its location in-game does not immediately occur to you, don't worry, and don't rack your brain trying to conjure it. Just follow the prompt.

• Your goal is NOT to provide for them a context or a "way inside" the piece; you're just trying to prepare them for what they're about to experience based on your sense of the track and your sense of what they'll sense. Imagine their experience; don't set out to shape it.

• There's no need to artificially contrast your three descriptions; if you think two or all three groups will experience it similarly, write just that.

• Someone asked, "if they're a fan of the game, won't they be unsurprised completely by the track?" Maybe surprise is too strong a word, but imagine how you felt, as a fan of the game, hearing that specific unnamed track from the game -- then imagine how that experience could have been most prepared in a short paragraph (ultimately futile, I know).

• Thanks for taking the time to do this.

- Patrick

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I'm a little confused about the guidelines. You say that we're trying to provide a sense of the track, so they feel as little surprise as possible. OK. But then you say we're not trying to provide context or a "way inside", which to me is a critical component in describing music... this seems contradictory, so could you explain it a bit more? I've re-read what you're asking several times now and I still don't understand exactly what we're writing. Examples would really help. For example, are we writing on a sort of music theory level? Something more abstract? If we are writing for someone who already knows the game, they already have no surprise, so again, I don't really get what we're supposed to be saying.

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I'm a little confused about the guidelines. You say that we're trying to provide a sense of the track, so they feel as little surprise as possible. OK. But then you say we're not trying to provide context or a "way inside", which to me is a critical component in describing music... this seems contradictory, so could you explain it a bit more? I've re-read what you're asking several times now and I still don't understand exactly what we're writing. Examples would really help. For example, are we writing on a sort of music theory level? Something more abstract? If we are writing for someone who already knows the game, they already have no surprise, so again, I don't really get what we're supposed to be saying.

Yes, the vagueness is a problem -- I'm trying to see how people respond to that. I'm not looking for a specific sort of language -- some people would interpret the need for music theory, others not.

The bit about not describing context -- what I mean is that you're trying to imagine someone's experience, not shape it.

I'll consider a better way to word that so it's less confusing. I can't put a writing example in without altering what someone would think to say on their own, without affecting the kind of language they would assume is appropriate.

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Okay, I'll give it a shot. I picked Chrono Trigger.

1) one will be directed towards another big fan of the game

It's been about 3 years since I last finished the game but I remember this sound well. I believe it was the track to go with exploring a dungeon or area and if so, I recall it giving me an uneasy feeling of what I will encounter in the next battle. Did I heal up my characters enough? Is everyone leveled up enough? Has everyone been given the right equipment? Did I miss a major weapon for Crono or Frog in the last area? I also love how this tune kept the air of the old-school RPG--simple sound yet complex in its storytelling and emotions.

2) another will be directed at a typical person in the game music community (someone familiar with the sights, sounds, and people of game music)

Did you play Chrono Trigger? It had a great shelf life; I played it on my DS when it was re-released in 2008. It was an experience like none other and this track captures it well. It's the tune that goes with you exploring an area, a forest for example. With the technology in the early 90s, this track did a great job of layering different sounds to give an air of instability yet tranquility when exploring an area.

3) the last will be directed at someone who is unfamiliar with anything game music related

If there was a game that shocked me unlike any other, it was Chrono Trigger. You spent the game traveling through different time periods to stop the end of the world. In every era, you learn something new about the grand scheme of the game, which keeps you intrigued throughout this lengthy saga. I won't give it away, but this track will give you a good idea. It's what you hear when you're exploring an area, a dark forest for example. You don't know what's coming next and you're not sure if you're prepared. You might meet a few easy enemies. You might battle a tough boss. Or you might lose some very close friends in the battle. Give it a listen!

Shot into the dark a bit there. Hope that helps.

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(Sonic Adventure)

1) This defines Sonic. Hell, this is Sonic. A fast drum track followed by a chill melody and some fanfare in the background. Truly a perfect picture of Sonic is drawn by this piece, and the light synths that pop in only further increase the chill. Seriously, gameplay with this is awesome. It gives you a sense of enrichment and depth to the character you are playing.

2) This song has an intense musical sense to it. Sonic Adventure has always stood the test of time in it's soundtrack. All the songs play so perfectly to the situation at hand, but this one specifically calls out to me. The melody keeps the song desirable to both a player and a musician. The fanfare, the pads, the guitar! It all meshes into a surf rock masterpiece, including some trumpets to really make the song feel strong and flexible! Definitely a defining track of the SA soundtrack, and a defining video game track in general.

