Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Edit: Hiatus

I will most likely not be posting. If I do, it will be when I want to rather than when I feel forced to.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Update: Revamp

So yea, I didn't complete my experiment.

Little disappointed but once I started forcing art it became a chore. This is not okay.

I will discontinue the Trial of Techne for now. I will probably finish the Prince and the Tower story because I hate unfinished work (ironic, I know).

Anyway, I will be kicking Jake off this site because of his astonishing number of posts (1) and because I want to take a personal turn with this blog.

I started a Paleo Diet/Primal Lifestyle college blog over the summer but did not keep up with it. I was going to create a blog about my workout plan I have laid out from now till August with strong details on development. I'm also dropping out of college and moving to San Francisco (hopefully) so I want to journal that journey. Also I'm learning Japanese (that's not really blog-related).

So I'm going to just make this blog my SUPER blog. I will be talking about everything I want to talk about.

Deal with it. (I love you).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trial of Techne - Script (April 16th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.

You can view part one of this prose over here.


Prince in the Tower: Part Two...

The Prince and the witch conversed back and forth for quite a while,
In some time though, the witch decided to use her female guile....

After one calm night, the witch rode through town
Exclaiming "The Prince raped me," from the top of a mound

The Prince appeared, readily to defend his reputation
But the people wouldn't have it, they believed the witches persuasion

"I did not commit such an act. Surely, this woman is a liar."
"A liar you call me? After you yourself lie! Why we ought to burn you in a fire."

This was a difficult moment for the townsfolk as they couldn't believe their ears,
Has this magnificent Prince really raped a woman as ugly as a steer?

They had to believe her, for why would she cry,
She must be telling the truth, "The Prince must die."

Trial of Techne - Script (April 15th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.

Another late one...I'm slipping!


The Avian

To be a bird
Is to revel the sky
Flying higher and lower
Flying faster and slower
Enjoying the breeze and resting at night

But what of the bird who flies high
The bird aimless without a concern
The avian who transcends the sky
Never, ever, to return

The bird becomes blind
Unlike his fellow crow
Because to fly high into the sky
Is to fly directly into the suns brutal glow

Friday, April 15, 2011

Trial of Techne - Script (April 14th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.

Yea I'm aware this one is a day late. Oh well, my first blunder. I published it as soon as I woke up the following day.


Prince in the Tower: Part One

There once was a Prince who lived in a tower,
Happily and Joyfully with women in tow.

One day an angry, ugly, putrid witch,
with an angry, ugly, putrid army.
arrived at the princes tower at the morning dews welcome.

"Fair Lady," the Prince replies.
"Why do you visit me on this day?"

"Young Prince," the nasty witch cried.
"Your tower stands in my way."

"Oh dear Hag, you can go around, or we can work together to find a solution"
"Silly Prince, as long as your tower still stands I cannot create my illusion."

"Illusions? Confusions? Why play these games? Surely there is another way?"
"It does not matter what you say Prince, your tower falls today."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trial of Techne - Script (April 13th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.



Stuck in a hole
Surrounded by dirt and dust
I need a shovel

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trial of Techne - Music (April 12th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.



Wonderlust by Mannigan Music

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trial of Techne - Script (April 11th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.


Siren of the Aisle

The allure is unbearable
Captivating, Amazing, Radiant, Benevolent,
Truly, a splendor of the Earth.

Resistance seems absurd
Mesmerizing as the radiance itself,
But there lies a grotesque truth to the Siren
Of detriment to one's own health.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trial of Techne - Music (April 10th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.



Sunburn by Mannigan Music

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Trial of Techne - Photo (April 9th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.


Beach and Beer

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trial of Techne - Riff (April 8th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.


Gilded Semblance

TrialofTechneApril8th by Mannigan Music

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trial of Techne - Script (April 7th)

The Trial of Techne is a 30 day experiment where I produce one artistic item daily. You can read about it in the original post here.


Those Without Eyes

Do not underestimate the power of words.

Every spoken word, an ally called upon.
Every spoken word, a mercenary enlisted.

But what for those who abuse such tact weaponry -
Whose tarnished sight faults them.

Do not fear their absurd nomenclature,
As it is a false army.

For those without eyes may never see,
And without sight they may never win.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indie as Opting-Out (IGES Part 6)

I've postponed this post for a while.

Initially the scope of the article was going to remain within the ideas of gaming, but as I began scouring my thoughts, I realized that the conclusions I was coming to about Indie Gaming are parallel to many other "Indie" sources.

