The Sound and Society Workshop Presents:

Julianne Grasso

University of Chicago

Scaling Invisible Walls: Musical ‘Affective Zones’ for Interaction (“Play as Interactions”)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Logan 802

4:45 – 6:15 PM

*Special format: We will begin with a “Playshop” where participants can play and listen to the games Julianne will discuss, and then move to Julianne’s presentation of her pre-circulated chapter, Peter McDonald’s response, and Q&A. 

My dissertation’s broad goal is to outline how encounters with music frame our experiences of play in video games. Chapter 1 is mostly lit review and definitions/methodology, and then chapters 2–5 each focus on a different definition of “play” as derived from common usage among video game players. Chapter 2, where this portion resides, considers play as formed by interactions the player performs. Chapter 3 focuses on narratives, or any notion of beginning/middle/end. Chapter 4 is on inhabitation, learned and subversive play, and the idea of immersion. Chapter 5 looks at concertized arrangements as musical representations of play.

This is a first pass at chapter 2, the chapter I’ve struggled with the most conceptually, and happens to be wildly different from where it was a little over a month ago when I started writing it in earnest. The late September outline of this chapter did not consider affect or cognition at all, and these are now core parts of the argument. So, confusing residues of earlier formulations of the chapter likely litter this draft, which also probably suffers from superficial treatments of huge fields and topics that I’m only beginning to dig into.

Generally, I purposefully pick examples for analysis that challenge my argument (and transcription skills), for better or for worse. I’m including one analysis here (of Super Mario World), but plan on discussing the games The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and maybe Journey as two other kinds of games that expand my approach. (I’d love to talk about 15 additional games and genres, but I’m also trying to graduate at some point.) I appreciate any feedback! Thanks so much for reading, listening, and playing along.

YouTube uploads of music for reference:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
“Kakariko Village”
“Overworld” (Hyrule Field)
“Freezeezy Peak”
Super Mario World
(the full non-interactive score)

Click to view the paper here. (Please do not cite or circulate)

Special thanks to Peter McDonald for serving as respondent.

Persons who believe they may require accommodations to participate fully in this event should contact the coordinator, Bradley Spiers at or Amy Skjerseth at in advance.

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