Monday, October 21, 2013

Favorite Game SOUNDTRACKS, Part 2



I was slightly caught off guard when I tried to put together a list of my fav game soundtracks for an interview with Dazed & Confused, which is posted HERE --

I mentioned some other games in addition to these, but since I think Dazed wasn't wanting to confuse its audience too much with border-case inclusions like Cobra or Infinite Sketchpad + Samplr, I'd like to add some notes here on those EXCEPTIONS which are important to me--

These are games or software/play-spaces more generally that have been some of the most inspirational to me as to how I think about music & interaction as a dissolved/whole touched unit-- I suspect all of these exist on some as-yet-unnamed continuum composed of a gradient of these software-instruments+ways of playing fading into the strictly computational videogames I mentioned in the link.

My interest in games comes as much from fascination with and love for these other playspaces/softwares and working/playing methods as it does from videogames proper. There's no easy 'edge' we can point to separating these categories games/other, and i think the boundary line is an interesting place to play around…

So-- here are a few more of the entries I'll put on my 'favorite game soundtracks' list, allowing the edges of the "game"-idea to broaden up some, and allowing 'soundtrack' to be approached from a player's perspective, rather than a listener's, with the necessary recognition of touch in the music.

0. Playing Music & Not recording



I've often had the thought that all of the very best pieces of music can never have been recorded, because they are literally impossible to record in their touched aspect. A musical happening really only ever happens once, and even when accounting for the supposed fixedness/objectivity of recordings this fact remains, because recordings leave a 'remainder' that is not recorded, and when recordings themselves are played back-- listened to, danced to, cut/drifted in-- they facilitate yet another temporally unique music piece/game/situation which will leave a remainder with any attempt to record it. So! I like to play these improv games and, at my best, to record their output as little as possible. Psychically, once the objects we're playing with begin to solidify structurally as recordings, the perceived contingency and fluidity of the improv space can be difficult to get back in touch with. Materially, it is a fact that a recording does NOT record the full touch of the music, but only the sound-spectrum vibrations on an analog-digital line/sequence producing in us virtual images in sound, where our ears are meant to make up for the experiences not granted to all of our skin and internals, the touch of keys, blow of horns, group dynamics & ESPs etc.

A. Group Improvisation



Group improvisation is the most fluid-- and in this liquid-sense, game-like--of all the musical games, in a way. It is the game which holds all the others as parts of itself. Any group improv is going to be a complex ecosystem of personalities, instruments, moods, spaces, powers etc. Just like Dungeons & Dragons (& other non-digital RPGs) with rules interpreted freely is sort of The Ideal Game for those that are into free-play imagination games, group improv music is an Ideal Game for those into free-play music games-- it is endlessly generative and compelling as long as we come to it with the energy to dive in and listen and move.. The group improv model exists in the same game-space as a D&D game that has abandoned prescribed rules in favor of communal generative situational-architectures, which taps into a kind of utopianism in games like that of New Babylon etc. The sense in which they are real movements with real psychic effects, etc. The improvisations catalogued at the ilinxgroup bandcamp hesitantly break with the "no recording" game-- the sense in stopping this game is in allowing recordings themselves their full material capacities-- maybe they could be instructive listening 'maps' for recreating images of the shifting games that were happening, moving between total disengaged banality and collective ecstasy, sometimes within a span of a few breaths. ILINX means "vertigo" and is the play-aspect of change in music and games and rollercoasters in general, and is something like a guardian spirit of VARIATION in improvisation (which is itself the working spirit of composition). Presupposing in improvisations a ground which is motion itself or constant variation is a useful working hypothesis for research into new game forms that are inspired from the intuitive flows of music and which cannot yet be counted as structure/software/computation..