Let's take for example the Paleolithic diet I follow. The diet attempts to mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors under the assumption we have not evolved much since their time. It excludes processed food, grains, legumes, dairy, and some other things. You essentially eat a shitload of meat and vegetables splashed with fruits and nuts occasionally.

Most of the ideology behind the Paleolithic Diet is against what we've been told makes us healthy. It goes against "Conventional Wisdom" (such as whole grains being healthy and chronic running as being a useful exercise -- it's actually the opposite).

What is conventional wisdom but the cultural beliefs and ideas that have been thrust down our throats since elementary school. In the face of scientific studies and data, the Paleolithic diet, although against what "they" tell us, is more logical and legitimate. One could argue that the primary people in power perpetuate conventional wisdom, or lies, for the sake of profit (I believe they do), but that's beyond the realm of my undertaking here.***

This leads me to my main point...

Indie is Opting Out.

Indie is counterculture.

Paleolithic dieters are tired of the conventional diatribe that plagues our health systems -- So they opt out.

Men have come to realize the rules of feminism and society are broken and illogical -- So they opt out.

Indie musicians and film makers are tired of working for a check and stretch boundaries and ideas about the medium itself -- So they opt out.

Indie video game developers are tired of working under a system that stifles creativity in search of profit -- So they opt out.

My point is hopefully clear by now. Most, if not all, cases of an "indie movement" are essentially individuals opting out of the current system.

In regards to video games specifically, the only way to further the medium to a higher level of art is to allow innovations. It has been shown that man is innovative when he is not on a quest for money, but rather for the sake of being innovative. A simple reference back to my argument that true art and true business are mutually exclusive is in order. It is only possible for the advancement of the medium if developers are allowed to innovate for innovations sake.

The antagonist here, as always, is money. There is no money to be gained with one guy in his basement with an artistic idea. The scope of indie games will remain small until money is pumped into the system.

"But Zac, didn't you just say money and art are mutually exclusive?" Yes, I did. The quest to achieve or produce money and art are mutually exclusive. The writer Albert Camus had the following philosophy:
"Money doesn't buy happiness. Money buys time, which allows one to search for happiness."
In regards to this article, developers are searching for the "freedom to develop." They need money to buy time in order to complete their search for the "freedom to develop." Money is only necessary here because we make it necessary. Fucking stupid concept right?

The issue is money won't be delivered into the system until corporate executives decides indie games are profitable (which is sort of happening right now. They are in no way facilitating it, but rather allowing it to exist).

The issue I see is that indie games will always have a disagreement with industry executives because they are inherently NOT looking to gain profit.

Indie Gaming Goal -- Make games that express artistic intent regardless of money.

Industry Gaming Goal -- Make money regardless of artistic intent.

There's a catch 22 here. For indie games to make money, they need to be profitable. For them to be profitable they have to consider money in their project. Thus, the developer must sacrifice artistic integrity to produce a product that enough people will buy to be considered profitable.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Obviously, we as consumers could just stop accepting garbage AAA games and start demanding games of artistic value, but there's no way that will happen. The majority of the population doesn't even know what artistic value is.

Ultimately, I see indie games as something that will remain indie. There is enough of a following that they can, and will succeed, but not to the extent that the medium of gaming will be transformed.

There is an exhibit being installed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum dedicated to video games, but it is a shallow approach in my opinion. To say "Pong" is art is to stretch the boundaries of the definition to a point that I don't even want to consider.

But if that stretch is the necessary component to challenge the artistic merit of video games once and for all, well...

Let's just hope it doesn't snap back.

***check out the movie Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. Google it and you can watch it online. Couple hours of your time and you will never look at the world the same way again.

Trial of Techne

Techne is liberally translated from Greek as the personification of art or craft.

Beginning either tonight or tomorrow, I will be posting 1 artistic item a day on this blog.

Artistic items include:
  • Music or Sound - No length requirement
  • Visual Image - Illustrated or photographed.
  • Script - Any text with artistic merit
The artistic item must be produced day of posting.

If I become aware of reasons that will inhibit me from posting an item on a later date, I may produce said days item earlier.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Art Games (IGES Part 5)

    These "essays" are becoming less and less essay like as a result of me filtering my thought process. Less text + Same message = More successful blog post, in my opinion. Fuck fluff.


    If you're familiar with the indie scene, you've most likely heard of an "art game." Popular reference points for me, Braid and Limbo, are generally considered "art games."

    That begs the question, "what is an art game?"

    An art game is not Halo. An art game is not League of Legends. An art game is not World of Warcraft.

    What separates Braid from these games?

