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August 9, 2020 65 min

Barnabas Smith is an Australian musician, teacher, and independent researcher. He holds a PhD from the Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide, with a thesis focusing on the construction and application of a research model to study the music of contemporary open-world video games. A recipient of the Naomi Cumming Prize, Barnabas is also the founder and President of the Ludomusicology Society of Australia. 

 

In his paper, Barnabas expresses that the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1982) omits the former’s bass ostinato, Dragnet theme excerpt, and melodically-driven action music that can be found in the arcade game. In an echo of the original Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981), however, it significantly contains a tonal coherence comprising sound effect ‘beeps’ centred in E minor (or a microtonal approximation thereof). Aeolian tonic triad tones and occasional chromaticism reinforce the disconcerting and frightening affectivity associated conventionally with the minor tonality. As Barnabas suggests, a paramount significance is a persistent rhythmical matrix comprised of metronomic E (I) beeps, yoked to the descending movement of death-bringing barrel obstacles. Exteroceptive inculcation via quartz oscillations supports the player’s timekeeping while controlling ‘Mario’. Linearly navigating the on-screen bi-dimensional Euclidian plane, each JUMP solicits a B (V) beep, and each step a G (iii). It is argued that the fixed minor totality, poco a poco accelerando tempo, and other extant musical characteristics serve to corroborate the a posteriori conclusion that Donkey Kong’s ‘beep’ sound effects constitute a musical framework 

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