3) Frankly, if I hadn't known this was from a video game, I could've heard it anywhere, and it would be an instant must-have track for me. It's so calm while maintaining action, it clearly shows that it was not a song made to be a game-song, it was a great song that a composer put into a game. I gotta listen to it again! The lack of vocals makes it ever-so more peaceful, like it's just you and the guitar, chillin out, having some drinks on a beach. Feel it, bro. Feel it.

Geez it feels like I'm writing an damn advertisement for the song!

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(Sonic Adventure)

*cue explaining why the song is incredable*

dude you picked my favourite song of that entire franchise, of course i'm going for sonic adventure.

ok fine ill write paragraphs

1) this song was one of the main things i heard as a sonic fan the first time sonic went 3D on his first actual stage

the style suited the level so well, on a beach where you can chill out and enjoy the views, but with enough action to give you an adrenaline rush which the sonic series ussually injects

2)well as i said the song actually really suits the level design, with it rather linear but with some different paths , really jun senoue really did well creating this track, hopefully i'll get to see him play it someday, i missed out back in 2010. as pixalpanic stated the sa soundtracks all seem to gel so well with the game design, its most likely why most sonic fans consider the games the best.

3)this song, no matter where i had heard it i would of fell in love with it, so calm and nice to listen to, its a kind of song you could listen to with the top down on a nice drive to the beach (as you probably tell i love the guitar)

Insidentally i can actually play the sitar parts on my guitar (i have trouble when the actual guitar comes in tho >.<)

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Okay, here goes nothing. Twilight Princes, Hyrule Castle theme.

1. Don't you just love the Hyrule Castle theme? The way it starts off as a soft lullaby, giving the feeling that you're entering an abandoned castle and then boom! It suddenly explodes giving an atmosphere of despair and anticipation, the death traps spring loose and the castle becomes a place where death meets you just around the corner.

2. Have you heard the Hyrule Castle theme? It's an "orchestral" song that can be heard on Hyrule Castle. It does start a bit soft and slow but as it progresses more instruments get added into the mix until you reach the climax. It's like the Ocarina of Time theme in Ganon's tower, except this one is more developed.

3. Do you like orchestral music? If so this song is something you would definately like to give a go, it has a slow tempo but it creates an amazing atmosphere of harmony and discord. Something you could use to scare your annoying little brother in the middle of the night.

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Thanks to those that have responded -- I am reading very closely, and I enjoy your responses personally, apart from my research, simply cause I love these tunes.

Since I assume anyone reading this far down has either participated or has decided not to, I can explain a little bit. One thing I'm looking at is the interaction between describing a piece of music's social/associative life -- anything it usually plays with, anything the song reminds you of -- versus attempts to objectify the music -- that is, attempts to look at the music as a product or structure in and of itself. I'm just exploring when people might tend towards one style of discourse or the other, and if given the chance -- if both forms of dialogue are available -- which one a person might choose.

As video game music fans, it's pretty cool that, for any given game, we can find a community of people who have the same powerful associations surrounding these tunes as we ourselves do. Given the chance, do we tend to favor discourses of associations instead of examining the music as a self-contained object with in-built meanings? Personally, I find that I prefer the former almost exclusively -- when I'm fortunate enough to have someone to talk to with those same powerful external meanings for the music.

Now, when we instead get into the subject of discussing music creation, then objectifying the music might start to play a more prominent role for some people. (E.g. naming its components with music theory, reconsidering its form, discussing means of production to name a few possible ways of objectifying the music.) I've left the topic of making music out of this discussion, however. (I'm thinking a little about it now, though. Similar to how a strong shared social experience of listening creates an atmosphere for talking about the music through association instead of objectification -- perhaps, similarly, a strong shared social experience of creating music [perhaps a culture where children all learn collectively and participate regularly together] also creates an atmosphere of discussing music creation through associations instead of objectification [i.e. music theory] )

Perhaps my ultimate hopeful conclusion, somewhere down the line, is that wherever you find a high usage of objectifying language for a particular kind of music (contemporary Western art music, for example), you will also find a correlating lack of shared social experience for that music for those using said language. Behind all the jargon, that's not the most groundbreaking idea, but -- it's the paper I'm trying to write.

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Chrono Trigger - Silent Light

1. This played during 600 A.D on the main map, I believe. The world is infested with those weird alien things rather than humans. (It's been a while LOL) One of the less memorable tracks in the game, most likely because it was written by Uemastu rather than Mitsuda (yeah, I think Uematsu is WAY overrated).

