GDC 2009 - Day 3.2 - Cracking Emerging Markets, Greasy Musical Styles

One man steps outside programming cocoon to infiltrate business and audio streams. Trying to crack emerging markets while enhancing storytelling via musical style. Can one man have it all? Starring: Ben Sawyer, Lennie Moore and Garry Schyman

- - -
2:30pm - 3:30pm   Cracking Emerging and Non-Traditional Markets Roundtable
Ben Sawyer

Given games I create, need non-traditional market.
Arrive 2:50pm. Blame delicious Dim Sum.
Find 25 people seated around table (more oval than round, lies).
25 people seated along walls.
Post-It notes cover table.

Discovered this is session 1 of 3(!)
Unable to attend other days.
Decide to make most of first.
Godspeed friends.

Group trying to define what makes a market emergent. Thoughts:
   Attention more than monetization. i.e. Sex Pistols
   Quality has nothing to do with it. i.e. Deer Hunter, Facebook
   Certain scale must be achieved, must be growing.

Have MMOs emerged? Have Facebook apps emerged? Have IPhone apps emerged?
... or are they still emerging? Tough question. Answer uncertain.

Before arrival, group brainstormed possible emergent markets on Post-It notes.
Filtered Post-It wheat from Post-It chafe. Much chafe. 3 markets emerge:
   Rural - the culture not the geography
   Soft Skills Training - group labelled this chafe. fools.
   65+ - games for old folk

   Regarding 65+, Gordon said "don't think demographics".
   "Think games for things people are passionate about, regardless of age."
   Everyone understood, confirmed by addendum from group "like a bowling game".

Damn You Dim Sum.

- - -
4:00pm - 5:00pm   Everything Old is New Again:
Using Musical Style to Enhance Storytelling
Lennie Moore, Garry Schyman

Know nothing about music. Games prove this.
Decided to see how other half lives.

Music played during arrival. Convinced already.

Garry Schyman and Lennie Moore sitting up front.
Garry top half reveals brown jacket, collared shirt. Well groomed.
Lennie top half wearing white T-Shirt with funky front. Loved playing trombone.
Both seem nice. All presenters seem nice. Suspicious.

"Stylistic is all about listening."

4:00 Slide 1: "Listen Listen Listen."

   Not about copying a musical style.
   About molding the style into an immersive game project.
   Take the style, distill, and put into a form that can help game, movie, tv, who cares.
   i.e. Composer immersed himself in romanian music, added accent to his orchestral work
        "distilled it and brought new art to a world"

   Style isn't "i want to make it like a 1930s news real"
   It's "what can i incorporate from that style into the stuff i specialize in".
   Stye is all about details.
   If game company just wanted style, they could buy it.
   They hired you for your take.

   Composers need to do 2 things:
   a) Listen and enjoy all types of music
   b) Do homework, listen to all possible examples of style. Research period.
       Learn underlying mechanics of that style, not just surface novelty.
       "Listen. Listen. Listen." evolves into "Study. Study. Study."
   Emulating styles is fun!
   Dictionary alert: Panapoly

   "Listen, Listen, Listen" still showing. Takeaway: Listen.

4:10 Slide 2:

   Q: Orchestration: Is it critical to style?
   A: YES
   (That was straightforward)

   Proved thesis by playing great, funky music Garry recorded live
   "Los Paradiso Demo - Dan Higgens"
   Garry told key player (Dan) what he wanted and Dan just did it -
   improvising great stuff on the fly.

   First presentation where the music was louder than the presenters.
   Occasionally had to shout over their own presentation.
   Instrumentation example: "Tequila"
   Pee Wee Herman, may been caught masturbating in theatre,
   never be far from heart.

Slide 3: Hire Key Players
   Players have spent years mastering their instrument, why not take advantage of that.
   i.e. Tell your key player 70s Vegas, and s/he knows exactly what you mean.
   Give players room, "don't try to write it all out, leave some space for them to play"
   Next proof a 70s style, thick sax, wonky guiar + asian character.
   9 piece, all live, impossible without key players.

Slide 4: When and how does a style become a cliche, what are the stages?
   Style has a circle of life
   - novelty     kenny g - wizard island
   - popularity  kenny g - songbird
   - imitation   najee
   - overuse     smooth jazz
   - old age     wayne's world
   - evolution   kenny plays for president
   - then kenny becomes hip all over again

   Garry walked out on fat elvis.
   Garry purist at the time, now he's ashamed.
   Forgive him, dead elvis.


Garry did music score for "Destroy all Humans" which required 60s style music.
Did NOT make funny music. Created AUTHENTIC 60s style music, which was funny in context.
Not just music nostagically associated with 60s, but also non-standard Roy Budd.
Played "Moon Base Hunted", which was a dash like GoldFinger.
Listened to a lot of John Barry, asked his trumpet player for "wah wah".
Garry understands humour more than most game developers.

60s rock & roll in movies was played by jazz players (directors didn't know any better).
Most people associate 60s rock & roll with this sound, although that's inaccurate.
When you ask for 60s music, specify authentic or kitsch.

Great thing about the game industry, "there's not a lot of lifetime movies"
"the scoring of women crying and hugging is not necessairly the most interesting"
Just you wait...

"If you just use triads, you can miss what makes a period authentic.
You need to study harmonics. You might be melodically right, and orchestrally correct,
but somehow it's not quite there, it's not evoking the style
- because the harmonies are not being used in the proper way for that period.
Harmonies are what defines the style."
Note: Not entirely sure what this means, but sounds prophetic.

In Austin Powers, music was the straight man to the characters.
George S. Clinton wrote the music as if the characters could hear thier own theme music.
If Austin heard his music, would think totally serious and cool
If Dr. Evil heard his music, would think totally serious and cool

No reverb in 30s and 40s orchestra recordings,
which makes them feel 30s and 40s.
I'm 39 and have no reverb. Concur.

Lennie described 70s song playing in background as
"greasy, there's a lot of sauce on the notes."
Told key players to "grease it up", they knew what he meant.
Has also used phrase "Chunk it."
Plan to use at local coffee shop.

Q & A (paraphrased)

Q: Do you lose your own voice in the style?
    (continued GDC tradition of sitting down before answer - first established at Clint)

A: At the end of the day, it's whether the client is happy.
    It might be 90% style, but it's still 10% you.
    The client WANTS you in it.
    That's why they hired you.

Q: Lennie, do you still like the old scores you did?
    (believe Lennie used to score classic games where sound was limited)

A: Of course. That's what I did at the time. I love those games.

Noticed at GDC that musicians play music, artists show art, developers hide games.

- - -
5:00pm - 6:00pm   GDC Expo Booth Crawl

As instructed, crawled GDC Expo.
Made beeline for IGF pavillion.
Half the games turned off. Depressing.
Tip: During designated crawl, keep games on.
[Recently read that IGF nominees spent 95% of GDC manning their booths. Me feel bad.]

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