1. Cobra




This is my favorite structured group improv game I've played. It's by John Zorn, a piece from his set of "game pieces", he calls them. It allows for a really unique element of high-level structural control from the bottom-up, something which is typically either not present (in much free improvisation, which is so good at forgetting past and future, and rarely maps time onto space), or reduced to top-down elastic-linear block structures "on-rails" (a la "Free Jazz", "Ascension"). In Cobra, there are a bunch of mechanics that can be called out by individual players via body cues, which are then relayed by a conductor/prompter such as to instruct the playing of the entire group. This is a really BEAUTIFUL means of giving radical structural control of "top-down" (State) infrastructure to the "bottom-up" players.. The particular set of improv mechanics themselves are beautiful, too! Favorites: Memory cards, Cross-fades, New York rule (middle finger at anyone instantly stops them). Unfortunately John Zorn doesn't encourage folks to play the game away from his presence, because he still thinks of it as a "piece" more than a "game."  But luckily, the rules are around, thanks to some pirate, linked above "Cobrea Score": highly recommend getting together friends, musicians & non-musicians whatever, and trying this out.. Usually takes a few hours of practice to learn & internalize the rules (even w/o the Guerilla Tactics, which I've not played with, but seem very interesting, too, an amplified bottom-up dissolve/multiplicity contrasting with the clean democratic-fascism of the prompts), and then once you've learned, new things coming up in playing really can last forever..

2. Flux Game



Very BASIC archetypal game, maybe has also gone by other names. Using a similar structure to Cobra, where the bottom-up is given instantaneous control of the top down in a sequence of singular-transitions-- this game is like an abstraction all of Fluxus scripts counted as one "space of all possible ______ ". Players at the beginning write a bunch of 'scripts' or prompts for the group; these are all thrown in a bucket; game begins when anyone feels like it, they ding a bell that has been set next to the cards, draw a card, and read a prompt; everyone does what is called for by the card, there are no guidelines as to what a card can present as a rule, this goes on indefinitely; whenever anyone feels bored, they are to immediately go to the bell, ding, and draw the next card. The game loops on this pattern until the final ding and then it's over. It can be a very strange experience, with really positive and really uneasy feelings both (the negative, often an empathetic result of enforcing or not enforcing change, as it can feel overly controlling to ding when the rest of the group is enjoying themselves). This is basically a music game, but music's territory is expanded radically and this is its relation to flux(us)-- its commitment to all materials, sound-making or not, as manifesting a temporal musical aspect that can be played. This leap, where structure and materials are musical independent of their sound-making aspects, has been really important for me in 'reading' videogames, where their existing non-sonic architecture can already rightfully be thought of as a piece of music, simply-- missing its sounds.


B. Solo Improvisation



I like to think that even "solo music" is not at all solo. There is always the dialogue between player and instrument to account for. I heard somewhere of some group that believes instruments are human beings, and I like this! Whether or not we go this far, the idea of an instrument as personality or organism is not difficult to feel when really get into it, constantly listening & responding to the physicality of the instrument, which seems to have its own will/desires, its receptivities and resistances both. Like a snare drum roll-- you drop a stick, and there's a ch-ch-ch that speeds up into a buzz; the process of sustaining this buzz as a pseudo-equilibrium is pure body intelligence/haptics. The relation of singing to breath-rhythms (see breathing rules for "music for 18 musicians" for interesting speed-harmonization technique with this rhythm) is a similarly tangled relation between the player's body and the 'musical information' we are used to accounting for.

1. Ableton's Simpler


One of my very favorite '1-player' musical games to play is just cruising through samples, and triggering them on the keyboard, playing back at them, letting them 'play' me with their hard-coded rhythms responding to elastic stretchings/compressions. here's how I play:

With a) a start position variable to scrub with (VISUALLY is best, so I use the one with the triangle-head (pictured TOO FAST in the above gif), so that I can move to where I want in the sound a la soundcloud etc; b) with a keyboard triggering samples c) drifting around octave fourth and fifth key-relations, or planing by smaller intervals for rave block progs.

