AES Scotland Christmas Lecture 2018 – Game Music Bit-by-Bit

AES Scotland Christmas Lecture 2018 – Game Music Bit-by-Bit

Date: 12 Dec 2018
Time: 12:30

Location: Codebase Stirling
8 Corn Exchange Road

See below for location map.




This year’s AES Scotland Christmas lecture will be given by Dr Kenny McAlpine at Codebase in Stirling.

Anyone who has ever played a video game will know just how important an atmospheric soundtrack is to the experience. Done well, a video game soundtrack delivers just as much emotional impact as a movie score, all the while responding and adapting to the player’s input to create a unique musical experience that is synchronised tightly to the gameplay.

Game Music, Bit-by-Bit explains how interactive game soundtracks work. Beginning with the sound chip music of early video game consoles like Pong and home computers like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, we’ll look at how video game sound evolved from synthesised bleeps and bloops to today’s high-quality production tracks and deconstruct the techniques that composers use to turn pre-recorded music into something that is interactive, and that can be rearranged and recomposed in real-time.

But if the technology of gaming has taught us one thing over the last 40 years, it’s that it never stands still. The recent introduction of mainstream VR gaming headsets like the HTC Vive has opened up new dimensions for gaming and for game audio in particular. We’ll round off by looking at some of the challenges that VR poses sound designers and composers, but also some of the opportunities that it opens up. What will the next generation of VR game soundtracks be like?



Kenny McAlpine began his professional life as a mathematician and very nearly took up a career in corporate finance before coming to the realisation that he should use his skills for good rather than evil, instead settling on a more interesting—if less financially rewarding—life in academia. He did a PhD in algorithmic music composition at the University of Glasgow, which brought together his love of music, maths, technology and gaming, and he has continued to work at that interesting point where different disciplines collide: he has developed interactive soundtracks for live theatre, film and video game; a music-streaming app for newborn babies and young children, developed in partnership with the Scottish Government and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and a unique digital harpsichord exhibit for the National Trust in London.

Kenny joined Abertay University in Dundee, in 1999 as part of the team who developed the world’s first degree programmes in Computer Game Technology, and over the years he has developed and launched a number of different degree programmes, including bachelor degrees in Creative Sound Production, Music Performance and Video Game Sound and Music. This year he left Abertay to take up a new role as Melbourne Enterprise Fellow in Interactive Composition at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Kenny still finds the time to perform live from time to time as a jazz organist, and can often be found playing covers of classic 8-bit video game themes, an activity that provides the subject matter for his new book, ‘Bits and Pieces’ with Oxford University Press. When he’s not thinking about music, Kenny can generally be found rolling around hills on a mountain bike with a GoPro strapped to his handlebars, puffing his way round a marathon course with a GoPro strapped to his chest, or baking unusual bread. Normally without the GoPro.


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