    --As a side note, I think it's disturbing that the term "art games" even exists. WoW and Braid are both games, but we only consider Braid an "art game." Justin Beiber and Incubus are both artists, but we call both "music" as opposed to "music" and "art music" respectively. We don't call Da Vinci "art art."
    Art Art

    It is the interpretive potential of a game that persuades us to call it an art game. By it's nature, World of Warcraft doesn't beg much interpretation. Kill monster -- receive reward -- repeat.

    Art games do not treat players like mindless drones. They treat players like they are people capable of critical thinking.

    Art games lie as far left on the "Art/Business" spectrum as possible and aren't in it for the cash flow.

    Art games teach you something about the human condition. They aren't passive experiences, but rather they engage the player to take with them a message or a thought.

    It is interesting to note that my regular definition for "art" is essentially "anything with human intention behind it." Video games are inherently intended to be something as they cannot just occur. Thus a distinction must be made between games and art games. Art games have artistic intention -- something that makes you think.

    The idea that the visuals of a game allow you to apply the "art" prefix is nonsense. An art game is not pretty. Graphics are superficial (unless being used to express the authors intention). Yes, Braid is an art game, not because of it's beautiful visuals, but because of the backbone of the game.

    SPOILER: You do know Braid's about an atomic bomb, right?

    Monday, March 21, 2011


    There's a spectacular internet movement going about called Blog4NZ (Blog For New Zealand). They recently had a devastating earthquake -- something that deters travelers and tourism, which is a really important segment of their economy.

    One of the most inspiring bloggers on the map, Colin Wright over at, threw up a blog post about his experiences in New Zealand. These quotes stuck out to me...
    It’s one of those countries that sticks with you, and the people that I met while there, the things that I did and the compositions that I saw (every horizon line in the whole country deserves to be called a composition, not just a geographic formation) left an indelible impression.
    This has a hugely negative impact on the area because after a disaster is when they need those funds the most, and as the money dries up, the locals have a harder time putting the pieces back together. They’re then faced with difficult long-term ramifications (in the case of New Zealand, they’re able to avoid most drilling, mining and deforestation because of the tourism industry…if that goes away, so could their beautiful landscape).

    Although I may not be a traveler, I do wish to preserve any sort of artistic integrity whenever there is the chance to do so. In this case, the land itself is in peril.

    If what Colin says is true, then I beg that we do not deny them tourism during the aftershock of this mess. The last thing this drained world needs is another ecosystem sapped of its essence by the influence of the most infamous of vampires - money.


    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Art =/= Business (IGES Part 4)

    At PAX East I was lucky enough to catch a speech by Scott Macmillian entitled "Death of an Indie Studio." This presentation was easily the most memorable one, spoken from the heart of an indie veteran recounting his experiences of a war-torn battle between his creative drive and the omnipotent pressure of finance.

    During his slide-show, he made one very interesting point.

    True Art is not Business.

    This point, albeit not a very obvious one, is a powerful idea that I wholeheartedly agree with. In his presentation he had a line segment, with Art on one end of the spectrum, and Business at the other end.


    To have a piece of true art, of complete artistic expression, is to expel all notions of profit, of revenue, of financial restraints and limitations.

    The example of "true art" that Scott used in his presentation is that of a man named Henry Darger. In short, during a posthumous inspection of his Chicago-based studio apartment, a myriad of artwork (including novels and crafted images) were discovered, something he never revealed to the outside world.

    He did this for himself. He created true art.

    He was a janitor.

    This is relevant to the presentation because Scott had a vision of an indie game he wanted to do and he started an indie studio to do so. The start of a studio though, is turning the key in the ignition for business.

    I do not want to rehash his speech on here, so I will  post a link to his slides once they are available.

    To create art, is to lie as far left on the spectrum as possible, if not completely left. Only begin sacrificing Art for Business when it is completely necessary to continue the production of your art. Do not fall into a catch 22 of sacrificing Art for Business only to find yourself lying face first in a pile of bureaucratic waste.

    Here's an activity: Take the time to produce a piece of music, a drawing, a rendering, or a short story that you are proud of. Put it away. Do not show this to anyone.


    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Nostalgia is Blinding (IGES Part 3)

    Was it just me, or was Diddy Kong Racing impossible?

    Let's define nostalgia. Nostalgia, from Google definitions, is defined as "longing for something past." It is the feeling you get when you think about the first sweet moment you had with the opposite sex, or a time you and your buddies won a trophy for a competition. These moments of grandeur present us with memories of "good ole' times." Nostalgia, from my perspective, only applies to positive events.

    The problem with nostalgia is that it skews our perceptions of past games. You will favor older games than newer ones primarily because they are older. You will enjoy songs from your childhood regardless of how crappy they were (Ricky Martin anyone...just kidding, he's amazing).

