NACVGM 2020 – Taking a Gander at the Use of Debussy in Untitled Goose Game (2019)

From the Abstract

Dana Plank (Ohio State University)

Taking a Gander at the Use of Debussy in Untitled Goose Game (2019)

In September 2019, indie game studio House House released Untitled Goose Game (UGG), in which the titular bird pesters the residents of quaint English village to snippets of Debussy’s Préludes that respond directly to the player’s actions.  Dan Golding’s fully-reactive adapted score uses Debussy’s music punctuated with copious honking and gentle mayhem driving the residents to their-ahem-beaking point.

This score’s effectiveness lies in its sparse simplicity, crafting a sense of childlike innocence rendering the antics more mischievous than antagonistic.  The solo piano’s open intervals, modal-tinged harmonies, rhythmically-playful syncopations, and dynamic contrasts are so familiar from other children’s media such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that they are evocative even on a microscopic level.  Golding divided “Minstrels” from Book 1 of the Préludes into over 400 fragments, two-beat segments of music that could be layered and triggered so the player wouldn’t “bulldoze through the kind of micro-narratives of the game.” 

Drawing on scholarship analyzing and contextualizing Debussy’s piano preludes as well as recent and forthcoming work on music in children’s media by Aaron Manela, Susan Boynton, Daniel Henderson, and Theresa Chafin, this lightning talk will utilize gameplay footage to demonstrate Golding’s division of “Minstrels” into specific phrases and stems, and compare this music to that of other children’s media. 

In this talk, I will argue that UGG’s success lies not only in the impressive level of detail in the implementation of the sound and music, but also in its universal appeal drawing on players’ childhood musical memories.

Matthew Olson, “Untitled Goose Game Uses About 400 different Tracks to Adapt to Your Goose Antics.” USG, September 24, 2019.

Source: Bardic Knowledge

Recent Posts