Section: Arts

Classical ensemble provides adaptive live score for video game

Classical ensemble provides adaptive live score for video game

At the outset of the 2012 video game “Journey,” players find themselves alone at the base of a hill in the desert. Music slowly crescendos until they reach the peak.

The game’s soundtrack, originally composed by Austin Wintory, is designed to adapt and adjust to players’ actions as they advance through the game, and it is on this musical concept that Fifth House Ensemble has based  its interactive live performance of the game, Journey LIVE.

Fifth House Ensemble will bring Journey LIVE to Kenyon, on Friday, Feb. 16 in Rosse Hall. The 11-piece ensemble will perform with a designated game player, who plays “Journey” as the ensemble scores it.

Patrick O’Malley wrote this version of Journey LIVE’s Grammy-nominated soundtrack to allow the performers to adjust what they’re playing so that it fits what the game player is doing on the screen behind them.

Because no two playthroughs of “Journey” are ever the same, each performance of Journey LIVE changes based on the decisions the game player makes.

Fifth House Ensemble’s mission is to expand how people see classical music; Journey LIVE is their first time performing a soundtrack to a video game. Melissa Snoza, the executive director, founder and flute player for the ensemble, had to adjust to the challenges that this new type of playing brought up. In order for the ensemble to know when to adjust to the player’s actions, the conductor uses hand signals.

“As a player you can’t ever look away from what’s going on, and you have to know not just when to make those changes, but also how to make those changes sound fluid,” she said.

If the transitions go perfectly, the score will sound like the ensemble is just playing straight through without adjusting. “When we do it right, nobody knows that it’s terrifying,” Snoza said.

For Snoza, Journey LIVE is a way for video game fans to become interested in classical music and for classical music fans to begin seeing video games as art.

While Snoza was initially turned off by the idea of performing a video game soundtrack, “Journey” quickly became more than just a game for her.

“It’s truly a journey, an experience through life, a story,” she said. “It teaches you things like selflessness and generosity. It’s a game that makes you feel.”


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