    To find out how nostalgia skews our perception of games, one needs to look no further than the game awarded the largest amount of "best game" awards -- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

    Legend of Zelda: OoT was a fantastic game. It chronicled Links first polygonal adventure through the lands of Hyrule. It gave us Epona, Links fearless horse companion who had a fetish for carrots. It gave us Ganondorf, the human-esque form of Links arch rival. Ganondorf's malevolence is more palpable, even more fearsome than his beast-like true nature, something I attribute to his human form -- it is more realistic and relatable to us as players.

    So yea, this game rocks.

    What about Twilight Princess, Links exploits on the Wii. The game has a more mature story, darker tones and atmosphere, and deals with arguably more human issues. The game play is improved (let's assume Gamecube controller) and dungeons are difficult, but not frustrating (hello water temple).

    I argue, from an objective standpoint, that Twilight Princess is just as good if not better than Ocarina of Time. So why does Ocarina of Time get all the love?


    One could argue timing (as it was the first 3D Zelda), but I file that under Nostalgia regardless.

    What if Twilight Princess was released as the first 3D Zelda title for the N64, with Ocarina of Time coming out on the Wii years later? In my opinion, our consent would be flipped. Twilight Princess would be topping lists.

    I think a further reason we, gamers, vote up Ocarina of Time is because we've settled on it as a standard of gaming excellence. To differ from that statement is to deny being a gamer in some context (like social pressure), but that idea is for a different post.

    Is it a bad thing that we view older games in a positive, nostalgic light? I don't think so. The point of this post is to become conscious that you, as a gamer, do this. You do it for the food you eat, the places you travel to, and the people you meet.

    Nostalgia places a holy light on things past, and you must be sure not to let it blind you.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    The Gamer Entitlement Issue (IGES Part 2)

    Side-note: Last weekend, Jake and I attended the Penny Arcade Expo up in Boston.

    While there, I attended many interesting panels and discussions on video games, yet one struck me as incredibly interesting -- the one titled "It's not the Length, it's the Mirth (Game Length Versus Value)." This was exactly what I had covered in the first part of the Indie Gaming Essay Series.

    During this interview the panel discussed many things that I will bleed into my later essays. One thing they mentioned was an event called the "Size Doesn't Matter Day," a day where many indie bloggers took to their text editors to argue for or against whether the size of a game is valuable. Here is a link to Chris Hecker's (an indie influence of mine, who happened to be at the panel -- an unexpected but welcomed surprise!) blogpost on the subject: Size Doesn't Matter (Chris Hecker). There are links to other blog posts on the subject towards the bottom of Chris's post, and I implore you to indulge in them fervently.


    Let's take a look at a recent incident within the League of Legends community...

    Riot Games, the developers of LoL, provided absentee registered users to return to LoL with the gift a free character that the majority of people had to pay for (or get free with time). What happened?

    A humongous backlash of fury from the community came forth. They accosted Riot, exclaiming how unjust it was that disloyal subjects of their kingdom were being rewarded while the loyal players who contributed to the game were being left in the digital dust.

    The strongest amount of negative attention Braid received was about its length. Consumer's felt the price was unjust for the "short" length of the game.

    One of the problems here is price standardization.

    Take a look at other mediums to see how price standardization works.
    1. Music CD's - $12-$16
    2. Digital Music CD's - $10 on iTunes
    3. Individual tracks - 99Cents - $1.29
    When a consumer spends $10 on a CD, he/she has length expectations. These expectations are usually delivered upon by the producer (30 minutes to an hour of music) and no one comes out irritated. If a producer provided only fifteen minutes of music for $10 the consumer would question it, and be irritated. A certain + or - area is allowed, but when it goes obviously beyond the boundaries set by standardization, the consumer raises an eyebrow curiously and furiously.

    How do these price-points come about? I'm not really sure (probably some sort of supply/demand situation), but I DO know that the industry is stalwart about they're price points. They do not bend them. The music industry sets the price points, and then the public gets familiar with the cost/content relationship.

    "AAA" video game companies have used the $50 or $60 price point for consoles, and $30-$40 price points for mobile games.

    The problem I see with video games is not centrally standardization, but cross-platform or continuous standardization. The fact that indie games on the PC, XBOX, and the iPhone all cost varied amounts of money is confusing to a consumer. The consumer doesn't really know what he's getting into and can become increasingly frustrated as he tries to create a pattern for himself.

