The sounds that go with me

Posted on April 27, 2008. Filed under: Games, Music, Philosophy |

If you’re at all like me, you have sounds playing in your head all the time. I have little tunes that accompany me wherever I go, and which change depending upon my activity. Did you know that if you walk down the street humming your personal sound, it protects you from dragons?! πŸ˜› My personal tunes do not include songs with words, except for one, in Hebrew. As we come to the close of the celebration of Passover for the year, I am reminded of the best known Passover song, Dayenu. This word can’t be translated, but if it could it would be something like “If God (universal life force, or whichever term you like) had given us only this one gift _______(fill in blank), things would be great, but God also gives us more!” I like Dayenu because it’s peppy, has a good beat, and gets me to do things quicker so I can go on to enjoy more of those gifts from the Universe. So, I play that tune in my head when I’m washing dishes, or the car; brushing my teeth (I have to get to the end of the song before I stop) or on the rare occasions I’m tidying up my workspace. πŸ˜‰ So, in my own weird way, I celebrate Passover the whole year long.

There’s my exercise music, as well. If I’m not exercising along with a video, I’ll play the theme from the movie Rocky in my head. I’ll bet lots of us do that.

Another is my walking tune, or what I refer to as The Deck Walking Tune, but is really called Out on the Deck.Β  This was written by Deirdra Kiai and is one of the many wonderful musical works she included in her great adventure game The Game That Takes Place on a Cruise Ship. I say more about that game here. To get to the music I mean, you have to start up the game and then walk out of Gert’s stateroom, take the elevator up one or more floors, and then walk along the deck. This is important (!) because I’m not referring to the first music you hear on the passenger deck (although I like that too, and it’s related), but to that on the upper decks. This music has refused to get out of my head although I haven’t played the game in a couple of months, and I’ve certainly heard other music since then. It has become “city stroll music”, for when I’m walking in town, looking in shop windows perhaps, or on my way to somewhere but not in a hurry. (I don’t have hiking music. Somehow when I’m in a natural setting, the sounds around me are the music.) I had to do a little bit of analysis to discover why I find this particular tune so compelling. It’s a seemingly innocent little tune when you first hear it, meant to be filler, I guess, for the gamer to get from one adventurous location to the next. But there is an edge behind that innocence.

I played it through on my keyboard, and began to analyze its melodic structure as well as I could given the length of time between my music theory classes and now. Let me say right off that I did not study jazz, and Ms. Kiai uses a lot of jazz motifs in her work. It could be argued that the basic melody line is in natural minor (the “sad” sounding scale, also known as Aeolian mode) with a few jazz changes thrown in to, well, “jazz it up”. From my medieval musical background, however, I rather think it alternates between Aeolian and Locrian modes, which gives it a freshness and exuberance beyond the obvious.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, here, but of the seven modes—or scales—used in most western music, the Locrian is the least used. Look how it’s been defined: “the ‘ugly duckling’ mode; so unstable and unsatisfying that most composers consider it unworkable.” I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Kiai has taken these tones and made them workable, while at the same time their instability contributes both to the wobbly experience of walking on a ship’s deck, and to the precariousness of the game’s situations. In retrospect, I really believe this has subtly influenced my choice of walking music, as I tend to feel instability in the nature of reality wherever I go. This is not a bad thing. I enjoy watching reality form and re-form itself around me, and it’s good to have appropriate musical accompaniment on the journey.

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15 Responses to “The sounds that go with me”

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The only tunes that get stuck in my head are the infuriating songs from kids programs on TV, Muse. They stick there for days! ‘_’

I don’t have a personal theme song (that reminds me of Kronk in the movie The Emperor’s New Groove), but I almost always sing when I’m walking. (Though when at work I tend to whistle for some reason.)

I spent quite a while looking at that music and trying to recall how it sounds in the game. Then I went to the game’s site where the entire soundtrack is available for listening (the one you’re looking for is Out on the Deck), and it’s no wonder I can’t fit that fugue into the soundtrack. That’s a completely different piece of music! I suppose you only meant the image as a kind-of-relevant illustration, but you had me confused for a while there. But to go back to the topic at hand, let me add that I too like that music. (The game soundtrack, not the illustration. I have to admit that I’d need an instrument* to figure out how the illustration sounds.)

* An instrument, or a computer program. Just before hitting the “Submit Comment” button, I decided to enter the music into a music notation program to hear what it sounds like. As I thought, it has no similarities to Deirdra’s music at all.

Re-reading this before posting, I see that my comment may seem a bit not-so-friendly. Please note that that is not the case. I enjoyed this post.

(I’d better push that “Submit” button now, or this comment will never end.)

Will, I once made the mistake of watching Barney with some neighbor kids. I paid for that for weeks! πŸ™‚

You know you’re right, Rikard. The fugue illustration was close to the paragraph discussing Deirdra’s music, and it did look as if I was indicating it was that music. I’ve put it up at the beginning, now, and it’s meant to be just an image for a music-themed post. I can see why you were confused—in looking at it again, I was too! I’m glad you liked the post anyway. πŸ˜‰ I’m impressed you looked at all the music, and threw the fugue into the notation program, and everything. I put Out on the Deck in a notation program as part of my study. I also edited my post to include the correct name after reading your comment, as it’s only fair to the composer, even though I’ve had it in my head as something else. You point out quite rightly that the music can be downloaded at the site (which is at the link I gave for the game), and this post is about the music. As a sub-plot, though, I’m trying to get people to play Deirdra’s games (and yours, of course!) so I figured maybe some would be curious enough to start the game to hear the music, and by then, they’d have gotten hooked! You have exposed my nefarious plot!!! 😈 So, you’ve helped me out a great deal with this post. If that’s not friendly, I don’t know what is. Thank you! I owe you an espresso. Does Deck feel modal to you as well?

