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PLAY: Connecting Video Game Controllers, Live Musical Performance, and Composition

PLAY is a creative collaboration exploring the possibilities of video game controllers (VGCs) in music composition and performance. Video game controllers are some of the most widely used human-computer interfaces in the world. Millions of gamers have highly sophisticated skills from thousands of hours of practice – they are, in essence, virtuoso performers.

The project began with a question: what happens when we transform these controllers into musical instruments? What kinds of new music will emerge? How can music provide a space to examine themes shared by video games and musical performance, including control, identity, dexterity and - of course - play?

To answer this question, five new works for ensemble The House of Bedlam have been commissioned from a variety of UK-based composers. These exciting and diverse works break new ground, developing new approaches to composition and performance.

The major artistic outcomes comprise the publication (in video recording and notated score formats) of original musical works, which will constitute a major contribution to this field. PLAY software will be released open-source for other musicians to use in their own work. This musical software will be usable by any musician or gamer in possession of a standard VGC and will not require specialist expertise. The development of this software will be documented, and the creative processes of the composers studied through interviews and musical analysis. The results of this documentation will be presented at research seminars, at conferences, and published in relevant journals.

PLAY is supported by the Humanities Cultural Programme at the University of Oxford, Jesus College (Oxford), and the centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM) at the Royal Northern College of Music.

The first PLAY concert is at Jesus College, Oxford, on May 30th at 5.30PM.

The research team is:

  • Robert Laidlow

  • Hongshuo Fan

  • Bofan Ma

  • Ellen Sargen

With music by Cassie Kinoshi also commissioned.

House of Bedlam are:

  • Larry Goves

  • Kathryn Williams

  • Steph Tress

  • Carl Raven

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