I'm a musician and a gamer. I also make music for games.
My favorite RPG ever is Earthbound, and my favorite song in that game is the final battle theme.
My favorite musicians are Mr. Bungle. Then Radiohead. Then Tom Waits. Jamiroquai.
I love tapioca and I hate creamed corn.
I like Taoism.
You can find my music if you google "Melodious Punk" because that's what I call myself when I'm making music.
You can catch me on PSN as snoogans775, I play Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
The Reno Video Game Symphony just threw a convention in Reno, NV. It was called GAME Expo(Games, Art, Music, and Entertainment). The event featured panelists by game designers, The Gamer Access, and a really wonderful panel by Nutritious and Flexstyle from Overclocked Remix. We ended the day with a ton of musical performances by 7 different groups playing video game music. Tears were shed and many hugs were exchanged by people dressed in incredible costumes.
This event was incredibly fun to organize, and I think this project could really expand next year to bring out the West Coast video game music community. If you're on the West Coast, what would you want from an event like this?
(This is a blog reposted from my page "The Tao of Video Games", a blog focused on the interaction between video games and the mind)
A wonderful article appeared on Gamasutra detailing the life and unfortunate death of Ryu Umemoto. He is held in high regard among Japanese video game composers, and I was very intrigued by some of the connections between Umemoto's work and his practice of Zen Buddhism. Umemoto was using the rhythms of Buddhist breathing techniques and the visual composition of Zen temples in his music, which is a fantastic example of the fundamental connections between the art of programming and Zen practice.
Composing music for video games in the late 80's and early 90's was the work of programmers. The workloads were enormous, but the music was being used in video games, so the composers were able to reach a potentially huge audience. Like Yuzo Koshiro's Streets of Rage, Umemoto's sound is from a time when game music was composed by people that needed a subtlety of control earned from a deep understanding of the digital processes generating every sound in their music. This also meant that music programming was slow and tedious, but it was taking part in a worldwide explosion of new inventions in electronic music. Video game companies are notorious for insanely long hours and pressured deadlines, but the industry was exploding at this time, and the audience was growing rapidly. Umemoto was said to have adapted Zen into his life as a response to the extraordinary stress of his production schedule, and it seems his expression was deeply tied to his Buddhist practice. I thank him deeply for his sacrifices, and I feel empowered by the quality of his work under these circumstances. It is easy to see why Zen would be so appealing to Umemoto in these grueling years.
It was also moving for me to learn that Umemoto played a substantial role in improving the artistic standard for erotic games. While "ero-ge" had no obvious need for well-layered narrative and carefully produced art, the teams which employed Umemoto sought to make games that had great stories paired with some steamy bonin', Umemoto and his collaborators lent their talents towards nuanced and heartfelt storytelling in their erotic work. Umemoto's particular school of Zen Buddhism has a very complex relationship with issues of sexuality, and many Japanese Buddhists have appealed to me through their openness to sexuality and eroticism. Umemoto's eroge soundtracks possess a sensuality that goes far deeper than the skin, and I am more interested than ever before to play some of the games he worked on.
Yesterday, the Reno Video Game Symphony performed a concert. As director, I have overseen the members of this group spontaneously create new ensembles before, but it is always magical to see how quickly and efficiently veteran and noob musicians can whip things together when given an opportunity.
Without further ado, our latest cabal...the Jazz Ensemble! A little rough around the edges, but tons of heart.
I enjoyed the opportunity of being in the audience, and it got me thinking about what is special about video game music performances. My favorite shows are intimate, and very few performers int he world today are capable of creating real intimacy with a large crowd. It is special when you get to be in a small room with musicians that have put a lot of themselves into music, no matter how technically excellent the music is performed. I think concerts are all about human connection, and I am always ecstatic when I get to see all the rehearsal required to make a concert turn into real feelings for a group of people in a room together. When it's all created by a bunch of people that I personally mentor and motivate, it just gets me all puppy-eyed.
Why have I been thinking about Marble Madness so much lately, you ask?
Maybe it's the recent video from the Game Developers Conference by Mark Cerny, the creator of Marble Madness. Maybe it's my desire to find new music to arrange for the Reno Video Game Symphony. It may be that I only had the opportunity to play this game on the NES, and I have never had the pleasure of using the Atari arcade cabinet.
Whatever it is, I think it's time we all took a moment with Marble Madness.
I liked this game to such a maddening state that I stole it from my elementary school. Our teacher was so amazing that she put an NES in the room as a reward for students that finished their work, and one day I swiped it. I would like to apologize to the future children that went through that classroom, deprived of this gem as they felt an unplaceable emptiness int heir hearts. It is a fantastically fun game.
