Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surveying Literature: From Pac-Man to Pop Music, Introduction

Using a Google search, I came across a collection of essays edited by Karen Collins entitled From Pac-Man to Pop Music: Interactive Audio in Games and New Media. I'm so excited to read this book and will, of course, chronicle my doing so here. I'm able to access the book through my UM library connection, but I believe parts of the book to be available through Google view.  Even though I've just started the book, I'm so excited to read it that I want to go ahead and post about the beginning of it.  Plus, the multi-author, collection of essays format allows for easy dipping in and out of the book for the purpose of reading and research. In contemporary academic style, the authors aren't only scholars, they are cross-discipline, industry experts.  This isn't your typical easy, light read; these are dense, well constructed essays that require, for me at least, a thoughtful read and good digestion.

In the Introduction, Collins provides a brief history of game music from the late '70s to present. I've been wondering what the first game with a soundtrack was; according to Collins, it was the descending bass in Space Invaders.  The intro ends with a short explanation of the various chapters, almost all of which-- except perhaps those on ringtones-- will be applicable to my study here.

Here are my reactions to reading the intro:

NES game soundtracks follow this standard four voice format: melody, voice fleshing out melody, bass, percussion. That's exactly what my study of Super Mario Bros music found. I'm interested to compare that against some other classics.

Collins mentions popular songs from the late 70's/early 80s that are about video games. An interesting side study might be to get familiar with music about video games.  I didn't even know songs like this existed!  Here's a Wierd Al song she mentions.



A distinction is made between music/sounds that happen as a result of player action-- jumping, or swinging a sword-- versus music/sounds that happen as a result of the parameters of the game: the music for a given level, or the speed up timer in Mario.  Collins names this distinction interactive audio versus adaptive audio.

In homage to the first game with a soundtrack: