Cristyn Magnus composer

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Game Pieces

As composers, we are taught to consider an instrument's idiom. One wouldn't, for instance, call for a chord on a violin that required the first and third strings. Well, one might, but only with some good artistic reason for asking for the impossible. Without that reason, it would be regarded as bad crafsmanship.

For some reason, the computer's idiom is frequently neglected in electronic music. A great deal of effort has been expended trying to get computers to behave more like people. And while this has led to interesting research, the computer's idiom hasn't been considered. Sure, we can try to come up with better score trackers that need less babysitting, but we're forgetting where computers really shine. They can be more than just a poor facsimile of a human peformer that we put up with because they make really cool sounds.

My answer is video games. Other things computers do—word processing, spreadsheets, mail—are just things we could do without computers. Computers just make them faster, better, easier, more efficient. Video games are a truly different thing computers bring to the table. By making the game an integral part of the musical work, you play to the computer's strengths. And just as you'd end up with different music if you write for a violin than for a piano, you end up with something different if you write for computers as computers.