But the most lasting effect of this game on me is the music. In 1984, the Yamaha FM synthesis chip was finally in the hands of Atari's music designers, and the sonic palette had become much broader. The game had three different people in charge of the music, which is likely due to the fact that they had no clue of how to use the FM synthesis chip yet, and it apparently took six months just to learn how to make the thing work right.
Oh, wait...let's take a step back.
For those out there who are unfamiliar with FM synthesis, let me briefly describe what it was. The Yamaha FM synthesis chip was first implemented by Sega in the Mark III Master System in Japan. The sound generated by this chip would shape an entire new wave of synthesizers and video game music for the next decade, by being able to more accurately simulate drums, guitars, basses, and many other sounds. And in the case that it couldn't accurately recreate sounds, it could create totally new sounds like the Sega Genesis' distinctive bass tone and the soundtrack to the Streets of Rage series.
For Atari, it meant that they could grab people in the arcade with far better music that went beyond the basic sound synthesis used in earlier titles. Marble Madness hit the arcade scene in 1984, with music composed by Brad Fuller, Hal Canon and with some involvement by David Wise, who would later go on to compose the music for the Donkey Kong Country series.
The soundtrack to Marble Madness is truly atmospheric, though the tracks are generally fast paced. The songs are fluid and harmonically complex, with subtle pitch bending that reminds me of the Eb Clarinet parts in Stravinsky's music. As the game goes on, the music gets increasingly threatening, invoking a slew of composers like Edgard Varese and Angelo Badalamenti.
By the time one reaches the Silly Race (6:30 in the above video), the player has already overcome some pretty challenging courses, and the music takes on a lighter feel, with the inclusion of accelerando(gradually increasing tempo), a reminder of Space Invaders and its' charmingly simple method of increasing the game's tension. The sounds used in this game are just awesome, although they are a bit scratchy and fuzzy by today's standards. This game has one of the very first true stereo audio soundtracks, and the music is full and lush, with very clear bass tone and bizarre synth sounds.
The Final Stage(8:18 above), incorporates all the strengths of the game's soundtrack at once: otherwordly noises, high-tension composition, and beautifully warped melodies. The bass pounds and moves deviously through the track, and each instrument has an unmatched urgency that really drives the player head-first through the game.
And then it's over. The game can be beaten in less than 4 minutes, and once you've mastered it, there's really not much more to do except run the motions.
I have been a big fan of Destructoid for a while, and I've posted a few cod-brained blogs here and there, but it's about time you (you) and I (me) were introduced. Because I've enjoyed these types of introductions so much, I figure it's time you learned a few salty secrets about myself as well. So without further ado...
1. I am the director of an orchestra that plays video game music
It is called the Reno Video Game Symphony. Reno, Nevada, USA is my hometown and I've played music here for years, more on that later. The group has more than 25 members and I arrange a lot of Mega Man music because we have a great sax section, but I have a particular fondness for our small ensemble that is composed of 10 members periodically auditioned from the constantly changing orchestra. Here's a link to a video of us playing some music from Secret of Mana. I'm the guy with the guitar.
I just really love that band. They released 3 albums and some early EPs. They play music that is like a bipolar chimpanzee reciting the entire contents of the library of congress. It's nuts. The last song on their album Disco Volante is similar to "Pokey Means Business" from Earthbound.
3. Earthbound is Great, so is Mother 3
This has nothing to do with me, and it's true. It's just there, like a beetle in your mind-tub. It's probably something you already know, but it is a nice reprieve from this list.
4. I have been on Destructoid for more than 3 years. In fact...
I joined this site back when Anthony Burch was making Rev Rants. My favorite moments from this site have been: Jim Sterling's "Peaches", Burch's proposal to Davis, Ekans, and when I won a PS3.
5. I won a PS3
It's not gloating because it broke. It was stuck in an update loop. I am sad again now.
Man, just finished playing this game and is it ever great. It's probably one of the best looking games ever and the graphics are great too. The thing with the health thingy is cool. Then there were violins and I was scared. I was sarcastic but that wasn't even the start of it. More violins! Then there was a thing with a huge spiked cock coming out of its shoulder and violins and I was scared. Then there were bright flashing lights and I got scared. Then I got scared by some big thing that looked like the other Necrophiles but bigger and violins and I was like, "the sound design is amazing (Kotaku, 2009)." But I wasn't too worried because I knew that I could goozex the game whenever I wanted because I posted it for trade after playing it for another hour and some other dingbat was gonna be playing it soon.