    Solution? The industry needs to set standards. XBOX Live is already on this track, with polished indie games recieving a 15 dollar tag, but that's about as good as it gets. The iPhone price market is all over the place and steam sales continually mess up a consumers thoughts on buying games and the inherent value of a game.

    I think depreciating value of games over short periods of time lends to this confusion. If steam can cut the price of a game in half for a day, how do I interpret the value of the product?

    This argument is a little loose, so here's some glue: gamers are confused. The prices of other mediums are pretty static and provide us with a mental foothold for the value of those mediums, and video games fall short here.

    So back to entitlement. From what I see, gamers tend to under-value games. Unlike a physical thing you can hold or touch, video games lack the image of "work" behind them. Consumers don't grasp how long it took for your team to code one feature of your game, and they definitely don't understand how much time and effort it took to make the product. This then leads them to believe that they deserve more than what they are getting.

    Remember the League of Legends thing I stated earlier? People were outraged by Riot's behavior. Are you aware that League of Legends is completely free to play? I have personally never spent a dollar on it and probably spent more time on it than any individual wants to admit.

    My argument, then, is that gamers are confused about the value of games. Failure to have standardized pricing (which leads to understood value) and failure on the consumers part to understand how much work goes into video game production are the reasons that gamers feel so entitled to content.

    Edit: I would like to add this to the argument...

    The pirate culture skews digital value even further. I know a few people who never dare spend a dollar on a song, album, or film because they can just download them for free. When people start getting these things for free, they become desensitized to the value of digital products. To some of my friends, one dollar is too much (something I find completely ridiculous).

    What about people who simply like the product, regardless of anything else? Take a look at how Radiohead sold their album "In Rainbows." You could download it for free (or maybe a penny) or pay as much as you wanted. Up to you as the consumer, to assign value to the product you were about to purchase. What was the result of this? They averaged slightly above average sales.

    If a consumer likes your product, they'll buy it regardless. It's the iffy-ones that need to be convinced of value.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    A new author approaches!

    This whole "blog" thing is a new concept for me. I've never considered myself someone who takes repeated interest in writing... Sure, I've written countless school essays, critiques, short stories, lyrics, poems, reviews, summaries, and other walls of text.

    But alas, introductions are due.

    I'm Jake. I, like Zac, am an aspiring musician; My current prolonged-conquest is an epic journey consisting of composing music for the game we both work on, and maybe some extra bits of sound design, dialogue recording, and making cool sounds that resemble half way between a wookie's battle cry and a plethora of lemmings on a death march. Ok.. Maybe not that peculiar, but I'll rant about that more later.

    I'm close to halfway through my Music Engineering degree at the University of Miami. It's a cool thing, I get to learn all about (perhaps more than necessary) Electronic hardware design, Software and programming languages, Live sound mixing and studio recording, and everything music in between.

    I asked myself the same question you may have just thought yourself: "Where the hell do I start?". Long story short, this blog is a part of my (semi) structured but largely chaotic and crazy effort to pursue what I think is now my prime interest in anything music: video game audio.

    In an effort to put me on a slightly more organized track with my work, I asked Sir Citronious if I could update on this blog as well. While I'm sure more posts will come, for now I think my main focus is going to be chronicling the steps and processes of my music writing... One new experience to complement another, if you will.


    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    What is Music?

    Music is a difficult thing to define. Music falls in an abstract realm of understanding. Music is ultimately undefinable.

    There are multitudes of "agreed upon" definitions for music, and with that said, I will take my subjective stab at defining music.

    My stubby golf-shorts wearing professor of Rock and Roll History defined music as such:
    Music -- The Organization of Sound and Silence
    Fairly agreeable definitions of music upon first glance. I had been using this as my go-to definition for a few years.

    Recently though, my World Music teacher asked our class to define music. I responded with my reserved definition which I presumed would satiate her curiosity.

    Well, she actually peaked mine by telling me "Yes, but no."

    She then introduced the class to the idea of a Soundscape. If a landscape is your "visual surroundings" then a soundscape is your "auditory surroundings." It is everything you hear around you at all times.

    She then proposed a construction site. Imagine that there was metallic clanking and machines roaring, but in rhythm. I've certainly heard this in my life. I had not considered it music until that moment though, but it absolutely is music.

    The construction workers most likely did not organize their equipment to clank in rhythm, but if we consider that music, then my definition has lost its viability.

    "But Zac, the metal orchestra is technically organized sound and silence regardless!" True. The organization definition implies human intention it behind it though -- as if it was actively organized by someone. Which leads to the question, "how do we tailor our definition to match hap-haphazardly spawned music?"

