PhD Thesis by Kristian S. Ross Kristensen: A Musical Wormhole - Between the Infinite Universe and the Limitations of the Computer Game Media. A Theoretical Basis for Adaptive Vertically Dominated Music in Computer Games
The Ph.D. research investigates the implications of implementing adaptive VDM (Vertically Dominated Music) in computer games. VDM is proposed as a term for music that is perceptually dominated by vertically oriented (simultaneously sounding) musical qualities like harmony, timbre and micro-texture, and encompasses musical styles such as sound-mass music, textural music and spectral music.
The thesis presents a structural, aesthetic and functional theoretical foundation that allows for the development of an automated system for the implementation of adaptive VDM in computer games.
A phenomenological, semiotic and music-perceptual framework of understanding, is developed, through which the narrative, semiotic, multi-modal and perceptual implications on the gaming experience of introducing VDM in a computer game are assessed. Here the focus is on VDM’s association with narrative phenomena such as outer space, infinity, mystery, divinity and paranormal activity by making sensory accessible the presence of “something” that exceeds the boundaries of the senses.
An initial set of vertically dominated compositional principles is provided based on the findings of the research, and practical experiments are presented as a means for demonstrating the applicability of the developed concepts.
The problem of verticality is explored and auditory verticality is defined on both philosophical, perceptual and structural levels. An insight into VDM structure identifies a set of general musical characteristics of VDM that may be applied to an automated system. A model for understanding the perception of VDM is developed, which suggests regarding musical listening as a phenomenon of empathetic coagency and provides a scale on which music listening experiences can be positioned in a field between horizontal and vertical dominance. VDM’s narrative potential is uncovered in terms of the music’s semiotic and perceptual attributes as well as in relation to the general challenges posed on computer game music. Structural and aesthetic implications of computer-generated music are examined and solutions to some aesthetic challenges associated with producing music entirely on the computer are proposed. Possible strategies for horizontal development of VDM are examined including deterministic, indeterministic and stochastic methods, and solutions to the problem of algorithmic musical representation in a VDM context are suggested. Finally, a set of appendices document practical experiments and prototypes that demonstrate the application of some of the covered theory in practice.
The thesis argues that a specialized system for adaptive VDM demands a fundamentally new approach to computer-generated adaptive game music, which draws on not only the unique structural characteristics of VDM, but where alsosemiotic, perceptual and narrative issues form the basis for the automated composition of adaptive music.