Will Gibbons on the Powerful Music of Video Games

by Monica Hoel

People of a certain age had Bugs Bunny cartoons to thank for their introduction to classical music. Dr. Will Gibbons says today’s generations can find that sort of music education through video games.

Will is the Dean of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. His most recent solo-authored book is Unlimited Replays: Video Games and Classical Music (Oxford University Press, 2018). In it, he  explores the myriad musical styles of video game theme music and tries to get at the heart of exactly what deems music “classical.”

Will says while many games will borrow a page from the Bugs Bunny playbook and use well-established classical scores, some game creators are now hiring composers to do original themes that are recorded with a full orchestra. It’s an expensive endeavor to commission new music, but with so much money to be made in the gaming industry it’s a worthwhile investment. Will points out there is more revenue generated these days by video games than by movies.

So, are these original scores truly classical music? Will says the term “classical” doesn’t really lend itself to a strict interpretation. But many of these new original pieces are filled with the sorts of instruments and composition that bring to mind the music we typically hear performed by big orchestras.

To that point, many professional orchestras are finding success in offering concerts that feature the music of video games. Gamers who love a game therefore love the music associated with it, and they are turning out in big numbers to enjoy live performances of the music they hear while playing. 

Will’s first book explores how society moved from a preference of hearing only the newest operas composed to our current penchant for only hearing operas created a century ago. It will be interesting to see if future music aficionados some day turn to video game themes as classical compositions of yesteryear.

Enjoy an interesting conversation with Dr. Gibbons on the Duck Pond Wall podcast.

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1756-despite-the-headlines-ed-davis-is-hopeful-about"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,400,400/9708_ed_davis.rev.1618447628.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,400,400/9708_ed_davis.rev.1618447628.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,400,400/9708_ed_davis.rev.1618447628.jpg" alt="Dr. Ed Davis, E&H Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="400" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1756-despite-the-headlines-ed-davis-is-hopeful-about">Despite the Headlines, Ed Davis is Hopeful About the Planet</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Dr. Ed Davis has been a professor at Emory & Henry for more than 30 years, and in that time he has cultivated a reputation for many things. He is known for having a great sense of comedic timing. He’s a stand-out stand-up bass player. He’s an accomplished gardener, a decorated academician, an author of multiple books, and he is one of the country’s leading experts on collard greens.<br/><br/>Also, he’s a committed conservationist. <a href="/live/news/1756-despite-the-headlines-ed-davis-is-hopeful-about" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/788-trollinger-named-citizen-of-the-year"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/38,0,514,475/6285_Richard_Trollinger.rev.1554994277.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/38,0,514,475/6285_Richard_Trollinger.rev.1554994277.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/38,0,514,475/6285_Richard_Trollinger.rev.1554994277.jpg" alt="Richard Trollinger, E&H Class of 1971." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="476" data-max-h="475" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/788-trollinger-named-citizen-of-the-year">Trollinger Named Citizen of the Year</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Richard Trollinger (E&H ’71) has been named Danville, Kentucky, citizen of the year. <a href="/live/news/788-trollinger-named-citizen-of-the-year" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/162-eamphs-hidden-role-in-hidden-figures"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,95,232,327/855_Hidden.rev.1507735803.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,95,232,327/855_Hidden.rev.1507735803.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,95,232,327/855_Hidden.rev.1507735803.jpg" alt="The cover of Margot Lee Shetterly's book, Hidden Figures." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="232" data-max-h="232" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/162-eamphs-hidden-role-in-hidden-figures">E&H’s Hidden Role in “Hidden Figures”</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> The book, “Hidden Figures,” has been made into a movie and everyone is loving the story. But you might not know about a couple of E&H figures who are in the story. <a href="/live/news/162-eamphs-hidden-role-in-hidden-figures" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/285,0,798,512/14806_Tommy_Barber.Brown_Award_2023.rev.1698341610.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/285,0,798,512/14806_Tommy_Barber.Brown_Award_2023.rev.1698341610.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/285,0,798,512/14806_Tommy_Barber.Brown_Award_2023.rev.1698341610.jpg" alt="Gray-haired man at lectern." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="513" data-max-h="512" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"> Tommy Barber Receives Prestigious Award </h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p> Tommy Barber has received the Charles Brown Award for his service to the Salem, Virginia, community as a school psychologist. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://www.roanoke.edu/news/charles_brown_award_2023">Read more…</a></span></p><a href="/live/news/3192-tommy-barber-receives-prestigious-award" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1354-got-a-minute-find-out-how-drew-johnson-laney-is"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,549,549/8512_drew_laney.rev.1599169346.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,549,549/8512_drew_laney.rev.1599169346.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,549,549/8512_drew_laney.rev.1599169346.jpg" alt="Drew Johnson Laney with guitar and a big smile leading friends in music." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="549" data-max-h="549" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1354-got-a-minute-find-out-how-drew-johnson-laney-is">Got a minute? Find out how Drew Johnson Laney is enhancing lives</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On Thursdays, you can often find Drew Johnson Laney (re’83) playing the ukulele and singing with a bunch of stuffed animals on Zoom.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But don’t worry about her: she’s working.</span></p><a href="/live/news/1354-got-a-minute-find-out-how-drew-johnson-laney-is" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>