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Playing with Sound: Ludic Performance, Games, and Music as Play
MUSC 286
Spring 2018
Section: 01  

Ludomusicology--the study of music as play--challenges those interested in audiovisual media, aesthetics, performance, improvisation, compositional technique, notation, theory, or historiography to take play seriously. In his 1957 lecture, "Experimental Music," John Cage described music as "a purposeless play" which is "an affirmation of life--not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living" (1973: 12). Drawing on theories of media, systems, and cultural techniques, this seminar asks: What makes play musical, and music playful? How do the meanings and stakes of performances, choreographies, bodies, and screens play out via sounds and other sensations? How does the music in video games contribute to gameworld development, gameplay, and virtual performance? How is music used and represented in recreational and competitive sport and athletic competition (e.g., SuperBowl halftime shows, walkup music, and the stadium soundscape)? How can we value humor, puzzles, and fun in music and examine how these elements function? How is the composition and performance of music profoundly playful?

The course will consider the diverse relationships among music, play, and performance-from musical automata, player pianos, and orchestrions to practices of sampling and remix in hip hop, from the games African American girls play--handclapping songs, cheers, and double-dutch jump rope--that reflect and inspire the principles of black popular music-making to musical greeting cards, toys and collectables, from the use of recycled pre-existing classical music (Tetris, Bioshock, Eternal Sonata), genres (the famous opera scene in Final Fantasy VI), in-game composition (Mario Paint) and aleatoric operations (Fez and Proteus) in video games to John Cage's WATERWALK on the popular US television game show I'VE GOT A SECRET and his use of chance operations, from Pamela Z's playful manipulation of sound via physical gesture and technological media to virtual performance in Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Just Dance, and Dance Central, or curating the radio soundscape in Grand Theft Auto, from the material and somatic manipulation of tape in early electroacoustic music to forms of musical acting, adaptation, and disguise in cover versions and tribute bands, from children's music games, television programming (Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), and the Girl Scouts songbooks to classical music as an educational feature of games and Web 2.0 mobile media apps and new media platforms, and from 18th-century musical dice games to the domestic vocal games of Inuit throat singing. By discussing music as play across diverse case studies from musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music, and science and technology studies, we will trace the lineage of musical play through improvisation, composition, performance, embodied listening, and recreation.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA MUSC
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (MUSC)
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on MAY-23-2024
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