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Dynamic music (also known as Adaptive or Interactive Music) is a concept used in many video games, whereby specific events cause the background music to change.
It was first used in Konami's Frogger (1981) whereby once the player reached the safe point, the music would abruptly change.
After this, its next uses in major video games were Wing Commander, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss. It has since been used in such games as Mushroom Men and Guitar Hero.
Many of LucasArts' games used the iMUSE dynamic music system, from Monkey Island 2 onwards and including games like Dark Forces, TIE Fighter, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. The iMUSE system is notable in that it segues seamlessly between different pieces of music rather than having an abrupt cut.
Horizontal and vertical techniques
The music in video or computer games and certain films are meant to draw you through a storyline using two distinct techniques. Horizontal re-sequencing and Vertical re-orchestration. Horizontal re-sequencing is the method by which pre-composed segments of music can be re-shuffled according to a player’s choice of where they go in a storyline or environment. Vertical re-orchestration is the technique of changing the mix of separate parts of an ongoing loop of music in relation to a player’s movement within the narrative of a game. Games, such as Halo 2, employ a mixture of these techniques in the creation of their soundtracks. Street Fighter II and Mario Kart DS are examples of games which change the music's tempo under certain circumstances.
Instead of relying on individual tracks of audio such as in Horizontal re-sequencing and Vertical re-orchestration, some games automatically generate their content on the fly, such as in the case of Spore, which uses an embedded version of the music software Pure Data to generate music to certain cues such as the addition of parts to your creature throughout the game.
Games may also employ two soundtracks and mix between them, as in the case of FTL: Faster Than Light, which has an "explore" and "battle" version of each track. When the player is in battle with another ship, the audio fades into the "battle" version. This "battle" version is usually reasonably similar to the "explore" version with the addition of drums and similar dark timbres, which means that the transition is very smooth and doesn't ruin the player's immersion at all. This is very different from the invincibility theme in the Super Mario series which aims to be stick out, making the change obvious but exciting.
Interactive blending of music and sound effects
Some video games, such as Rez and Extase, use sound effects triggered by the player's actions that are automatically delayed to stay in synchronization with the background music and that blend well with the music. This creates an interactive musical landscape in which the player's actions actively and instantaneously take part, enhance, shape and influence the music. On the box of the video game Extase, such a music system, created by Stéphane Picq, was advertised with a sticker as "Interactive Music System."
Dynamic music as goal of the game
Music games such as Sound Shapes utilise dynamic music for a different reason - it's the goal of the game. As you get better at the game (and collect more 'coins'), the soundtrack (which is entirely composed of the melodies and beats created by these 'coins') intensifies as a sign that you're doing well.
Dynamic music was used notably in theatre in 2010 in the play 'Dom Duardos' from Gil Vicente, co-produced by Companhia Contigo Teatro and Grupo de Mímica e Teatro Oficina Versus, with music by Pedro Macedo Camacho.
- Kosak, Dave (20 February 2008). "Gamespy: The Beat Goes on: Dynamic Music in Spore". GameSpy. IGN Entertainment, Inc.
- dnoticias, Newspaper news about Dom Duardos from Gil Vicente, retrieved 2011-01-15
- audiokinetic, Audiokinetic interview with Pedro Macedo Camacho, retrieved 2011-01-15
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