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Fear and the musical avant-garde in games: Interviews with Jason Graves, Garry Schyman, Paul Gorman and Michael Kamper

Mitchell, Helen R.


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Ms Helen Mitchell
Senior Lecturer in Media Audio/ Collaborative Provision Coordinator, School of Arts


© 2014 Intellect Ltd Article. If you have ever experienced the cold chill of fear when watching a film or playing a video or computer game, it is highly probable that your responses have been manipulated by composers exploiting the musical resources of modernism, experimental music and the avant-garde. Depictions of fear, horror, amorality, evil and so on, have come to be associated with these sound worlds, particularly within the realm of popular culture. A number of game titles and franchises have emerged in recent years, which exploit these musical associations, exploring their creative potential as vehicles of fear and horror within the context of interactive game-play. Two composers associated with this approach are Jason Graves (Dead Space franchise) and Garry Schyman (Bioshock franchise, Dante’s Inferno). This article explores perceived links between avant-garde music (as defined in ‘populist’ rather than musicological or historical terms, as a ‘catch-all’ phrase for twentieth-century music exploiting experimental techniques, modernism and atonality) and depictions of horror and fear through interviews with Graves and Schyman. Further questions are posed to Paul Gorman (audio director – Dante’s Inferno) and Michael Kamper (audio director – Bioshock 2) to contextualize the discussion by demonstrating the significant creative influence of audio directors in guiding the musical approach taken by game composers. The article would be of potential interest to anyone with an interest in game audio, commercial composition/composers, game development, creative collaboration, audio direction and the power of music to manipulate the emotions in association with visual media.


Mitchell, H. R. (2014). Fear and the musical avant-garde in games: Interviews with Jason Graves, Garry Schyman, Paul Gorman and Michael Kamper. Horror studies, 5(1), 127-144.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 1, 2014
Deposit Date Nov 12, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Horror studies
Print ISSN 2040-3275
Electronic ISSN 2040-3275
Publisher Intellect
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 1
Pages 127-144
Keywords Avant-garde composition
Public URL
Publisher URL,id=17512/
Additional Information This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Horror studies, 2014, v.5 issue 1.


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