    To understand my definition, I'll first need to explain the five fundamentals of music.
    1. Pitch - This is the frequency of the sound wave. When you think a note is "high" or "low" you are thinking about pitch.
    2. Timbre - Pronounced TAM-bur, this is the specific sound of what you are hearing. Timbre is what makes a trumpet sound like a trumpet, and a piano sound like a piano. If we consider pitch "tone" then timbre is "tone color."
    3. Tempo - Tempo is the speed of music. If we call a song "fast-paced" or a "slow-dance" we are referring to tempo. Tempo does not have to be consistent throughout a piece.
    4. Rhythm - This is the cyclical occurrence of sound. Rhythm is the pattern at which sounds occur over time. 
    5. Meter - the structural foundation of a piece. Western music has "four beats every measure" and we call this 4/4 meter, or quadruple meter. Meter, like tempo, does not have to be consistent throughout a piece.
    With any given sound, any specific aural instance, there exists a frequency of the sound wave heard (Pitch) and the kind of sound heard (Timbre). This is completely unavoidable (even percussion instruments have pitch).

    Given the other constraints (rhythm, meter, and tempo), it occurs to me that only one of these really turns "sound" into "music."


    Tempo and Meter are, in my opinion, consequences of rhythm. They are just a manner of describing qualities of rhythm.

    With any one instance of auditory sensation, we have pitch and timbre. Once pitch and timbre start recurring (rhythm) we now have music.

    Music - The cyclical occurrence of patterned Pitch and Timbre over a period of time.

    Musicologists, please enter the arena. Gladiators, equip your spear and shield. Organize your phalanx and defeat my definition.

    I dare you.

    Music, Memory, and Mood Continued

    In the previous post on Music, Memory, and Mood I introduced the logical order of how music affects us individually:
    1. Hear song.
    2. Remember instance of song (memory).
    3. Recall emotions related to instance.
    4. Experience emotions (mood).

    I also stated that the brain's association between music and memory is tight-knit.


    It's a bit ridiculous to talk about any art form in an objective manner. Paintings are ultimately what the subjective consumer makes of it. Music is no different.

    There is a degree of objectivity available though. Any form of art has an intended mood, regardless of what the consumer ultimately makes of it. This is what the artist sees in it. Through this intention we can take an objective look at music (and furthermore, any artform).

    "But Zac, doesn't intention imply subjectivity on the artists behalf?" Right you are! The intended mood of a piece is a subjective affair, but the how of it isn't.

    To further clarify, there are objective "tools" that an artist uses to get his subjective "point" across. There are tools to write a sad song contrary to those for a happy song.

    To double-further clarify, these tools are actually a product of Enculturation. Specifically, in western music, sad music has a specific sound because we have always used that specific sound for sad music. In another culture, their version of sad music could use different tools than ours (this is a very rudimentary explanation of the concept, as I am not completely familiar with it. I will do some research and post more in-depth on this phenomenon in the future).

    "But Zac, that means our "tools" are subjective as well!" You are on the ball today. Yes, the western idea of a "sad" song is subjective relative to other cultures, but for the sake of my argument today, I will be making the assumption I am speaking to someone familiar with western tools.

    So, I am going to stop typing this introduction, and go make some music....

    ....And I'm back. Here are two songs. One is "happy" the other is "sad." Can you figure out which is which?

    Mood Music 1 by Project Panda Music

    Mood Music 2 by Project Panda Music

    I won't spoil which one is which, but I'd bet money you figured it out (not really, I'm in college).

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    A Taste of House (Part 1)

    Edit: I have taken down this song temporarily. 

    Nature is my go-to muse.

    Last summer, all I wanted was for it to rain outside. Whenever it's a nice day outside I feel terrible about spending it inside on my computer doing whatever. When it rains, I have deny-ability -- I can't go outside because it's raining!

    It also seems to be when I create the best. I tune in with the spirit of a rainy day much more than any other natural occurrence.

    To cut a story short, after about two months of me wishing it would start raining, the downpour finally began one afternoon.

    That is when I composed and produced "Raindrops." Creative title, right?

    Anyway, it was a terribly produced track (it was only my third song ever), yet it actually received the most attention out of anything I made. Some of my friends actually spun it during shows, but I wasn't around to hear its garbage quality on nice speakers (hopefully it wasn't terrible).

    Regardless, I really liked the spirit of the song. The mood I intended to convey came out perfectly.

    I took the liberty of remixing it, making it faster, more danceable, a wider sound, and with better production. It's not as trance-like or moody as the original but I think this remix stands on its own merit.

    Offbeat Raindrops by Mannigan Music

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Music, Memory, and Mood

    Music has an interesting ability.

