Any opportunity to bring the ponderous weight of a Whitney Biennial artist to the site: an overly opaque post over at Rhizome on ‘Video Game Soundtracks 1983-1987‘ sent me on an afternoon’s goose chase trying to figure out just what the hell is going on here, and I think I have it:
Artist Seth Price, concerning himself with a multi-part work on music “solely as digital information: programmed, encoded, extracted, sometimes going through MIDI translation, uploaded and downloaded, finally burned to compact disc; all the while passing through numerous data compressions and file formats,” devotes one chunk of that thesis to game music.
His wonderfully overwrought statement on the work (pdf) comes up with some decent musings on the nature of the beast:
Structurally, the genre presents unique limitations. A track must be energetic but not distracting, the consummate “background music”. It need not follow a standard musical trajectory, since it must be capable of looping ad infinitum, allowing players as much time as needed with a given screen or level. Because of this, many of the album tracks start abruptly or quickly peter out, their duration determined by the programmer who removed them from the circuits. For this reason, many of the tracks must be considered extracts or samples of larger and arguably infinite compositions.
And Price’s end result: a lengthy megamix of 8- and 16-bit era straight-up MIDIs joltingly cut back to back.
Yes darling, but is it art? Either way, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt if only for this description of his later video piece, ‘Editions‘: “a partial inventory of imagery: dancing cats, grated cheese, civic violence, Richard Serra, video-game audio effects and a roiling ocean.”
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