It is key to remember that the sample is VISUALIZED this whole time, which makes this process fairly different from, say, sampling off vinyl, which is more linear, less spatial (with its own advantages (scratch/pitch-zoom)). In constructing our internal model of Simpler's "soundtrack" structure, we want to think of the interface and its visualized virtual-haptic waveform-space + manifold variables as the 'game' which is being soundtracked by a variable AnySoundWhatever, given its 'skin' by plugging in any existing recording.

In this space, across the surface/skin/waveform, I 'visit' different areas of a sample, and 'drift' through them, quite literally, a path/driftway connecting disparate zones that could be drawn out with lines following the play-head which is either moving continuously, or discontinuously cutting to a new position. Based on how often a sample is retriggered, more or less of a zone/subset of the sample will be in the 'field of view', the 'attention' will be focused there (visually and sonically) and this is the equivalent of a kind of ZOOM into the music, exploring its textures and relations as they exist isolated, repeated and recombined at different scales. Samplr (below) is even better with this zoom-feel, but simplr gives simple intuitive access to both START-POSITION and PITCH (keyboard), which allows it to function as connective-process between sample-play and keyboard-play, the latter which I enjoy very much on its own, too:

2. Keyboard White-Black Organism



"The keyboard-game's soundtrack" -- What does this feel like, what does it look like, and what are the relations between its sounds and its feel/look? 

It's sometimes embarassing for professional musicians to play on all white keys or all black keys, "being limited to C Major / F# Major pentatonic and their cousin modes is such a severe constraint" the thinking goes. But I have a keyboard, as do many others, that can transpose its layout-key relations, such that any diatonic music (which is the superset of the intervalic relations exhibited by the white keys), can be comfortably played on all white keys, or restricted to the pentatonic fundamentals on all black keys (where B and F whites can be added to the palette for access to the more dissonant perfect fourth and major 7th relations, respectively), and thus much of the practice required of musicians in conventional training, in order to gain facility across all keys, is automated by a simple shift in my input/output relation to the instrument, pitch-shifting up or down, to play in all keys. Black & White: I see & feel these as the polar "gravitational centers" of the keyboard, because they are the most clearly differentiated 2 subsets of the instrument, when we look at or touch it and begin to count it as a composition of parts. White and black, everyone knows this about a keyboard. This in how my attention immediately grasps them, and this is the sense in which white & black keys function in the music as game, outside of reducibility to sound-information, always embdedded in the instruments physical design and my bodily perception of it in sight and touch. I prefer the black keys to the white because of the greater differentiation of feel with the raised height and 3+2 grouping, a sense of difference which is not possible on the white keys unless we scoot our fingers up the keyboard such that they brush with the black (otherwise, all white key spacings feel the same). Starting from the pentatonic relations on the black keys, then, it is possible to play even more harmonic complex music with the strong haptic grounding of octave/4/5-identifications in the 3+2 touch-rhythm, 'drifting away' from the centers at will, allowing the white keys to come into play, but specifically as a tension or deviation from the consistent ground of the harmony, rather than as manifesting the potential for free-modulatory movement the keyboard was built for in the first place. This is the main constraint with this style-- its tendency toward non-modulation, and the possibility of transition liquidation in harmonic movement, a style, or game/way of playing, which reached its apparent potential for smooth change of gravity in late renaissance/baroque styles, and has largely been ignored in recent pop/recorded music. If we desire to retrieve and transform that style, however, the possibilties of music space-automation suggest that we may be able to bypass conventional models of learning technique, rather playing with another player/game/space that thinks these things for us, as a gift. An added bonus is that a proper reproduction will not be possible with new automations-- it will be corrupt, accidental, and from these accidents it could be possible to count the grounds of a new grammar/framework. A basic trick I've played with along these lines is to automate pitch-shifting along the circle of 4ths, changing every few seconds, allowing for the strangeloop model of transposition, where by traveling in one direction around the circle's edge we end up back at where we started. It is possible thus to play "black key" music ontop of a constantly-transposing automation system, which allows for a consistent set of relations between sight, touch, & pitch-interval-distribution, that merely shift their ground under you, with no foresight required, only response. And if you do this for hours and collect the data, I haven't tried, but I'd guess that the statistical distribution of 'pitch-class' information (all octave Cs, all octave Ebs, etc.), will look very similar to that in a serialist piece of music, which has proceeded by repeating a pitch class only after all of the other pitch classes have been played-- the measure of entropy stays (roughly) the same viewed at this level. Considered broadly, black key music has become serialism, but of an altogether more intuitive sort, that priveleges touch and low-integer harmonic-relations, whereas the serialists almost uniformly privileged counting and the principle of universal-relative consonance.. Following this, and you come away with a kind of serial-pentatonic pop-music..

