game over is an audiovisual performance for clarinet with motion sensor and a computer-game system. The clarinet player, Szilárd Benes, navigates a character in a computer game with the help of a wireless motion sensor, exploring various game worlds and interacting freely with his surroundings and other actors. The game worlds are collages of well-known vintage video game genres (sometimes even juxtaposing contradictory ‘game modes,’ such as side scrolling, top-down dungeon crawler, NES ‘Mode 7’ and isometric pseudo 3D, creating bizarre and confusing scenarios).
The possibilities for musical interaction are manifold: objects trigger specific sounds when touched; AI agents play sounds autonomously and will react to collisions or musical information such as pitch, volume or attacks; certain regions in the game have distinctive sonic features; sometimes movement is mapped to FX parameters; items can be picked up, triggering drastic changes in picture and sound; and there are intentional glitches and ‘holes’ in the game architecture.
The game can be either linear and action driven (for example, the Space Invaders-inspired shoot’em up where destroying UFOs alters the playback of a chiptune until it dissolves into abstract noise) or slow and explorative, with the character wandering about in a large confusing 2D world. In any case, ‘winning’ the game is not the point (and often not possible). On the contrary, the performer is encouraged to make spontaneous, even irrational decisions if it serves the musical outcome. Additionally, he can purposefully exploit the game mechanics to shape the piece the way he wants.
To make things even more interesting, the game engine can interpret code at runtime and thus another person (usually me) can alter the game or trigger events in real time. For example, I can decide to teleport the avatar to a random place, change the tile map, alter physical properties or introduce glitches. In this way, I am able to disrupt the smooth course of the game and challenge the player. In the concert, the player often encounters things that he has not seen before, provoking truly spontaneous reactions. As an artwork, the piece is an open-ended, continuous reflection on the aesthetic and psychological nature of computer games.
Christof Ressi game over
performed by Szilárd Benes (bass clarinet)
audio recording: Ulrich Gladisch
audio editing: Christof Ressi
video production: ndbewegtbild
recorded on December 18, 2019 in the György Ligeti Hall/MUMUTH of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria.
Duration of video: 15 minutes 54 seconds
GAPPP is funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF as project PEEK AR 364-G24.