This week I attended the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience. At least I think that’s the official name for it. Stadium acoustics aside (it was in the arena where they often host hockey matches), it’s an amazing touring event led by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi, who serves as the evening’s conductor, musician, and host. The orchestra that played was a local one, which was a nice touch for this particular show of a touring performance.
I recently played the Variable State game Virginia, which embraces the genre of “walking simulator” almost to a fault. Navigating a handful of environments in first-person, there is almost no exploration to enjoy; you usually have a single action you can take, which is often as mundane as opening a door. Virginia is also a narrative game — but that narrative is confusing at the best of times. There is absolutely no dialogue in the game, so you must rely on your vision — take in the watercolor palette, the characters’ stern facial expressions, the objects that take up space but don’t allow you to interact with them in any way — to comprehend the story. Or what there is of a story.
I’ve been a fan of Telltale’s episodic, story-driven games for years. The first I played was The Walking Dead, which broke my heart with its amazing storytelling. I liked The Wolf Among Us even better for its noir-like atmosphere and detective work. Game of Thrones was fun because I’m such a fan of the HBO show… but it’s really Tales from the Borderlands that’s totally stolen my heart.
It’s my favorite for many reasons, and I think they’re worth playing the game if you haven’t yet. I would even recommend this series as a Telltale starting point if you enjoy Gearbox’s Borderlands games which dish up the setting for this series — or if you just like games that are all-out fun and don’t take themselves too seriously!
Here are my top five reasons to pick up this series. =)
Sound is such an important part of a science fiction world. I’m always listening to the big hit soundtracks, like Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy and the score for the first Mass Effect game. But what’s interesting to me as a fan sci-fi as well as music is that some of the earliest electronic music composers were inspired by a certain sci-fi film.
Around this time last year, I was researching early electronic music for a personal project I was working on. I’m talking music before Kraftwerk, back when it took John Cage and his collaborators three months to painstakingly slice magnetic tape in order to create a totally-sampled track in 1953.
The science fiction film that sparked many composers’ careers as electronic musicians was Forbidden Planet (1956). The composers were a married couple named Louis and Bebe Barron, who’d been given a tape recorder as a wedding gift. The score they composed for Forbidden Planet was the first ever entirely electronic soundtrack.
The music is far from melodic. Instead, it’s a series of bleeps and whirring, with a distinctly alien feel. To create the sounds, the Barrons took recordings of everyday noises — a common thing to do in the pioneering days of experimental music — and added effects such as reverb to them. The result was a flood of haunting tones, sirens and alien noises.
Sound designer Ben Burtt, creator of Star Wars’ R2D2 voice and many other science fiction sounds, names the Forbidden Planet score as one of his major influences. In an interview with Wired magazine, he describes the first time he saw the film and heard the music:
“The film created this really eerie, complete world — another world. I really felt like I was off the Earth, in another place that was very frightening. In fact, I can remember being in the theater, wishing that it would be over so I could get back to Earth… I realized a lot of the effect of that on me was the sound of the movie. The electronic tonalities that were… both music and sound effects at the same time.”
Burtt says that electronic music is part of science fiction’s language, and I agree. Of course, it doesn’t have to be; after all, some of the most moving and intriguing science fiction music has a classical bent (2001: A Space Odyssey, A.I., Prometheus, Mass Effect 2 and 3). But there’s something about the electronic soundscape that makes drifting through space feel so lonely and alien worlds seem so foreign.
It’s not surprising to me that a lot of early experimental composers featured in the documentary Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution talk about how outer-space-like electronic instruments sounded, especially at that time. Those instruments were sprawling technological triumphs — they took up half the room or covered entire walls — and they suited this era of the ’50’s and ’60’s, when the “space race” was on between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It seems the Forbidden Planet soundtrack was a big part of that scene.
On a related note, if you’re into early electronic music and want something catchy (that’s pre-Kraftwerk), I highly recommend Tom Dissevelt and Dick Raaymakers (sometimes credited as Kid Baltan). They composed electronic music for Royal Philips Electronics in the late ’50’s and ’60’s, with the aim of making this type of music catchy and accessible. Songs like 1962’s “Syncopation” are so melodic and easy to listen to, they sound way ahead of their time.