    On a rainy day, you wake up with a kink in your neck. You find out you did poorly on your Economics midterm and you realize you have to walk to the nearest store to pick up toothpaste (you just ran out). Inside the store, a familiar song comes on, one that you used to dance to many years ago. You smile, buy your toothpaste, and walk out of the store with a little kick in your step.

    You're at the gym. You're a bit jealous of your buddy Nick who is always pumping out higher reps than you on the same weights. As he finishes his seventh rep on the bench, he grunts loudly and puts the weights back on the rack. You feel a twinge of jealousy as you've only been able to do six of these. As you sit down, an intense song comes on in the gym. You feel empowered, possessed but an unknown but welcomed strength. Thrusting the bar up, you manage to hit the seventh repetition, and with a loud grunt, you pump out an eighth

    Music effects us. The general idea is that "happy" music makes you feel happy -- just as "sad" music makes you feel sad.

    I think it's a little more complicated than that. The consequences of music on us as an individual are first and foremost determined by our memory of the song and then the mood.

    Songs have an innate ability to leech onto memories. When I hear Joshua Radin's song "Winter" I can't help but think of a certain night...

    I was watching scrubs. Anyone who's familiar with the show knows this episode. The stoic Dr. Cox ends up being a bit delusional and emotional at his best friend Ben's funeral. Winter plays during this scene. I was living with my parents at the time and I wanted them to hear the song too. They had just entered the house downstairs as I headed down the steps from my room on the second floor. I felt an uncomfortable, melancholic approach in their footsteps and mannerisms as they put their keys down and walked into the master bedroom. I followed suit, proclaiming I had a song I wanted to show my mom. She turned at me, with a face riddled with a myriad of emotions that one can only experience at certain monumental moments of ones life.

    "Grandma passed away," she stated aloofly, perhaps trying to appear less affected by the recent events. Her detached, matter-of-fact proclamation of my grandmothers death is etched in my mind to this day.

    And that's what happens when I hear the first two seconds of Winter. It still gives me chills as I listen to it now (this story happened roughly four years ago).

    The effect of music on memory recall is profound. My previous point though, about memory vs. mood is simple: Some people might hear Winter and be happy. They may have heard the song with a significant other on a cold night by a fire (that's like a hyper-cliche, but you get the point).

    So it's a logical process.
    1. Hear song.
    2. Remember instance of song (memory).
    3. Recall emotions related to instance.
    4. Experience emotions (mood).
    What's interesting, is that the degree of emotional regression is pretty close, if not exactly the same as the original event. I know people who cry whenever they hear specific songs, regardless of how long ago the instance they are reminded of took place. This leads me to believe that the brains relation of music and memory is close-knit and cannot tell when they two are isolated from one-another.

    To my mechanical brain, every time I hear Winter my grandma dies. My logical mind knows better though. To put in laments terms -- that's some deep shit.

    That is just one powerful example of musical memory that I have experienced. I could provide a memory for most of the music I've ever heard. Here's another that stands out...

    During last semester, I wasn't feeling to hot about the direction my life was going. I wasn't attending my college classes and I wasn't doing my homework. I was down, depressed, and stressed. I was amazingly bored with everything. I complained all the time to my parents that I wasn't doing anything constructive in school. I wanted to make music, I'd tell them, but then I'd be taking Micro Economics. It didn't make sense to me.

    One night, behind the effervescent glow of my laptop, I stumbled upon a website. There's a program in San Francisco where they teach music production and I spent a good deal of time looking into it. I wasn't sure if this is where I wanted my life to go.

    Skip ahead a few days. There's a radiantly beautiful sunset outside (not unlike the picture in the Jaded video) and my iPod shuffled to Jaded. The ambient, hopeful tune combined with the heavenly gradient outside my window provided a moment of clarity unlike any I had experienced previously. I laughed out loud to myself. That program is exactly what I needed. That moment I called my parents and told them I wanted to attend (which I am, hopefully, in September).

    I'd be interested in hearing other peoples musical memories as well.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Links of Interest (Part 1)

    Here are a selection of links and some short commentary from me.

