Tag Archives: ludomusicology

Reflections on the MSA/NZMS 2013 conference and my own place in the world

I’m in Brisbane at the moment, having attended the joint annual conference of the Musicological Society of Australia together with the New Zealand Musicological Society this week. It’s been an intellectually stimulating week of papers from a truly diverse range of disciplines. As I usually do after a conference, I’m coming away with a head full of ideas and an inexplicable desire to start composing again. But that will definitely have to remain a hobby (at best) for the time being since, as I might mention a bit further down, things been hella busy.

I mentioned a diverse range of disciplines, and I wasn’t kidding. Highlights included a set of papers suggesting that certain composers should be considered as modernists, a paper on “the cup game” and its role in high school musical culture, a paper on the metal scene and underground sub-scene of Adelaide, a paper on remodernism in the work of a Georgian composer, a paper denouncing the labelling of Reich’s “Different Trains” as documentary, a paper on the inaccuracies (and otherwise) of an amateur scribe, a paper on child soldier musicians in Australia and England, and another set of papers on creativity in the recording/producing processes. My favourite thing about conferences like this is that your mind is stretched in so many different directions. Quite beyond just being interesting, it helps me think about my own work in new ways.

Also thought-provoking was the discussion around music and musicology’s place in Australian university culture and the nation’s culture at large. What I heard, and what resonated with me, was that there’s a certain sense of entitlement among musical practitioners, educators and theorists regarding access to the public purse which stands in direct opposition to the uniquely anti-intellectual, anti-academic rhetoric and mentality found in Australia. The call was to be responsible and to be able to justify your place—this is something I struggle with frequently, and I suspect that’s because I don’t fully expect people would accept my justification, even if I had a good argument prepared. I think I can justify my research to someone who’s sold on the notion that the pursuit of knowledge in all its forms is beneficial to society, but people (and even universities) these days don’t seem to buy that without significant discounts. But quite apart from my puny little PhD, I find it disturbing that music itself is falling under the same ire. I guess when Spotify etc. let you access music ad nauseum, musical practitioners seem as abstract and irrelevant as a cow does to a supermarket-bought scotch fillet. Super sad.

The presentation of my own paper on L.A. Noire‘s place in the noir tradition went well. I had a chance in the week leading up to the conference to re-do some of the video examples, and I think it paid off. Removing the part where I crash a car into a power pole certainly made me look more professional. The questions I received afterwards were helpful, as always—I often feel as though I learn more from the questions than I impart in the presentation. But it’s particularly good to have had another chance to discuss ludomusicology on the national stage. I’m slowly getting more of an idea of who’s interested in this field in Australia, and while numbers are small I’m hopeful that talking and presenting can help change that.

My big stack of work at the moment is finishing off the article version of this paper and sending that off for publication (hopefully). I aim to get that finished ASAP so I can start working on EVE Online and its multiple musical experiences, which I’m quite excited to do. Things are busy, but they’re moving forward.

Globetrotting and Agri-mining

Nearly a month ago now, I got on a plane and went to England. My destination was the Ludomusicology 2013 conference at the University of Liverpool, run by the Ludomusicology Research Group. The conference spanned two days and featured papers on everything from case studies of game music, to generative music practices and technology, to the intersection of ludomusicology and gender studies. The field, though still young, is definitely maturing. It maintains its strong links to the industry and its heavily interdisciplinary character, but it is wrestling with many complex philosophical and cultural ideas and is beginning to resolve itself as an independent discipline. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it.

Having the opportunity to gather and share ideas with others working in my field has provoked me to engage more fervently with my own studies. There just aren’t as many opportunities for that in Australia yet, though I’m even more determined to change that than I was before. (If you or someone you know studies video game music academically in Australia or New Zealand, we should talk!) Nevertheless, I’m trying to tackle my own little task with alacrity. The next month contains an article deadline and another international conference, so I’m keeping myself rather busy. I’m a little ragged around the edges, and I feel like I’ve got so little time for gaming, but it is good to be getting into the swing of things.

I must confess, however, that my academic fervour fails dismally from time to time, and the culprit is usually Minecraft. I’ve recently learned how to farm and traverse oceans in my single player game, and have been building roads stretching for miles with my wife in our multi-player world. The farming experience has made me wonder what right a mining game has to be so damn cute. It’s not just that the baby animals are adorable, either. So many of the game’s mechanics—from crafting a sword from sticks and stones, to the way fish fly out of the water into your hands when you’re fishing—are done so simply that even when completely functional they’re playful. And when you’ve spent hours being distracted by Minecraft, it’s impossible to be angry at it for being so addictive because you’d feel like a big old meanie. Sneaky, sneaky game.