Four Ways of Hearing Video Game Music

Michiel Kamp

Omslag van het boek 'Four Ways of Hearing Video Game Music'

In his book Four Ways of Hearing Video Game Music, Michiel Kamp offers a novel account of the ways in which video games invite us to hear and listen to their music. By taking a phenomenological approach to characterise music in video games, he asks what it is we hear in the music when we play a game.

Four ways of hearing

Drawing on past phenomenological approaches to music as well as studies of music listening in a variety of disciplines, Kamp explains four main ways of hearing the same piece of music: through background, aesthetic, ludic, and semiotic hearing.

As a background, music is not attended to at all, but can still be described in terms of moods, affordances, or equipment. Aesthetic hearing is a reflective attitude that invites hermeneutic interpretation.

Ludic hearing invites ‘playing along’ to the music, either through embodied movement, or in response to the music's cinematic or theatrical connotations. Finally, in semiotic hearing, Kamp argues that we hear music as transparent symbols or signals that provide information about the state of a game.

Case studies

The book investigates these four categories through detailed case studies of video games from a variety of eras and genres accompanied by gameplay recordings and images on a companion website.

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