First six month’s of a Master’s degree

Entering the Master’s program

In my application for KMH and the Master’s degree, I wrote that my focus would be to understand one central idea to build an expertise from, which was “music design for videogames”. My motivation came from a discussion I had with Björn Iversen, audio director at Paradox Interactive, who said that one of the biggest discrepancies between the work of music producers and game developers stems from a lack of understanding between their fields. That is why I decided to dedicate my first period to research game design, to set a foundation of  values and methods that music for games can be created through in a way that harmonizes with game development.

In the first period of last autumn, we opened the seminar series with talking broadly about the role of a music producer and what it means to “produce”. I had the opportunity to read and share my thoughts on David Byrne’s book How Music Works where he looks at music history through a Darwinian lens. Showing that musical styles and genres tends to evolve through feedback loops that are generated by the environment in which they are performed and played. By being aware of what some of these ramifications may have – of having game music being listened to through small speakers, if it’s played back in a game environment with a lot of different sound effects, or what region of the world it is sold – a music producer will be more sensitive to test out ideas that can improve the audience’s perception of the music, for the better.

I also studied the topic of game design, especially during the second period of the seminar series. During which we discussed music from the perspective of design and what its implications can mean for music production. My research led me to discover how game design have a core value: to create a fun experience. Formally, this is produced by designing game rules and mechanics that conveys that feeling when they are successfully implemented. This became the foundation that I want to draw music production from, because I think it will greatly improve a game’s soundtrack if the decisions made on a musical level is motivated on a game design level.

Especially one idea that I find compelling is that of ludonarrative dissonance which is used to explain how games can have rules and mechanics that counteracts the narrative that game is intended to convey to the user. Since narrative and music is so tightly linked, I can see how it would be possible to outline a useful method based on the ambition to create ludonarrative harmony that is rooted in game design.

Lastly, this semester concluded with a set of seminars on leadership in music. I decided to look at the way game development and their companies are organized to speculate on how a music producer can improve their ability to influence the decisions made surrounding the music. Not only on a sonorous level, but through all strata of the development. This could be achieved if the music producer understands their role in the development as a node in a network, an idea based on social network theory, which says that all leadership becomes effective through the act of using the social capital that is associated with good relationships within the network. This can act as a motivation for the music producer to value their own network that they already have, and also to make them aware of how to improve and extend it in a way that is respectful for the whole network.

What’s next?

My next step is to focus my time to extract musical products from the ideas that was formed from my research on how the areas of game design and music production overlap. The intention is to experiment with purely musical ideas on how certain game aesthetics and mechanics can take musical shapes.

I will do this by analyzing successful game soundtracks and draw out inspiration from them to create new music that is both familiar and provoking. And I will publish my work of the process through blog posts and online releases.