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composer and sound designer for games, visuals & spaces

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Liria (2019)

for viola and electronics


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Liria means Music in Elvish. Yes, that’s right, Elvish. I’m a big Lord of the Rings nerd, and when I was young I used to play several of the Lord of the Rings video games. These were essentially the only games I played as I didn’t really enjoy other games that were outside the realm of Middle Earth. The sonic space in these games is occupied not only by music, but also by very specific sound effects. Unlike in movies, where certain effects and sounds are heard only once or a few times as the movie progresses, sounds in games keep reappearing. One can walk towards a flowing river and hear the beautiful sound of flowing water, and move away, only to hear the same sound sample, (slightly altered in higher definition games to create a more realistic feel). These sound effects played in conjunction with the music in such a way that they’re engrained almost as music themselves, to my ears.

Thus Liria aims to utilize certain video game sounds, such as a flowing brook, footsteps in a forest, fire, and the sounds of animals, as musical elements that inform the piece. These elements sit over certain, almost stereotypical fantasy game elements, such as layered harp/string sounds, bowed percussion, and hybrid (acoustic mixing with electronic) elements of bass-y synths and gongs. I still haven’t mentioned the Viola! The Viola is the key thread that brings all these sounds together. Often in game soundtracks, there are three layers of sounds - the background music, the sound effects and design, and the high priority sound element. This can be in the form of sound effects focused to gameplay - demarcating health, weapon and fight sounds, special skills and powers, as well as music - showing a change in mood that helps transition to another cue of background music. The Viola works with the accompanying electronics and plays different roles. At times it depicts sword fighting, while at others, it lies in the background accompaniment. However, it should be noted that this isn’t a piece for viola accompanied by electronics, but is more of a duet for Viola and Electronics.

Premiered by Mariya Ksondzyk at the Boston Conservatory on 14th February, 2019.

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