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systemic music discussion

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Hi. I''m new to this industry. I''m helping out a friend right now, so I''m writing some music for his company. Anyway. It seems to me that one of the goals of computer game music is producing a flexible and immersive score that parallels the flexibility of the game needing music. Games that are fairly static in their gameplay (puzzle games for instance) need a fairly static score while games that are extremely dynamic in their gameplay need a score that will adapt to and reinforce changes in the game. The fundamental ideas behind writing music after notation was developed (causing the destruction of oral tradition in music, or at least "shift" from art music to folk music)and the gradual shift to specialization (now there are people who only read written notation and people who only improvise) seem to go directly against the idea of having a flexible score. Basically, one of the problems with writing music for a game score is that we''re used to writing 30 seconds of music that equals 30 seconds of music. We''re used to our compositions being played (by computer or by people) basically the same each time. Even jazz/rock compositions (exception our free jazz friends) are basically the same each time. We''re used to hearing our music the same every time. The questions I want to pose are such: 1.) Assuming we''re talking about generating a more flexible score, what can we do with traditional recordings to make them seem more varied? Do you have any tricks or tools to make statically (is that a word) captured music seem generated? 2.) Is there an easier way to generate immersive music other than DirectMusic Producer? 3.) What examples of sytemic music can anyone think of that parallel the ideas of systemic design that are going on in games like "deus ex?" The answers I can share for these questions are as follows: 1.) The only trick I can think of other than repeating large varied chunks of songs is to cripple the symmetry used in recording your static piece of music. Never use exact loops. Never use exact tempos. Never keep the dynamic level of any phrase exactly the same. Never follow any rule with never in it to a tee. Crippling the symmetry in small ways will ensure that there are different levels one can listen to. That way, a 10 minute piece can seem different every time. Obviously, you can''t edit every note, so my solution for that was to create volume and tempo control templates in Digital Performer that subtly change the tempo or volume within a certain range. Also, I don''t reference the same audiofile. If I have the time, I will create all separate audiofiles. This takes more space, I know, but in the end it''s worth it. 2.) Direct music is a powerful tool, but is very limited by it''s reliance on traditional musical notation and traditional western ideas about music. It''s also not so good at transitions. To truly generate an immersive score that follows game development to a tee, we need a more powerful way to deal with transitions. I don''t know if there''s a way to combine the powerful engine of Max with the interface of DirectMusic Producer. 3.) I''ve played quite a few pieces of music that are systems or sets of instructions that generate a piece of music. They range from graphic scores to detailed instructions (John Cage''s _Theater Piece_ for example.) These pieces always produce an output that was similar and dealt with similar ideals, but each output was unique and different. Has anyone heard, played, or composed any of this kind of music? OK. That''s all for now. Sorry if this post is a bit long and convoluted, I''m new to composing music for video games and I''m trying to wrestle with the basic philosophical problems of composing for games. thanks devinmaxwell

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I''m not sure I get what you''re going for- tempo and volume are part of the songs structure- if you write them in a way you find effective, changing it would make the song less effective.

If you spend a week creating a 5 minute piece of music that perfectly presents the emotion you want it to- well, what''s the point in changing it around?

...but on topic, you could always switch the instrument patches (ala Banjo Kazooie) for certain parts. Say, one time you play the song there''s a flute playing a certain melody, it could randomly be replaced with a guitar or whatever (but again, that kind of defeats the purpose of picking the best instrument for a part).

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Perhaps you could write your tracks in a mod editor (ModPlug Tracker or something, this at least allows you to create non-midi sounding music with samples), and keeping the tracks seperate write different variations on tracks (drum, bass, strings, piano .. whatever) with instructions on what sections gets used where.

Your friend could program somethign to contruct a pattern in real time from individual tracks you''ve specified linked to triggers in the game, and use a standard mod player routine (like FMod) or something to play the pattern. You could also specify different tempos and maybe volume parameters for the sections depending on what is happening on the game.

This would take a bit of work on both your parts to put something together like this but it could be done. Of course, if you want to build something using static samples of music then you are going to chew up huge amounts of disk space. Not only that but it makes it hard to put the piece together. With the method I suggested above, you can make your sections as small or large as you like, and should only be restricted by pattern size. Perhaps your friend could write a utility for you to be able to script patterns together to help you hear what you are doing?

This is kind of like the way Direct Music works already now I think of it, though I don''t know if you can write tracks for individual instruments and piece them together in real time?



----
"Music is not something you just do, it''''s part of who you are!"

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PoppinFresh.

I''m not talking about drastic changes, I''m talking about subtle changes. While writing music, essentially you''re dealing with a transfer of energy over a period of time. Therefore, what you''re dealing with is controlling someone''s perception of time. I don''t think the idea of scoring 5 minutes of music and having that loop is the ideal solution for video game music. We''re talking about a new medium that involves hours upon hours of people listening to the same music over and over again. The only technique I''ve found is to cripple my music in some way. It seems to make things seem less like a loop and more like a continuous score.

yjbrown

Back in the day of the Amiga, my friend and I actually did that with .MOD trackers. In fact, tracking is a good example of what I propose to be systemic music because of the way it deals with patterns. You can have any number of patterns and since they''re triggering small samples, you can create quite a bit of music using a small amount of space. You''re quite right in that it is EXACTLY the way Direct music Producer works. The biggest limitation with DMP is that your samples have to be exceptional to pull off any degree of realism. You also lose the ability to mix your music down and the ability to mix in surround sound. I feel that those two problems will hurt your music in the current market.

devinmaxwell

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When moving from one area to another, instead of stopping one track of music and starting another, there can be a transition from one to another. This requires a lot more composing work, because there may be a number of points in the loop where the music can branch off to a transition to another piece. It also may need a lot of scripting work, as with banching storylines.

Other easy tricks to implement include changing tempo, volume, pan, instruments, transposing, either for particular parts or all parts. This applies to mod/midi music, not mp3/wav.

One thing I thought of (mainly for MIDI) is rewrite the driver so that the volume byte of each event corresponds to the probability that it will be played. Maybe not.

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