Full disclosure: I don’t play video games much at all anymore. Aside from the occasional Mario Kart/Party night with friends they just don’t really hold my interest anymore. What does (amply) pique that interest, however, is a new phenomenon in experimental music-making, possibly brought on by the global quarantine. I first saw it with Graham Dunning’s upcoming cassette release on Every Contact Leaves a Trace, Panopticon, a “site-specific” research recording created by replacing all the in-game sounds of Half-Life with extracts from “90s rave tracks and sample CDs.” Then, I was wowed by a livestreamed performance by fledgling quartet Lil’ Jürg Frey (Dicky Bahto, Erika Bell, Morgan Gerstmar, Stephanie Smith) in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, where the participant’s avatars played in-game sound objects in various prepared rooms.
Based on how successful and fascinating these turned out to be, I expected to be able to find more examples of experimental music made using the engines or environments of video games. But search any permutation of that on Google and you’ll find nothing. Thus, this leads me to my request: anyone who knows of any more examples of this sort of thing—whether it’s actual gameplay-generated sounds, the manipulated result of improperly loaded cartridges, anything—please send it to me. If like me this is all new to you, try making something in this unique way and send that too. Who knows, maybe we can make a cool compilation out of it or something.