Saturday, March 21, 2015

Video of the Week: Bioshock -- Cohen

This week I'll tell a funny story.  It all starts when my son plopped some sheet music in front of me and said, "Play this."  It was three pages of small print--something from the video game "Bioshock."  Thinking it was just another piano reduction of video game music, I started playing.

At first I thought it was a pretty good reduction of whatever, and then halfway through I told my son, "This isn't a reduction.  This is a real piano piece."  It was full of all these pianistic motifs, and it was actually playable, unlike most video game reductions.

Then my son says, "Yeah.  In the video game, the composer tortures this guy by making him play the piece over and over until he stops making mistakes."

Here's the music ... you can listen for yourself before continuing the story.  The composer is Garry Schyman.

When I finally finished reading through the piece, I said to my son, "It sounds like Scriabin."  In particular, the chord at 0:21 reminded me of Scriabin's Poem op. 31, no. 2.  So, I found a recording of that on YouTube and played it.  My son said, "It does sound like him!"

Then I did a Google search to see if anyone else made the connection.  Someone did better than me.  Someone named nanabush found an actual Scriabin Etude that is basically lifted into the Schyman piece.  Click here to see his comments.

And if you've already listened to the music above, you can hear the Scriabin etude for yourself and judge.

I've examined the chords in question, and they are identical, except Schyman skips one chord.  It is without doubt the inspiration of Schyman's work.  Note, I say "inspiration" rather than "plagiarism."  As Schyman didn't so much lift Scriabin's music as he did to borrow the chords and feel, and provide his own variation of the work.  Modern day composers do this all the time, and it's always fun to catch it when it happens.

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