3. Loops / Repetition as Objectification-Spatialization



Making music with computers, the possible relations we can have with repetition are very different from those of the oft-mentioned instrumental works of the minimalists, which are supposed to be regarded as ancestral predecessors of computer music today. Instrumental minimalism enforces a very particular kind of bodily-ritual in the process of reproducing the piece-- i.e. tuning into 'infinitesimal approach' phase relation-drifts over long periods (Piano Phase), breathing patterns (Music for 18 Musicians), and generally-- being (bodily) the immanent cause of the repetition throughout performance/play, such that the repetition's energy is always coming from the human-player, rather than instrumental/machine collaborators (Terry Riley's delay-jams and Steve Reich tape pieces being obvious exceptions, Philip Glass' taste for amplification is similarly engaged in automation-research). With computer repetitions, it is altogether different, and this is the mode of music-making I've grown up with, FruityLoops 16-step sequencer is the ground I learned. You can make a loop, and just turn it on, hit play, and it will continue going. And your body has become disconnected from the cause of the sound-making. This disconnection is not desirable in itself, but it is not bad, either. The important thing I've found is that I can remain embodied in the music as long as I just keep playing with it. The more active/willful approach to this can be accomplished by touching and manipulating the sound, as with the 'Simpler' example above, which acknowledges the sound for what it has become, something like a vibrating 2-dimensional tapestry which can be cut, stitched, scrunched, pulled at will-- here we might load the sample in an audio-brick of Ableton's session instead, so that loop is turned on, and we're exploring the changing properties of that loop-- as object, an extensive space, or game, that is played by drifting the playback position and loop-edges and which is soundtracked by the variable skin of the waveform. The more passive/receptive approach is to to let the loop go for a long time, and to stand up away from the computer, and to walk around, listening, stretch/etc, sing, dance-- or to just sit and listen and soak, or to 'walk around' with another instrument on top of the loop-- to keep it the loop automated, going on without change, forever, & to just play on top, learning its contours and ways of playing with those, to engage with the spatialized music object not as displayed on the computer screen but rather in our more fluid memory-flows, which can become very good at predicting and spatializing time-experience, but which are nonetheless always irreducible to space, always renewing themselves, the internal model changing constantly, with every drift, loop, etc.

4. Overdubs & Smooth Time



We don't really need to compose by counting objects onto space anymore, and I never really enjoyed doing that when it interfered with the immediate output of the sound itself. Spatial mapping was the paradigm of Western notation, and really most systems of music, even those that are merely counted but not visualized (all countings are visualized in mental images). There have always nudgings of time-relations in musical performance-- e.g. "stolen time", rubato-- which have pointed toward a more elastic count-- but in the last century, there has been a swarm of radical new time structures that seem to exist entirely outside of the level of 'counted time' we're used to having to deal with in spatialized compositon. The serialist's rhythms, again, loop around and their 'determinacy' meets with the angular contours of free improvs 'indeterminacy.' Again, the computer's capacity for automating/counting behavior allows for new ways of ignoring and yet loving/benefitting from the tradition of systematicity in music. OVERDUBBING GAME: 0) turn off quantization 1) play an improv, whatever; 2) loop if you want to learn to know it as spatialized-memory; 3) play another improv on top; 4) sync events, or not; 5) repeat 2-4 as often as you'd like. // It's remarkable how quickly it's possible to make a piece of music in this way, especially when you choose to NOT sync events-- to allow time to be smooth, even when it is unintentional. If the total piece is 2:00 long, the total processing time for creating the 'track' might have been as short as 4:00 -- one improv + another one immediately after. That's a fun game! It build's on the space explored by tape-overdubbing & delay petals, but the SPEED of the computer adds totally new rhythmic possibilities and continuities if you would like, for instance the above 1+1 overdub which creates a track with length n and production time 2n, and is a continuous stream of events which looks like -- 1. first jam  2. second jam  3. finished track --- all of this, with no gaps to speak of between 1, 2 & 3, which we know well because gaps would cause production time to be greater than 2n, which it's not.

