SMT-V: Videocast Journal of the Society for Music Theory

Variations on a Theme by a Rogue A.I.: Music, Gameplay, and Storytelling in Portal 2" (Part 2 of 2)

Steven B. Reale (Youngstown State University)

This two-video series explores how the scoring to the video game Portal 2, published by Valve Corporation, not only helps tell the game’s story, but also comments on the game developers’ philosophy of puzzle design. The first video explores how the game’s title theme 9999999, including its texture, voice leadings, and chord qualities, musically enacts dual aspects of the character of the game’s central antagonist GlaDOS: once human, her personality was uploaded into a computer mainframe where she has become a sociopathic, homicidal artificial intelligence who takes delight in subjecting humans to hazardous scientific experimentation. The second video demonstrates that 9999999 serves as the theme for a set of double variations in the game’s middle act. Since Valve’s philosophy of player training centers on iterative puzzle-design that systematically increase in complexity, and the musical accompaniments for these puzzles feature coordinated developments in musical complexity, the scoring here lets us parse the puzzle design into a kind of set of gameplay theme-and- variations.

SMT-V Video Archive

Variations on a Theme by a Rogue A.I.: Music, Gameplay, and Storytelling in Portal 2" (Part 1 of 2) July 2016 (2.2)
Steven Reale (Youngstown State University)

This two-video series explores how the scoring to the video game Portal 2, published by Valve Corporation, not only helps tell the game’s story, but also comments on the game developers’ philosophy of puzzle design. The first video explores how the game’s title theme 9999999, including its texture, voice leadings, and chord qualities, musically enacts dual aspects of the character of the game’s central antagonist GlaDOS: once human, her personality was uploaded into a computer mainframe where she has become a sociopathic, homicidal artificial intelligence who takes delight in subjecting humans to hazardous scientific experimentation. The second video demonstrates that 9999999 serves as the theme for a set of double variations in the game’s middle act. Since Valve’s philosophy of player training centers on iterative puzzle-design that systematically increase in complexity, and the musical accompaniments for these puzzles feature coordinated developments in musical complexity, the scoring here lets us parse the puzzle design into a kind of set of gameplay theme-and- variations.
The Influence of Clara Schumann’s Lieder on Declamation in Robert Schumann’s Late Songs February 2016 (2.1)
Harald Krebs (University of Victoria)

In his late songs (from 1849-52), Robert Schumann’s vocal rhythm strays much farther than in his earlier songs from the poetic rhythm. His late style of declamation may have been influenced by Clara Schumann’s Lieder of the 1840s. His late songs exhibit the following characteristics, which are also found in her songs: 1) the vocal rhythms are based on the poetic rhythm at least occasionally, so that listeners have a foil against which they can perceive declamatory irregularities; 2) there are numerous deviations from consistent coordination of stresses with strong beats, and of four-bar hypermeasures with poetic units; 3) rests are often employed in an unpredictable manner; and 4) there are text-expressive motivations for declamatory irregularities.
Multiple Musical Agency in Mozart's Chamber Music October 2015 (1.3)
Edward Klorman (Queens College and The Julliard School)

Comparisons between the string quartet and artful conversation have flourished since the genre’s birth. If a quartet performance resembles stylized social intercourse, each player may be understood to enact the role of an individual persona engaged in the discourse. This study introduces the concept of multiple agency, whereby musical events are interpreted through the actions and interactions of these individual personas. This analytical approach is demonstrated through the analysis of a passage from Mozart’s Quartet in G Major, K. 387. A more thorough exposition of multiple agency’s historical and conceptual underpinning appears in the author’s monograph, Mozart’s Music of Friends.
Contrapuntal Thinking in Haydn June 2015 (1.2)
Peter Schubert (McGill University)

The first eight measures of the finale of Haydn’s Symphony #99 are straightforward as to harmony and formal function (they are a textbook period ending in PAC V). But the first theme group takes on larger proportions as a direct repetition of the basic idea introduces a new formal function. The momentum that Haydn builds up as this first theme group grows in length depends on “contrapuntal thinking.” In this video, Peter Schubert pulls apart the little melodic fragments that Haydn cleverly recombined.
Repetition & Musicality February 2015 (1.1)
Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis (University of Arkansas)

This video explores the connection between repetition and musicality. It starts by demonstrating the role of repetition in a popular web app, and then chronicles the centrality of repetition within musical practice at large. Given this centrality, musical repetition has been relatively understudied, but the methods and perspectives of cognitive science might help illuminate its functions. The rest of the video reviews recent empirical work that examines the role of repetition in musical perceptions, suggesting that repetition shapes attention and engagement in powerful ways.



Scott Murphy, Editor Anna Gawboy, Associate Editor Bryn Hughes, Associate Editor
(University of Kansas) (Ohio State University) (University of Miami)


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