Volume 2 (2016)

Variations on a Theme by a Rogue A.I.: Music, Gameplay, and Storytelling in Portal 2 (Part 1 of 2)

Steven Reale (Youngstown State University)
Volume 2.2 (July 2016)


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.


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

Steven Reale (Youngstown State University)
Volume 2.3 (December 2016)


The Influence of Clara Schumann’s Lieder on Declamation in Robert Schumann’s Late Songs

Harald Krebs (University of Victoria)
Volume 2.1 (February 2016)


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.


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