Okay, you have me sold. I’ll check the game out in the next few days. I’m not much of a gamer, but it does sound like one I would enjoy.

For some unknown reason I am on a Neil Diamond kick. I listen to new rock, punk….why Neil? I saw the CD, recognized the songs from my childhood and bought it. It has been on repeat for about a week now and I haven’t tired of it yet.

Hey, thebeadden. I like Neil, too. His voice sounds effortlessly smooth, and full of character. His song choices are good, too, not just fluff.
I’ve really gotten into these indie adventure games in the last couple of years. They don’t have all the whiz-bang graphics and live acting that the commercial ones do, but they have a lot of heart, and the stories and gameplay are really, really wonderful. I’ll be curious to find out if it draws you in.

I had a great chuckle when I listened to Dayenu on your link! It was one of my favorite tunes growing up in a semi-jewish household. These days I find my self constantly chanting various yogic mantras. It’s a great practice to calm the mind and add some spring to my step. Hare Krishna, hare krishna, hare, hare, rama, rama:)

I’ll have to try that game. I love adventure games; I grew up with Myst and I still remember Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis. That was the first game I ever played and it’s still great!

I’ve listened to some of the music; very impressive, particularly for a free game. I can see how it would get stuck in your head! That’s always happening to me. Usually it’s just a partial fragment and I can’t work out what it is. Just the other day I was humming something and spent an hour trying to work out what it was. Turned out to be the jingle from a McDonald’s commercial. Subliminal advertising, anyone? πŸ˜•

I don’t hum music while I’m walking but I use background music while writing and that stays with me for hours. It’s good if it’s Chariots of Fire or something like that but not if it’s an unknown piece; suddenly it becomes very embarrassing! πŸ™‚

Alright, another Dayenu fan. Thanks, yogini. It’s amazing how many semi-Jewish households there are. πŸ˜‰ I didn’t mention that my slow-walking music (walking meditation, really) is Om Namah Shivaya. The music transports me as do my feet. πŸ™‚

McDonald’s, cj? I’m impressed you had the courage to report this! πŸ˜‰ Chariots of Fire music is really wonderful and uplifting. I have the CD. If you like TGTTPOACS, you might also try Out of Order, if you haven’t played that yet. Since you like science fiction, adventure games, and quirkiness, it seems like it might be right up your alley. And it has the best AG music I’ve heard anywhere.

Songs are often stuck in my brain and some only “play” in certain situations or in certain places. I think of it as my life’s soundtrack.

Myst!! – How I loved it! I don’t think I left my computer for three days when I discovered it. And when I finally emerged, every manhole cover I passed prompted the game’s music in my brain.

No wonder there’s nothing useful in my brain; it’s a jukebox.

Life’s soundtrack—I like that, ellaella. I found MYST captivating, too. There hadn’t been anything like it before. It was a lonely, but fascinating exploration.
“No wonder there’s nothing useful in my brain; it’s a jukebox.” πŸ˜€ Right, and a cookbook, and a political analysis center, and a philosophy repository, and a comedian, and an intelligent observer…yeah, nothing useful there! πŸ˜‰

Actually, I didn’t use the Locrian mode on purpose, or at least, not consciously. (I’ll have to read up on it, though!) I’ve never formally studied music theory; however, I’ve noticed that I’ve played and listened to music for so long that a lot of what I do know about theory is already instinctual to me. I think I’ve developed a sense of what sounds “right” or “wrong” given a certain mood I’m aiming for.

In the case of Out on the Deck, it was written after the Passenger Deck theme and meant to be a sort of variation on it… brassier and louder, and like you said, kind of wobbly and unstable. The feeling was definitely intentional, in retrospect, though I wasn’t conscious of the specific modes I was using. (There’s a third variation, Inside Chez Pierre, which plays in the fancy restaurant. It’s a slightly impatient, bored, and twiddly piano line, which now that I think about it really does reflect the kind of mood Gert is in when she’s sitting at that table with all the rich people.)

I had a feeling you might not have approached this music formally, Deirdra, and I’m pleased to know that. Classical music theory can be awfully stuffy, and it actually put me off being creative in any way for a few years. All those rules. I’m back to being much more instinctual with my own music, although I like to sing what the masters have created. You have an obviously fabulous sense of what works to create atmosphere.

Some would say that Out on the Deck is really in natural minor with an occasional lowered 5th, but I think the 5th and 7th (although the 7th is common to both scales) establish such a strong a tonality it can’t be put down to being just an embellishment.

I went back and listened inside the restaurant, and oh yeah, I remember that! In addition to the twiddly keyboard, the slower tempo and “lounge” percussion, the very odd chords you change to now and then are quite disconcerting. I’ll have to study those chords sometime when I’m feeling brave. I remember my first time through TGTTPOACS I took the quickest path out of the restaurant I could—in fact it was a relief to be in the bathroom, in spite of everything. πŸ˜‰ I think it does reflect Gert’s mood. It’s fun that for all Gert feels entitled to go where she pleases, including the hoity-toity restaurant, she isn’t very formal or fancy and ends up feeling twiddly.

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”


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