4. Through-Composition: Transition Liquidations



Composition-objects, especially when any loops are involved, often leave us with a hard-edged block of sound (track), with high-level sequence (super-track (finished track, album, etc)) reduced to block after block after block (horizontal) on block on block on block (vertical) . The process of chiseling/melting away at these blocks such that they can be welded together anew, recombined in a continuous form, is called "transition liquidation", where transitions are gradually de-composed from block to block, to several different blocks to different blocks, and with the speculative Ideal always present which reminds us of the possibility of always decomposing into atoms/molecules which flow as slow liquids when 'viewed' from a higher level, and whose flows now become the subject of composition, irreducible to the count of the consistent plane of blocks. This is such a large category as to almost account for all of traditional composition in general, insofar as it is spatialized time which is composed of vertical (texture), horizontal (time/change), and vertical-horizontal (N-dimensional intensive textural calculus ?) parameters and their relations. These transition liquidations exist on a continuum between the DJ mix and its crossfades, and the insanesly involved transitional spaces of so much polyphonic classical musics and free improvs, most all of which are concerned in some sense with dissolving blocks (tracks, harmonies, rhythms, formal ABA~~ patterns etc) at different levels of scale/magnification/distance. The idea of "through-composition" is that strict repetition is dispensed with, that there is little or no repetition without variation. It's like music that has taken a form that we are more familiar with navigating in the written word. 

3. Samplr + Infinite Sketchpad + Pseudo-Mereotopology


Samplr is my favorite sampler I've played with-- it's on the iPad and takes the sample-cruising of simpler et. al into some new territory, where now the visual interface has also become a haptic-connect surface that we play just by touching visually relevant bits, and when we play the sample, we get the sense that even a cat might be able to do this. Samplr has a few different modes of control-- my favorite takes two finger-holds of input pressed on top of a sample, and loops the region between them. By swapping fingers you can easily move between forward and reverse playback, and it is so so easy to change loop size, to the point of it being difficult to sustain tempo-equilibrium even, such that the rhythm of the sample and its relation to both its composition and our body's position in space & connection to the pad becomes all tangled up. This feels not only like contact with another organism-like thing, but even, at its most intimate, a kind of extension of our own body. Zooming in far eventually loops such a small segment of the sample that it turns into a drone on a single pitch, which can be smudged around to discover melodies. 

Alongside, paired w/ Samplr is Infinite Sketchpad, which there is way too little space to talk about here, more soon, but BASICALLY-- it's drawing software (using the same finger-to-pad touch as samplr) that allows for effectively infinite zooming in and out, drawing on a 'fractal blank canvas" which is through-composed, lacking the scaling self-similarity of traditional fractals, with no repetitions whatsoever automated. This seems like a VERY interesting way to think about scores for me (which are, like games, soundtracked by the sounds mapped onto them). Dan Lopatin recently mentioned R+7's composition as 'jams inside of jams inside of jams', which is very much what happens with the overdubbing process being counted as a unit, and used as raw material in the composition of new units. What an image! This kind of SCALING jam-space seems to be a kind of music that, were it to be 'scored' with any visual representation at all, would require using a visualized mereological (part/whole relations) paradigm much like that of Infinite Sketchpad. All samplr jams are going to be "jams in jams" like this-- you put in a sample, which is itself a jam, and then you jam with it, and if you record, this produces another jam, which is different from both the original-object (sample) jam and the played (haptic) jam.

