Sunday 23 April 2017

iDIG Music Fest - Gaming wills for classical skills

With the Dublin International Game Music Festival rumbling along, we sample some of the first day

Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Frank Whelan

Frank Whelan

Some of game music's top composers and conductors have descended on Dublin for the first International Game Music Festival.

Running from Thursday the 2nd to Saturday 4th of April in Dublin's Convention Centre, the festival is the brainchild of Galway native Eimear Noone.

With a resume that name checks some of the decade's biggest games, not to mention her achievements outside the realm of pixels and bits, it's safe to say that Eimear Noone is Ireland's biggest hitter when it comes to game music.

We managed to catch her talk on the opening day of iDIG Music Fest. Armed with only a conductor's baton and a career's worth of anecdotes and experience, Noone captured the audience without her usual orchestral arsenal.

Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015

Partly telling her own story while dispatching well won advice and insights, the talk perfectly captured the spirit of the festival and the aspiration to make classical music more accessible. Noone managed to mix technical terms seamlessly with general anecdotes, just as she mixed gaming references with obscure classical composers.

The content reflected the audience, composed of equal parts aspiring musicians and avid gaming fans. Game t-shirts were as common an accessory as recently purchased sheet music.

Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015

Eimear spoke about passion and love for the music driving everything. She told the crowd about her start in conducting at 15, freely admitting that it was driven more by passion than knowledge of conducting, "There aren't even undergrad courses in it because you don't know what you're doing. And neither did I."

Noone went on to speak about putting together her first orchestra while a student in Trinity College Dublin, working with a friend and already inspired to bring classical music to the masses, albeit with movie music rather than games.

Throughtout the talk, there was definitely a sense of a woman who gets things done.

"Nobody gives you an orchestra." Noone said and certainly not in her case, having founded the Dublin City Concert Orchestra at the age of 21.

Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015
Eimear Noone talking at iDIG Music Fest 2015

One anecdote from her formative years featured an attempt to track down a copy of the musical score for Braveheart, ultimately leading to the son of the composer.
"You know this is really hard" he said.
"Oh really?" said the young Noone, thinking that she had studied the music and it had seemed very doable.
"Yeah, you need this one weird instrument called an ooeeleeien pipe."
"I've never heard of one of those. It wouldn't be an uilleann pipe by any chance?" She said, already counting at least nine uilleann pipe players she knew. The answer was positive and Braveheart was just one of the movie scores played in a sold out show at the National Concert Hall.

It would be a safe guess that Eimear Noone caught the accessible music bug during those early adventures. She fondly recalls a member of the audience coming up to her after a show and thanking her: 'It was my first time at an orchestra. I loved it! My favourite piece was the Die Hard music.'

Eimear Noone and Tommy Tallarico rocking out with some Halo at Video Games Live
Eimear Noone and Tommy Tallarico rocking out with some Halo at Video Games Live

Throughout the talk, Noone freely admitted that she often had to do a lot of on-the-job learning during her career, a fact aspiring conductors in the audience no doubt took heart in.

"As a conductor, you have to practice in front of an orchestra, so you have to suck for a while" Noone said, going on to suggest that it may be a reason why there aren't more female conductors, "we're really bad at being bad at things. You have to be OK with being bad at something as you learn."

Read our in-depth interview with Eimear Noone - The Irish Queen of Games Music - Eimear Noone Interview

There was only one point during the talk, when Noone was explaining the nuances of baton strokes, that I felt the pressure of deadlines urging me to leave. Thankfully I hesitated long enough for something bordering on magic to occur.
The explanation of the strokes concluded with a demonstration of them at work. As Eimear Noone's wand began moving through the air, the room went completely silent, save for the shutter action of some over-zealous photographers.
There was no music, only movement, but somehow there was emotion and meaning. In my head there was not only a growing sense of music, but also a vague visual amalgamation of games I had played, moving from action and adventure to moments of relief and joy. Up to that point I had heard the words regarding the conductor's energy being amplified by the orchestra, but I hadn't truly believed it.

The crowd stands for a lesson from Eimear Noone
The crowd stands for a lesson from Eimear Noone

After what must have been wizardry of the highest order, Eimear Noone offered to teach us all a trick or two. The audience rose to their feet and soon the whole auditorium was conducting the cosmos in a 4/2 signature.

Though Eimear's mastery of 'the language' of conducting seemed a thing of exceptional knowing, yet again she was quick to tell the tale of how she learnt her craft. Whether deliberate or not, every impressive moment in the talk came with the stepping stones that led to that point, like a guiding light (or navi, for Zelda fans) to would-be maestros in the audience.

As a classical music n00b (to use the language of the games section) I came away from the talk with a greater understanding and appreciation of the art, but I'm sure the musicians in the audience found some of the inspiration that will ultimately lead them to be the next great Irish conductors.

Eimear Noone's talk was just one of many taking place over the course of the festival. Also in the schedule are some fantastic performances by Irish and International acts, music workshops and discussions. The climax of the festival will be the performance of Video Games Live.

At time of writing, limited tickets were still available here -

The full schedule can be found here: iDIG Music Fest ready to rock your ocarina

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