The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Mario’s music
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An observation from the terrific composer Nico Muhly:

[…] Although my parents had classical music on LP’s in the house, the childhood music I remember the most vividly is fragments from either live performances or, strangely, video games at my friends’ houses1.

For me, living in the country, playing a video game was sort of like music minus one: The actions of my hands informed, in a strange way, the things I heard. Collect a coin, and a delighted glockenspiel sounds. Move from navigating a level above ground to one below ground, and the eager French chromaticism of the score changes to a spare, beat-driven minimal texture. Hit a star, and suddenly the score does a metric modulation. All of these things come to bear in a later musical education; I’m positive I understand how augmented chords change an emotional texture because of Nintendo music.

Don’t miss the clip embedded at the bottom of the post, either: it’s only three minutes long, and exhilarating at precisely 1:50. Oh the glory of the horn.

1. I really think “memories of video games at your friend’s house” are, like, a thing. Very special; very distinct. Maybe such memories are no longer produced; maybe every kid has a video game system nowadays. (But probably not?) All I know is I can remember Ninja Gaiden on Chris Hayes’ NES (he lived down the street) with crystal clarity. Note that I never actually played the game; it was too difficult, and I couldn’t make it past the first screen. So I would just watch Chris play, utterly rapt.

5 comments

Your footnote really resonates with me. With the exception of love, which I consider its own category, the most magical (in an almost literal sense of the word) moments of my life were the precious hour or two that I could play on NES when it came out. It just rocked my world and really takes me back to the giddy feeling of childhood that is hard to recreate as an adult.

Tim Carmody says…

A few things about the maybe-(but-probably-not-really)-death of playing video games at your friend’s house:

1. We didn’t have NES until what felt like forever. My cousin and a bunch of different neighbors had it first, and I played at all of their houses so much I was a Nintendo expert when the price dropped and my brother Sean finally got a console for his birthday. (And oh, you KNOW he lorded it over us that it was technically HIS Nintendo.) So that’s one kind of scarcity.

2. The other one is playing a game against somebody else, which you can do online now. We would take games over to other people’s houses (and vice versa) to challenge each other, and perhaps even more weirdly, to watch each other’s challenges. I remember watching my brother play our neighbor Dano in RBI Baseball for hours at a time and feeling pretty euphoric about it. (We didn’t have our Nintendo yet.)

3. When you had an absolute cap of two players per game (sometimes only one), you spent a LOT of time watching other people play. Especially if, like me, you had a big family, and what seemed like a house perpetually filled with neighborhood kids the approximate age of every child in your household (like a seven-eight-year span).

4. We would also do crazy semi-cooperative games where one kid would have the controller and other kids would have maps, stats, pick out music, suggest different strategies, show you how to pull off complicated moves, etc. Knowledge management was a lot harder. You needed secret wisdom and/or extra hands.

I remember “playing” Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy this way. My brother had the controller, I had the book, we would play at our friend Brian’s house, Brian’s mom bought us pizza, and our friend Corey had the fourth character in the game named after him, brought the Beastie Boys CDs, and occasionally talked about basketball or playing A Bard’s Tale. (Corey’s was the only house I knew of where anybody had a computer.)

5. All that said, at least with the one eight-year-old I know, he and his friends still play video games together this way. The kids will bring their own extra Wii controllers over to their friends’ houses and do it up.

3 and 4 – working together in groups, really takes me back as well. When someone would finally ‘end’ a game, it felt like OUR accomplishment. Zelda, the second quest (after you end the first) sticks out in my mind.

I never had a gaming system. My kids don’t either (though I suspect some day I’ll get talked into it; they’re only 4 and don’t know what video games are yet).

Moms of my Nintendo-owning friends never had to nag them to take turns with kids like me, playing Super Mario Brothers. They knew that my turn would only last about 2 minutes, tops. Then I’d sit there during their “turn” for what seemed like hours, totally rapt.

My other favorite video game memory is scraping together $16 with my high school friends to rent a Sega Genesis for a Friday night and playing Mortal Kombat. The height of excitement in small town Minnesota in 1994.

Huh, I never appreciated before how much Britten’s Finale owes to the Finale of Symphonie Classique. Admittedly Prokofiev’s version doesn’t have quite the same big finish.

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