Video Game Outreach

At Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, one of our guests brought an unusual party game with them.  It’s a video game for a PlayStation 2 called Taiko Drum Master (fortunately our guest also brought the PlayStation 2 console with them).  I have to say that the game was immensely entertaining to watch and could be very challenging to play.

It’s a very simple concept; you have to tap a given rhythm along with a piece of music on a plastic taiko drum (Japanese style drum).  The music ranges from pop tunes (ABC, I’m a Believer, Toxic, etc.), well known classical standards (Hungarian Rhapsody #5, Mozart Symphony 25, Beethoven’s 5th, etc.), to some far out techno Japanese music. 

You have to learn how to play the taiko drum five different ways but the learning curve is pretty fast.  You earn points by accurately tapping the given rhythms and at the end of each piece the game shows your score as a percentage.  The game is decidedly Japanese, with a very distinctive, campy cartoon quality to it but that doesn’t distract from the game play.

Since everyone attending the party was a musician (but no percussionists) the game was infinitely amusing on a number of different levels.  But what I kept thinking about was how great that a third of the music selections were standard classical tunes. It was also good to see that the only goal of the game was to learn how to focus on and internalize the rhythmic aspect of the music while simultaneously listening to the tune.

It goes to show that there is a huge potential for connecting classical music to a new audience through video games.  I would also love to see a study sometime about how a child would processes listening to live classical music if their only previous exposure consisted of something like this game.

I’ve written about video game music before but that was a completely different medium than this game; Taiko Drum Master introduces classical music while simultaneously serving as an educational tool.  There’s a great deal of potential out there for video games, hopefully classical music will be able to catch on to some of it.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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