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 Posted:   May 10, 2021 - 8:08 AM   
 By:   That Neil Guy   (Member)

Ted Gioia article from 2017 on the influence of Beethoven and other Romantics on the music of first person shooter games.


The spirit of Beethoven has come back to life in first-person shooter games. Over-the-top Romanticism, in all its most extravagant manifestations, is now the preferred musical accompaniment to virtual killing.

That’s right. The grandiloquent sounds of the 19th century are still alive in the new millennium … but only when someone is getting bludgeoned, bloodied, blown-up, or decimated with automatic weapons. Give those German composers credit! They didn’t have any video screens back then, but they somehow concocted the perfect formula for on-screen carnage.


Michael Giacchino’s score for Medal of Honor: Frontline, released the following year, commandeered a chorus and full orchestra, extracting musical fireworks that would make grim Mahler smile. And this tendency has only gained traction with the passing years. Even composers working solely with software strive to capture the sound of the traditional symphony orchestra. On recent video game scores such as Mass Effect 3 (2012) you can hear the high Romanticist effects coming to the forefront during the most dramatic moments. Mike Morasky’s score for Counter-Strike Global Offensive (2012) embraces the same aesthetic with the fervor of a young Werther, marrying a 19th century vocabulary to some contemporary drum and bass effects.

And action movies are marching to the same beat. I recently discovered an online ranking of the commercial films with the most on-screen fatalities. At the top of the list I found The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King—with 836 fatalities during the course of the movie. I was hardly surprised to learn that composer Howard Shore, responsible for the soundtrack music, turned for inspiration to the works of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Beethoven. He even included part of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony in one of his previous scores. For The Return of the King, Shore relied on a full orchestra plus voices, and the soundtrack is filled with 19th century elements, including Wagner’s leitmotif technique.

The second place honor for most onscreen fatalities goes to Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, with 610 victims, and here again the soundtrack relies on full orchestra plus voices, just as Mahler required 110 years earlier for his Resurrection Symphony—although nowadays, death rather than resurrection is invariably the subject at hand when you hear these supersized ensembles in the background. Scott’s film is set in the 12th century, so you might expect medieval-tinged music. In fact, composer Harry Gregson-Williams makes some efforts to incorporate a few of these period elements into his score, but when Crusaders battle for control of Jerusalem, these older sounds are blended into the emphatic 19th century tradition—the only suitable soundscape for record-breaking kill counts. The same is true for the other deadliest movies. Whether the story involves samurai warriors or the Trojan War, the music is heavily indebted to 19th century Romanticism.

Of course, not all musical accompaniment to bloodshed derives from these old role models. As in the case of Gregson-Williams’s score, other musical styles occasionally step to the forefront in these games and films. These range from Morricone-style sound collages in Half Life 2 by Kelly Baily to the heavy metal backing behind Doom. But these can’t seem to dislodge the 19th century vibe that has mesmerized game designers and players. Even heavy metal isn’t heavy enough for most composers seeking to juice up their combat scenes. We need something with a little more sturm und drang.

It goes on from there to mention EDM and other examples.

Full article here:

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