The relations are not so simple as that, though, and an attention to the loopiness of their sequencing introduces some of the potential for structures that can command a kind of  affective disorientation/ilinx (tool for transition liquidation) as could be automated with formal-software models of playing-- counted as a videogame.

Let's say jamB is a samplr jam composed of recombined elements of jamA-- it has zoomed into some very special nooks and crannies and recomposed a piece from those components. jamC has also done the same thing, recomposed from jamA and is its own jam, its own object. Now, jamD has also been composed, and it is made from some of jamB overdubbed on top of jamC. The relations between these parts is not simply that of parts and wholes, where jamA eats up jamB, etc. Already, the relations are confused, because it is very reasonable to see that jamA is in jamB just as much as jamB is in jamA. The source material is cut, dissolved, its components constituting the makeup of the derivative. At the same time, if we are to ask what the original is composed of, it would not be incorrect to say that, at least some of the components are those that can be found in jamB (jamA's original source, the haptic playspace, lost forever to time). This is the classic Ouroboros model, popular with the Hermetics, and the Strange Loop model, popular with Douglas Hofstadter & AI folks everywhere.

But even this is not enough-- because we didn't yet think about the overdubbing, where jamD is in jamB and jamC, which are themselves reciprocally in and containing jamA, and in jamC and jamC are dissolved parts, irretrievable as such, from jamD. With all of these relations criss-crossing not only between parts and wholes but between jams themselves too, the mereological model, which is all parts and whole, ceases to do the job.

In Alfred North Whitehead's Process & Reality (which I have not yet read-- Modes of Thought is a GOOD intro, tho, P&R is very systemic, seems rough)-- he describes a metaphysical model which  a mereotopological composition. Mereotopology accounts for, not only parts and wholes, but also interconnectedness-- invariance, edges… LINKS, or 'folds' in spacetime, we might think-- we might have some sense of the felt reality of this from playing Portal or Corrypt, too, or reading some D&G rhizome, surfing 'planes of correspondence,' or Hofstadter's other name for Strange Loops: tangled hierarchies.

In any case, the models of our Samplr jams paired with the Infinite Sketchpad model may come in closer to one another once relations between parts are allowed to be still more entangled-- when a whole might contain a cascade of parts, eventually containing the original whole (strange loop), when a part of a whole might contain a link to a part of another part of the same whole, or a different whole, represented by similarity (repetition/identity) of parts, and their persistent realization across space-time.

These relations sound complicated, and I probably tangled them up even more in my own thinking, but these are the concepts and structures that we're presently dealing with more and more when we're making music with computers today, we just have not begun to count them/visualize-- really, in practice of jamming inside other jams with other jams etc, this dizzying structure of relations doesn't really strike us as formidable at all, but rather wholly natural, like a series of rooms filled with objects we can lose ourselves in and harmonic relations between objects in the space that can be dissolved and recombined etc, resulting in slopes and currents generated by the object-centers, and transitioning points of attraction forming a dynamic substrate of structural variation that we can move through at will. The process of composition, or of improvisation, which is felt intuitively even while it is structurally dizzying, whatever, is not so very different from a videogame...

