- Music, Sound and Multimedia: From the Live to the Virtual
‘Mashups,’ ‘fan vids,’ ‘file sharing,’ ‘RPGs’: these popular neologisms are not what the reader might expect to encounter in a book published by a major university press. But Music, Sound and Multimedia: From the Live to the Virtual is far from being a traditional scholarly book, nor are its contributors the usual suspects for a volume in a series entitled ‘Music and the Moving Image’. I expect that we will be reading more contributions both by these pioneering authors and about these digital-media practices in the musicological literature of the near future, as the discipline of musicology once again plays catch-up with work in other fields. The University of Edinburgh Press is not alone in having initiated a publication series that allows for the appearance of titles in music and new media: OUP has also launched a series – ‘Music/Media’ – that intends to include volumes dedicated to music in multimedia contexts. These new series, as well as recently established journals like this one, are recognising the need to think beyond the film screen in taking stock of the wealth of exciting current work in music and screen media, above all in the realm of digital media.
As the second title to appear in the Edinburgh series, this collection of essays sets a high standard among similar edited volumes, by virtue of the diversity and timeliness of its topics in digital media, its strong basis in recent secondary literature, and the appropriateness of the specific examples for each of the medial practices. Editor Jamie Sexton has attempted to avoid the pitfalls of creating a book that on the one hand would be too general to be of much interest for practitioners of digital media, or on the other might not attract non-specialist readers by presenting a procession of case studies. He has engineered a middle path that endeavours to satisfy both readerships, by identifying four ‘specific areas of musical multimedia interactions’ and devoting one or two general chapters and one case study to each. These book sections appear under the following titles: ‘Fandom and Music Videos’, ‘Video-Game Music,’ ‘Performance and Presentation’, and ‘Production and Consumption’. Angelina I. Karpovich furnishes the overview for Section One with [End Page 127] an essay on ‘fan vids’, Rod Munday that for Section Two under the rather uninformative title ‘Music in Video Games’. Section Three features general chapters on sound art (Sexton) and the interactions between popular music and multimedia in live performance (Jem Kelly), while the first two contributions in the fourth section address sound and music in websites (Lee Tsang) and young people’s use of music in their ‘everyday’ lives (Dan Laughey). The case studies are as follows: ‘Anime Music Videos’ (Dana Milstein); ‘Film Music vs. Video-Game Music: The Case of Silent Hill’ (Zach Whelan); ‘Film Sound, Acoustic Ecology and Performance in Electroacoustic Music’ (Randolph Jordan); and ‘The Development of the Apple iPod’ (Kieran Kelly).
While Sexton’s organisation of the volume according to categories of ‘general’ and ‘case studies’ is a good idea, it does not really work here. Closer reading reveals, for example, that Munday’s introduction to video-game music focuses on the specific question of how video-game players use music (and does not address the equally pressing issues of production, community or economics, as the author himself admits), whereas Jordan’s ‘case study’ broadly discusses the phenomenon of acousmatic music. I do not fault the authors, however, for such new musical practices necessitate on the one hand concrete issues and examples for general discussion, but also on the other, broader theoretical and practical contexts for the cases under closer scrutiny.
That said, the volume explores arguably the most important interfaces of music and popular digital media, including music videos, video games, websites and iPods, while querying the musical-technological interactions within the ‘established’ compositional fields of sound art and electroacoustic music. Taken as a whole, Music, Sound and Multimedia presents the reader with a veritable compendium of digital technologies through...