Closing Circles

Sometimes, I feel especially strongly connected to events or experiences in my past. Thinking ahead to next week’s trip puts me on that same mental road, reflecting on how and in what ways I have changed and grown in the years that have passed.

Next week, I will be going back to MAGFest (short for Music and Gaming Festival): a four day-long event featuring concerts, workshops, panels, competitions and more. My first visit to MAGFest was back in 2011 and this will be my fourth time attending the event.

While I unequivocally look forward to going, at the same time I am steeling myself because of the all-out assault on one’s senses it is, going to an event like this. MAGFest is held at a hotel/convention centre outside Washington D.C. with hundreds upon hundreds of attendees, most of whom also stay at the hotel. Being there for four days will be incredibly tiring, but tremendously fun as well.

One of the things I look forward to most of all is the concerts, and the stylistic breadth that is usually on offer. In the past, MAGFest has featured everything from acoustic guitar duos, singer/songwriters and big band orchestras to hard rock bands, hip hop artists and electronic performers.

At the time of my first visit to MAGFest, I was still in college, working on my Bachelor’s thesis about arranging chiptune video game music for symphony orchestra. Back then, I was actively pursuing a career in music and audio for games and interactive media, and while it’s no longer the dream job it once was, I still consider game music one of the more interesting and exciting areas for music composition.

Growing up, it was through game music that I discovered composing and arranging. Now, decades later, game music is still an important interest and a sort of cultural reference point that I imagine still influences my aesthetic to some degree, even though my influences are much more varied at age 38 than they were at 18.

Also, I believe that talking about “game music” is reductive and somewhat pointless in the same way as is talking about “classical music” or “pop music”; using generic labels can be convenient, but you lose a frustrating amount of nuance in the process.

It is problematic to bundle together Super Mario Bros. from 1985 and The Legend of Zelda from 1986 with Super Mario Bros. Wonder and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, both from 2023. Or Caterina Assandra and Claudio Monteverdi, both active in the 16th and 17th centuries, with Clara Schumann and Richard Wagner from the 19th century. Or the unequalled rock quartet The Beatles with the multiple-award-winning hip hop artist Childish Gambino. You lose nuance, you lose context and, in my opinion at least, you end up devaluing entire subcategories of music for no other reason than being lazy.

I know I’m ranting, and by no means am I flawless in this respect, far from it. I am the first to admit to being similarly clueless about other art forms like sculpture, painting, dance, and poetry. I do however think it is important on a societal level to not simply accept ignorance (or, even worse, embrace it as some people seem inclined to, as a kind of statement against perceived elitism) but to instead actively inspire curiosity and a joy of learning in ourselves and others.

Looking back at the music I wrote when I first went to MAGFest, it was fairly obvious where I had gotten my musical upbringing, so to speak. Fast-forward thirteen years and it is not as apparent anymore; countless more influences have made their mark on my personal style, creating the delightful melange that results in the kind of pieces I write today – and tomorrow.

Categorised as Blog posts

Composer, arranger and songwriter for performance, recording, broadcast and interactive media.

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