MSU Hosts North American Conference on Video Game Music

Laura Intravia gives a keynote talk at the 2024 North American Conference on Video Game Music, hosted at the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy of Matt Ortlieb.
Thomas B. Yee engages the audience during his presentation, "Fanfare for the Unreal Symphony – 8-Bit Orchestration and Imaginary Timbres." Photo courtesy of Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey.
Members of the audience ask questions of the NACVGM presenters. Photo courtesy of Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey.
"A Medley of Chiptune Rock" played by Rich Anatone (keyboard), James Heazlewood-Dale (electric bass), Gregg Rossetti (guitar) and John MacDonald (drums) at Murray Hall in MSU Music building. Photo courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.
Rhapsody on Eight Themes from "Octopath Traveler" played by Matthew Thompson (piano) and Ben Carlee (flute) at Murray Hall in MSU Music building. Photo courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences and College of Music welcomed scholars of musicology, music theory, media, sound, composition and more to the eleventh North American Conference on Video Game Music (NACVGM), March 16–17, 2024.

The two-day event brought talented performers and academics from around the world to East Lansing, discussing all things related to music and sound in video games.

This is the first time the conference has been hosted at MSU. This year, Department of Media and Information faculty musicologist Ryan Thompson led the charge — organizing 22 talks across eight themed sessions, and a keynote with internationally renowned vocalist, instrumentalist and composer Laura Intravia.

Discussion covered a range of topics in ludomusicology (the study of music in games) from nostalgic sounds and harmonic function of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), immersive audio techniques, and uncomfortable sounds in horror games to movement-oriented rhythm games and everything in between.


Ask the expert: How is video game music made?

“If you really love big, sweeping, grandiose orchestral scores and you want a modern 21st-century version of what that looks like, video game scores are where you’d go to hear that music today,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s own research examines ways in which music and other audio elements of a video game are used to communicate information to a player. He’s also a formally trained vocal musician and music historian.

Naturally, partnering with MSU’s College of Music to host a video game-inspired music concert was a perfect fit.

Saturday night’s sold-out performance in Murray Hall in the MSU Music Building included works arranged and performed by students of Professor of Composition Ricardo Lorenz, as well as arrangements from beloved video games like Wario Blast Featuring Bomberman, Octopath Traveler, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Celeste, Metal Gear Solid 2, Castlevania III, Mega Man 2, and DuckTales — with Intravia’s captivating vocal performances on arrangements from Ico, Majora’s Mask, Chrono Cross, and Journey to close out the show.

Matheus Souza and Marco Shirripa play the violin and marimba on stage.

Photo: Matheus Souza (violin) and Marco Schirripa (marimba). Courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

Madison Drace sings on stage, accompanied by a band of musicians.

Photo: Rich Anatone (piano), Madison Drace (voice), James Heazlewood-Dale (bass) and Gregg Rossetti (guitar). Not pictured: John MacDonald (drums). Courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

In addition to Intravia, 12 more faculty artists performed during the conference, and Lorenz led 12 MSU student performers.

“My students love doing this,” Lorenz told the Lansing State Journal. “The new arrangements add so much warmth and expression to the original music. We even have a new ensemble to play video game-related music, called Video Game Acoustic Collective.”

Eileen Snyder, a graduate student double-majoring in Music Composition and Music Theory at MSU, has a long history of collaborating with the Games and Interactive Media degree program. In addition to performing with the ensemble, Snyder also composed an original piece for the game C.A.R.D.WARE, which was performed by the sax quartet, and presented her own research topic during the conference.

Eileen Snyder

Photo: MSU Music Composition master's student Eileen Snyder, who studies with Professor Alexis Bacon, introduces music she composed in collaboration with game design students at MSU. Courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

Saxophone quartet performs on stage, with larger band in the background.

Photo: The Saxophone Quartet, part of the MSU Video Game Music Collective, performs music composed by master's student Eileen Snyder. Courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

On a successful and varied career in video game music, Intravia spoke to the importance of having a broad knowledge of her craft and believing that she had the ability to learn how to do something, rather than holding herself back. NACVGM 2024 was indeed a celebration of using one’s ears, honoring the sounds and techniques that have been used throughout history, discovering what makes a piece truly special — and daring to try something new.

Laura Intravia performing at MSU.

Photo: Laura Intravia performs her own arrangements at Murray Hall in MSU Music building. Courtesy of Harley J. Seeley.

— Jessica Mussell



Full conference program

Full concert program


Conference Presenters:

David Chapman, Andrew Schartmann, Thomas B. Yee, Logan H.G. Davis, David Munro, William R. Ayers, Julianne Grasso, Andrew Powell, Jordan Good, Madison Drace, Matthew Ferrandino, Morgan Weeks, Alex Sallade, Jorge Variego, Joseph Chang, Holly Bergeron-Dumaine, Jeremy W. Smith, Adriana Ezekiel, Kate Galloway, Drake Eshleman, Molly Hennig, Eileen Snyder and Ben Major

Artist and Faculty Performers:

Ricardo Lorenz, Richard Anatone, Ben Carlee, Madison Drace, Jane Fiske, James Heazlewood-Dale, Laura Intravia, John MacDonald, Matthew Thompson, Gregg Rossetti, Cynthia Schilling, Marco Shirripa, and Matheus Souza

Student Performers:

Helen Hanchin, Tyler Mazone, Haruka Taguchi, Parker Fritz, Eric Hall, Emmet Lewis, Austin Wilson, Maura Drinkert, Claire Oselador, Aidan Chapman-Anderson, Jeffrey Allardyce and Nathan Jasper

Original Works Arranged and Composed by:

Laura Intravia, Richard Anatone, Thomas B. Yee, Eileen Snyder, Marco Shirripa, Trevor Alan Gomes, Emmet Lewis, Ethan Smith, Helen Hanchin, and Maura Drinkert