2. SNES chip tune with choir voices, synth bass, and high-octave piano scales in the background. Somewhat foreboding, this melody would be appropriate for a new, mysterious world that the player must now explore, and something doesn't seem quite right about it.

3. Think back to how game music used to sound, like in the Super Mario days. Lots of bleeps and bloops. Now add a bit of sophistication to it, but not so much that the music sounds real. Still synthesized, and yet is able to be a very effective mood-setter. Has an eerie sound to it, as if something has gone awry in the game, but there are no specific indicators yet. The song creates delicate suspense that never peaks and never dies.

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Step 4: Now you're going to write a little bit about the clip you chose. You're going to write three different short paragraphs (try to keep it somewhere around 60 words per paragraph, give or take a tablespoon -- but if you want to write less or more, go for it). Each paragraph will have a different reader in mind:

1) one will be directed towards another big fan of the game

You remember the creepy music they play in the church in 600 AD right before you get Frog, or in Medina (you know, the town of mystics in 1000 AD?) Yeah, with the piano runs and the simulated flute and then the choir in the background. Also, credit should go to Yasunori Mitsuda for the bass line, which is surprisingly funky and interesting. One of the more forgettable songs from what I consider the best OST in games, and that having been said, it's still pretty good.

2) another will be directed at a typical person in the game music community (someone familiar with the sights, sounds, and people of game music)

There's this track in the Chrono Trigger OST that would be easy to forget unless someone on a forum linked to it, but it's surprisingly good. It's got this great bass line which is easy to overlook because there's some really creepy synth choir and piano runs and a great flute section in it that draw your focus. Still, it's nice to hear a composer who doesn't neglect the rhythm section. Reminds me of Megaman in that respect. Mitsuda did the CT OST, and yes, he is pretty great.

3) the last will be directed at someone who is unfamiliar with anything game music related

Game music can be pretty awesome, as long as you can appreciate how music is made given the limitations of a certain instrument. This track, for instance, uses 16 bit sound (like what you would get out of a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis,) but still manages to be pretty fleshed out and distinct. There's a pretty good bass line that could be easily overshadowed by the outright creepiness of the background synth choir and then a flute and these great-sounding synth piano runs in the foreground.

• Your goal is NOT to provide for them a context or a "way inside" the piece; you're just trying to prepare them for what they're about to experience based on your sense of the track and your sense of what they'll sense. Imagine their experience; don't set out to shape it.

Yeah, I might have messed this one up a bit. Sorry. For me, so much of game music (and really most sensation) is important within the context and is usually directly linked to it. Especially when speaking to a fellow fan, the music evokes something that they and I can relate to, and I probably wouldn't talk about the piece or describe it without at least some kind of context, being as the music is generally so connected to it.

• Thanks for taking the time to do this.

- Patrick

No prob! Hope this helps! Interesting choices, btw. Why these?

P.S. Disclaimer: I also didn't try to maintain objectivity in my descriptions. There are some opinions in there, for sure. I didn't want to start a flame war, I just would have a hard time describing just about anything without a judgement call of some sort. I know, I'm a judgemental a-hole. Sorry. :wink:

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No prob! Hope this helps! Interesting choices, btw. Why these?

P.S. Disclaimer: I also didn't try to maintain objectivity in my descriptions. There are some opinions in there, for sure. I didn't want to start a flame war, I just would have a hard time describing just about anything without a judgement call of some sort. I know, I'm a judgemental a-hole. Sorry. :wink:

Well, having a specific list in which people might see something they love makes them more likely to go "hey this is for me, I'll do it." Also, I like those songs.

And I don't see anything that calls for an apology!

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I've got to pick the Kirby song, if only because the one you chose gets stuck in my head all the time.

1. If you've ever played a Kirby game, this is one of the songs that you will say "I remember that one!" as soon as you hear it. It's been used countless times in several games, but you'll probably remember from Butter Building and the Claw machine game from the first one. Like most Kirby songs, it's peppy, upbeat, and focuses a lot on memorable loops that will catch in your brain, if they haven't already.

2. This is one of my favorite NES game songs. It's from the Kirby series, so it's got an upbeat and energetic rhythm. The main loops are short but catchy, and the song switches back and forth between a straightforward first part, and an ever so slightly downbeat second part. My favorite parts are the underlying beats which play against each other.

3. This is a song from the older days of gaming, so expect that this isn't going to sound modern at all. The series of games that it comes from focuses on cute, fun locales and creatures. The music you're about to hear reflects that idea. It's happy, energetic music with a fun little beat. But if you really listen to it, you can pick out a surprising amount of depth for a song produced on limited technology.

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