    Music Related:
    • Heroes vs. Villains ~ an album: - Two legendary VGM remixing websites engage in a musical brawl. Heroes of, the original website for VGM remixing, create amazing renditions of their heroic icons (Ryu, Kirby and Megaman to name a few) to battle the Villainous "Bad Dudes," a newer, infamous gang of VGM remixers who have composed themes of video game antagonists. I recommend Samus' theme.
    • Random Forum Title - The official unofficial forums for the artist Deadmau5. If you love him as much as I do you might wanna head over there.
    • Indie Games Blog - My go-to blog for the indie-gaming hemisphere. They recently did an interesting interview with Markus Persson (Notch a.k.a the mastermind behind MineCraft) and an interview with Team Meat.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Criticism of Game Criticism (IGES Part 1)

    Recently, I read an article titled The Rise of the Indie Developer. The article is a very interesting read about indie game development with quotes from popular indie artists akin Jonathon Blow. This article inspired the following post, as well as a few more all related to Gaming Culture and Indie Gaming, or what I call "Video Game Theory." Here is the first installment.

    IGES = Indie Gaming Essay Series


    In the midst of the aforementioned article, the author mentions a game called Flower developed by Thatgamingcompany. The game apparently did well on the PSN and got great reviews, yet I had never heard of it. I hop over to Wikipedia to check out what the game is about and I see this under reception:
    Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell had similar praise, describing it as "pleasantly innocent and uplifting", though he awarded it a lower score than other reviewers as he felt the US$9.99 price was too high for the game's length.
    I've heard this same negative criticism countless times -- that the price of the game is too high considering the length of the product. This resonates with some games that I love (I.E. Braid and Machinarium). The only criticism that Braid ever receives is that it is too short considering the $15.00 price point.

    Braid - Too Short?

    I think that time length is a completely irrelevant matter of criticism. Holding any kind of medium under the spotlight of length or replay-ability is a completely abhorrent measure of that mediums wholeness. Time criticisms, unless relevant to what the authors intention is, are missing the point.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    The MOBA Post

    For anyone that hasn't heard of the MOBA genre, it's the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, hosting games like DotA (Defense of the Anciets), League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth (these are just some I've personally enjoyed).

    I'm not going to take the time to explain these games because the point of this post is to plug a newer MOBA called Bloodline Champions (or BLC).

    I think that BLC has potential to be a huge competitor with the former games.

    Hit the jump for similarities and differences.

    New Subject Matters

    So over the course of this week I've came to the conclusion this blog, while having a focus on music, will be about much more. I already have a few posts laid out regarding my opinions on video game culture and will be putting those out over the next two weeks hopefully.

    I'm taking more of a role in actual game design than I initially expected so I will also be producing music at a slower rate. Truthfully, I prefer to make music after we decide what is needed, rather than before which is what I have been doing. Should have a solid story for the game soon which will help us kick the team into a higher gear.

    My friend Jake who I mentioned in a previous post will begin interjecting his own posts on here as well, providing some varied insight and perspective. He's an amazing musician with a well of musical knowledge. He also likes corgi's and late night Wendy's runs.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Beyond The Horizon (Listening Guide)

    Every role-playing game that exists has an airship in it. It's the part of the game where the player is given ultimate freedom and exploration, and it's my personal favorite part of most RPGs (role-playing games).

    Furthermore, I can't think of one RPG airship that didn't have a theme. Thus, I set out to create a tune of exploration and adventure for our game.

    Here is the current version of Beyond the Horizon:

    Beyond The Horizon by Project Panda Music

    Hit the jump for the guide.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Jungle Grunge (Listening Guide)

    My most recent piece is that of a Jungle-themed area. Hilariously enough, I don't even think there is a Jungle-esque area in the game itself, but either way I decided to finish the project.

    Something I plan on doing for this blog is having a sort of listening guide that you can follow along as you hear these pieces, giving you an idea of whats intended from me, how I came about doing something, or anything else related to the piece.

    If you'd rather have an unfiltered experience then go ahead and listen to the tune without reading the guide.

    And now, here is the original piece:

    Jungle Grunge by Project Panda Music

    Hit the jump for the listening guide.

    Some Backstory

    Before I began this blog, my friend Paul asked me if I was interested in composing music for a video game he is going to begin creating soon. The game is supposed to be that of a SNES-like RPG -- a game style I grew up with and fondly remember. I agreed without hesitation.

    I had a predicament though. I've never really composed music in my life. I jam and pump out riffs and solos' on my guitar, and the electronic music genre relies on incessant melodies with little variance -- something that doesn't translate well to orchestrated music (which, at heart, is what video game music is).

    Surprising no one more than myself, I created this track immediately following Paul's request:

    Kings Triumph (Intro Song) by Project Panda Music

    Solid first attempt!

    So I will be posting more songs on here relevant to the video game as well as some electronic music, but my focus is favoring the VGM (video game music) currently.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    The Blog Has Begun

    As the topic says, I will begin to update this blog of all things music related, paleo related, and whatever else I feel like telling the world.