The Power of a Sound

On this page was previously an article released that discussed the question if games are art. Although this question remains still unanswered within the society and branch, it is unquestioned that music is defined as art and culture. Music is together with painting one of the oldest ways of humans to express themselves and to tell something about their life. Scientists believe that the roots of music are even in the Stone Age before humans settled down. The oldest musical relics are a fleet made out of bones, which is approximately 35.000 years old. Music is and was back then a way to entertain the group, to encourage the warriors and to mourn the death. Pretty interesting is that every culture in every part of the world has found access to music. Polynesian people just like people in Africa, Native Americans in Northern America and Europe. Scientists believe that humans tried to imitate the birds singing and then realizing the melody and rhythm in the music. This theory is backed by the fact that most archaic and script-less languages have melodies that consist of a third or a fourth. This scheme was even alive in the Gregorian Chorale Music.

The Meaning of Music

Even typical warrior cultures like the pre-christian vikings valued music and bards had an extraordinary position in the society. Thanks to these singing people and the Edda, a rhyme and poetic fairytale book, we know a lot about the ideas, imagination, society and legends of Scandinavian vikings. The bible gives us an with the Book of Psalms and the Songs of Salomon a strong insight into the ancient hebrew society and underlines the meaning of music within the societies and the history. This list could be prolonged by dropping names like Walther von der Vogelweide or Peirol, who all were famous during their times and even after. War drums, war trumpets and war horns became in ancient and later times an important part of the military as they set the mood for the fight, gave a rythm and pushed the warriors in the fight. It is clear that music had and still has a special role and can shape emotions and feelings. There is a reason that armies have established often a small orchestra or that drums were used on ships or during marching to give a rhythm. And in the early stages of revolutions melodies were written, that helped people to identify with each other. The Marseillaise is as much evidence as the anthem of the United States of America. And sometimes music and singing can even bring down whole regimes.

Music in Movies

Movies have often used the music to give the spectators a certain emotion and feeling. Often spectators associate a certain melody, voice or lyrics with a movie scene. Famous are the songs of Titanic or Lion King that can let whole generations re-live a situation and make the seen scenes come alive for their inner eye. The strength of music in movies can also be seen in its absence as the Coen brothers have not used any music in the movie No Country for Old Men. The missing of music underlines some scenes by creating a very intense atmosphere, which makes it sometimes hard for the spectator to unterstand the emotions, thoughts and motivations of the characters. The spectator is forced to interpret by facial expressions and only by their actions. On the other side is the horror movie Halloween nothing more than a dull movie if the soundtrack is taken away. Only the short thrilling sounds when Michael Myers appears give the spectator goosebumps. Terror and fear are created not just by the relentless killer and his knife, but by the music that underlines the inevitable terror. While the Titanic sinks slowly the spectators here a first silent background music of clashing metal that seems to get faster to give the spectator the feeling of hectic and fear of the ship sinking. A similar tactics can be found in The Dark Knight when the Joker reveals that he captured not just Harvey Dent, but also his love Rachel. The confusing, annoying and amplifying sound gets stronger while the scenes moves along and the time to safe the hostages is running down. The annoying and strong sound disturbs the ability to think calm and shows the inability of Batman to think proper in this situation. The Imperial March in Star Wars implyfies the fascist and military regime stronger than most scenes in the whole films. Movies often suffer the lack of a long describing moment of the deeper meaning of an action or the feelings of a character. While books can deliver such a describing moment and provide information about feelings and meanings, the movies have to rely on music for these tasks. This is a reason music is so essential and important for movies to achieve their goals and transmit their message.

Music in Games

Surely game developers have realized this special power of music and already for some time, bigger game studios started to work with life orchestras and famous compositors to create a fitting background music that can guarantee to establish a fitting atmosphere that can enhance the gameplay feeling. The early steps of video games in combination with music were poor, but revolutionary ideas. First games like Kings Quest I had the challenge, that computers had no speakers yet and therefore the developers had to use the short and slightly different error sounds that the computers had. Incredibly enough these explorers of game development were able to create whole melodies out of these sounds like the death melody of the early Kings Quest is very iconic. When in later years speakers and sound cards were added to the hardware this development was continued and encouraged. Surely this development has to pay tribute to consoles that implemented music for example, Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. Nowadays music belongs to a High-Budget game as much to a game as a good looking graphic. Without the popular song The Dragonborn Comes, Skyrim would have lost a lot a lot of its atmosphere and power. The strong and high call for a helper, the craving in the voice to be saved, gives the game not just an epic atmosphere during the fights, but encourages the player. Already with this song the game studio was able to establish a heritage for the game itself.  Leliana’s Song from Dragon Age: Origin is still highly remembered by any player of this game and the soft, strong and well composed song lead to the astonishingly good reviews. Soundtracks of games are today given out as special item and are even that precious that a demand for buying soundtracks has established. Even video game orchestras were established in the last years that played almost exclusively video game songs. The most famous orchestra which focused for some sessions on video games is the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra participated within the framework of the SCORE Music Concert, who organizes video games concerts since 2006.

A New Chance to Become Art

Even if games are today not considered as art (yet), their development leads to new composed music, which is considered as art. However, this acknowledge is not sufficient to protect art from censorship. Especially beautiful music from Until Dawn, The Witcher: Wild Hunt, Portal, Silent Hill or Skyrim has done a great job and promoted their games wide into the middle of the society. With the help of music video games have another chance to get the respect for creativeness and can probably achieve the (legal) status of art, which could boost the games to attack more serious aspects of life and society.




Death Melody of Kings Quest I

Halloween Theme

Imperial March

Leliana’s Song

Lion King: Circle of Life

SCORE-Music Concert

The Dark Knight

The Dragonborn Comes

Titanic: Hard to Starboard

Turku Philharmonic about SCORE




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