We are familiar with the composition of music objects as "pieces" (albums, tracks, etc), but not so much as touched things, or "spaces" (instruments, group dynamics, etc). Adam Harper's excellent Infinite Music has begun to point toward a plane of consistency where instruments, styles, mp3s are all counted as real materials to put to use in composing/playing music, which points toward a more generalized music or (musick) theory of PLAYSPACES as opposed to works-- or at least, one where works are allowed to be players, just like everything else. To fill out a model of this sort requires accounts of processes/games that are played in composition/improvisation, in order to better reconstruct a virtual image of the conditions in which the object was allowed, in the first place, to be fixed as it has been. Beyond this filling out the model of music space, though, which has its relevant structural correlate in exploring new kinds of videogames and how their musical aspects might 'hug' their structural beams--- beyond this, it's fun just to try playing some new games with music… even just cruising around in itunes, and hanging out in zones of a track that I like, rather than listening to the whole thing, practicing new kinds of repetition, and introducing variation not as accident that corrupts an original work, but as play-- beginning to compose with the materials, to make the fixed a little more fluid.

C. VIDEOGAMES



The way I think about videogames is like this:

They're able to materialize and automate any structures taken from any games (like those above) as long as they're able to be reduced to and represented with quantity. A videogame can be composed as an assemblage of such structures, or a zoom into / recombination of one or another. This reduction ultimately can't account for much of the magic between organism and non-organic player that makes music MUSICK, but it can MAKE the non-organic player itself-- which can then be played, given meaning, in our own games, with our own rules.

I think of "videogames" as meaning: space of all possible software with input/output structures, which opens things up... The SOUNDTRACK has a two-faced meaning. 1) is the structure, where the soundtrack means "the music" associated with the game, which does not require sonic realization, but is instead realized every time the software is run, and felt in the time-structures that it makes manifest. 2) is the sound-layer or 'skin', which ought to HUG these structures, such that the soundtrack has the same relation to the game that, say, a musical instrument's sound has to its mode of operation.

Why call all in/out software VIDEOGAMES in the first place, and not just software, or apps? There's a kind of austere seriousness embedded the design philosophy of so much other software which I think is probably wise to avoid. It's not the sort of 'playful seriousness'/'serious playfulness', or LOVE, which makes things happen, but the seriousness of measured utility and trying to make things happen, which gets tangled up and too-often lost in the engineering process with its goals and metrics and focus groups, too caught up in the abstract virtuality of its materials, its mutability as number-- ignoring the vibrating material actuality, its mutability as touch (and ignoring, likewise, the pre-abstract virtual continuum that this touch enters into).

Many videogames seem to be guilty of these same things-- but moreso than with the ideologies that have built up around other software, it feels like there's some energy in this "GAME" idea that could give way to a design-pragmatics of non-utility, of touched materiality, new games, new forms of inorganic life.

Specifically, the idea that we ALLOW THE GAME TO PLAY ~~

This is, to treat the game as its own player. Videogames PLAY BACK like no other software. Things are kept out of reach, if not by challenge, simply by spatial or sequential distance. When Mario JUMPs into the air, he's unable to jump again, the jump is nonsense, and is not counted by the game, because he's in the air; different activities for different times. Banjo-Kazooie, on the other hand, plays differently, since Kazooie squawks and gives a second jump when jump-button is pressed again in mid-air. This simple mechanical difference opens up the whole space of SHIFTING contexts in games, where an action is not meant to be accessible at all times (which is the working value system of Photoshop, Ableton Live, other 'creative tools', etc), but rather only at given times as conditioned by the dynamic contours of the environment-- an environmental architecture which is truly FORM-FINDING.

It is remarkable how beautiful even the most apparently dull videogame can be when read as music.. the LIFE is there, from the very first gesture/movement.. For me, tuning in like this typically requires playing in silence (but w/visual feedback), and really tuning into the time-relations between events and processes.. but when the tuning-in works, there's this same sort of immersion in this structural-sensuous world that we can feel when we play music..

What's exciting for me is the potential for ANY game to be hugged with a skin-tight (or loose, for comfort) soundtrack, which helps lower the barrier of that 'tuning-in' to the game structure, such that its latent/potential musicality, which without sound requires some focus/ritual to tap into, is immediately, actually sensible as a surface effect of the game, all the more likely that the game might be played as music-- and, the same as this, reversed/generalized-- the more likely that new musics might be played as games.


No comments:

Post a Comment