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C418's Minecraft- Volume Alpha (a brief analysis)

I wrote this today as a (late) listening assignment for my Audio Production 1 class. I know I'm not one to blog on here too often but I thought it suitable to provide some words of insight into what I think is a superb video game sound track. Enjoy.

The chunk of album I chose to listen to might appear to be unconventional at a first glance, but I hold it to be one of the most important within its type. Daniel Rosenfeldís (AKA C418) Minecraft- Volume Alpha consists of a vast majority of the music found within the indie video game smash hit, (you guessed it) Minecraft. Itís a recent purchase of mine that I knew I wouldnít regret even if I didnít listen to the tracks all that much. Having the 24 pieces from such an inspirational game for only $4 was something I simply couldnít pass up.

For a bit of background info, Minecraftís a title that is so intensely based around player experience in that it lets you basically make up your own story. Thereís no overarching objective, thereíre no hints of written dialogue or story within the game itself, only a few set rules that you are to abide by. The mechanics are set up in such a way that make it simple, yet very open to player driven narrative which in turn makes it a very personal game. To appropriately mirror this, the soundtrack is similarly open-ended in a sense. Itís a well-done mixture of classical, electronic, and ambient noise that form together to create an experience thatís just as listener driven as Minecraft is player driven.

One thing thatís very noticeable about this album is the shear amount of very purposeful space that itís filled to the brim with. The tone is never one of aggression with any of the tracks, every instrument is thoughtfully relaxed and never obtrusive. While the timbre of each new sound is obvious to change throughout the first listen, they all stay tightly knit within a family of calm yet concentrated tones. Rosenfeldís style of composition also allows for the use of a wide variety of reverb and echo effects that makes it seems as though heís playing the empty space just as he would any other instrument. One will notice how little playing there actually is on several of the tracks to the point where you might be able to mentally count how many notes a track consists of. Though let this not come off as a fault, if anything itís impressive how much heís able to do with so little.

While itís clear that each song most certainly has its own themed feel to it, (ranging from hopeless despair to cold loneliness to newly found innocence and back again) there always seems to be more than enough leeway to add your own thoughts and emotions into the mix of the tune. This is something that makes the soundtrack just as individualized as the game it was created for. Just as Minecraft does with the gamer, Volume Alpha meets the listener halfway in the sense that it provides a vague path upon which they must decide where it will take them. When listening to each song of this album, Iíve noticed that the same track almost never means the same thing to me every time I hear it and the fact that any series of songs can do that is simply astounding.

The one thing that truly took me off-guard though is how emotionally powerful this album was by itself. To be honest, it was almost too overwhelming for me to listen to in a way I donít feel I can aptly describe with words. As Iíve said before though, this shouldnít appear to be a fault. It could almost be thought of as a deep massage or a bath thatís too hot. Sure, itís going to hurt a bit, but thereís a good reason why we keep listening. Thereís something extremely interesting about music thatís able to create a very vivid emotional feeling with such a minimalist style such that Daniel Rosenfeld has. Quality over quantity has never been a more applicable phrase in all my years of listening to music and I for one am extremely glad that itís come from the soundtrack of a video game.

Here's the link for the download if anyone's interested in purchasing it >>>

Even if you don't (legally) buy it though, I hope that everyone's able to listen and ultimately enjoy this album. I feel that a majority of video game music is severely underrated and it's stuff like this that I hope will soon make people realize its true worth.
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About Dr Roboone of us since 11:58 AM on 12.06.2009

I was a child of the 90's, which basically defines all of the games I grew up on. Stuff like Gauntlet, Duckhunt, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and OoT, Crash Bandicoot, Streets of Rage 2, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter 2, Goldeneye: 007, Banjo Kazooie, Secret of Mana, Starcraft, Diablo II, Pokemon Red & Blue, you get the idea.
As of the last few years though, with the downfall of how great G4 used to be, I've become extremely out of touch with video games, and that's where Destructoid comes into my life. It's not that I'm not interested in brand spanking new games, it's just that I haven't the money to invest in them. I mean, sure I've gotten a Wii, but now it's just a novelty at best, only useful for SMBB and Mario Kart (I even tried Wii Fit at one point).
However, Destructoid's thrown me back into the loop, and I plan on getting back into gaming like a young child with hours to burn and no cares in the world.

I love D-toid's community and their magnificent writers, mostly the cast of the Pod-toid podcast. That is what I enjoy most about the site though, the honesty that their reviewers and players possess while discussing the most interesting of topics (some of which I didn't even think existed) in games, and I truly value that.

My Favourites:

Chrono Trigger
Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
Wario Ware
Shadow of the Colossus
Pokemon Blue
Harvest Moon: Back To Nature
Banjo Kazooie + Tooie
StarFox 64
Monster Rancher 2
Azure Dreams
Metal Gear Series (1-3)
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Diablo II
Final Fantasty VIII
Indigo Prophecy
Resident Evil 4
Legend of Mana

And probably a few more here and there.