Innovative music and video spectacle will merge in an extraordinary free concert Friday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. in Rosse Hall. The chamber group Fifth House Ensemble will perform the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for the video game “Journey,” while an actual game unfolds on a large screen overhead and the musicians respond to the gamers’ decisions in real time.
The 13-piece chamber ensemble, under the direction of Austin Wintory, will play Wintory’s original soundtrack for “Journey,” a PlayStation game in which players control a robed figure in a vast desert and seek to navigate toward a distant mountain. The composition was nominated in 2013 for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, the first time that music for a video game had been nominated.
“Fifth House Ensemble is at the forefront of a new generation of musicians who innovate through unique programming,” said Professor of Music Ted Buehrer ’91, who brought “Journey LIVE” to Kenyon as part of the music department’s Gund Concert Series. “They excel at finding interesting ways of bringing their musicianship into collaboration with other artistic forms.”
Mirroring the synergy between score and action in the video game experience, the arrangement to be performed at Kenyon, prepared by Patrick O’Malley, is constructed in short trigger points that allow the ensemble to be responsive to the actions of game players in real time. In this live performance, game players will join the ensemble, with the game’s stunning visuals projected on screen as the ensemble seamlessly underscores their progress.
Joey Schutz ’18, a synoptic major studying interactive and emergent media, will play “Journey” alongside Austin Barrett ’18, Juniper Cruz ’19, Peter Fornell ’21 and Jack James ’18. “Traditional games use level design, lighting and mechanics to guide players through their levels, but ‘Journey’ throws its music into the mix as well, letting its rhythms and textures cue players to push forward,” said Schutz, from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Although game music has come a long way from the repetitive soundtracks of early games, Schutz is still excited to see what playing with a live orchestra will add to the experience. “There’s no way to digitally emulate a live musician’s reactionary intuitions,” he said. “I think it will make the music feel that much more alive.”
Praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority and finesse,” the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to reach beyond the traditionally perceived limits of classical music. While visiting Kenyon, the group will give two presentations at Gambier’s Wiggin Street Elementary School and two more at a local high school. They’ll also visit a new special topics course taught by Buehrer, called “State of the Art: Music and Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century.”
“Teaching arts entrepreneurship and educational outreach is very important to the group’s mission, ” Buehrer said. “I wanted the students in my class to see all of this activity up close, and to be able to talk with them.”