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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

The Chimes of Edith Finch

At the start of the game

I hung out in front of the house for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out how to get in because my key didn’t work. I couldn’t get over the fence on either side of the building, I was beginning to feel a little ill, and I would have been at my wit’s end except for three things.

First, it was absolutely beautiful out in the woods, in a way I found relaxing, even though my pressing concern was to get inside the house. Second, the wind chimes around to the left of the garage melded nicely with the rural background sonic ambience. Third, this wasn’t happening in real life.

I was actually in my living room, laying on my back with my phone suspended between my two hands. I was playing a video game called Edith Finch. With my right thumb I was changing my viewpoint. With my left thumb I was moving around, or more to the point moving the in-game character around, within the forest setting of the game’s story, having already hiked in from the main road while what appeared to be a young female narrator provided some combination of memoir and exposition. This movement was what caused my sense of illness. First-person motion in video games messes with my head and my stomach. Two of my favorite games, Portal 2 and Mirror’s Edge, can send me to the couch for hours of recovery time if I play for too long, by which I mean as little as 20 minutes.

I don’t play games intensely. I’m like the guy on the European tour bus who never goes into any of the historical tour stops and instead just buys a pastry at each stop and wanders around the neighborhood. Thus, games that engage in wandering, even storytelling with fixed narrative guardrails in place, are particularly up my alley, games such as the first-person adventure that is Edith Finch.

It’s early going, and we’ll see how far I get, but I did capture this short bit of video of the wind chimes. I spent a considerable amount of time observing the chimes once I noticed them as I made my up the driveway. They came into view before they emitted any recognizable sound. This game, like all games, has that pixel-gradiated versioning of reality, where you can either be within or beyond earshot in an on-off sort of way. One step forward, they come alive. One step back, you’re just enough distanced that the system registers them as inert, out of range. They got louder as you approached, and circulated in a semi-randomness that was quite realistic, all the more so how the ersatz melody played amid the insect noise and occasional birdsong of the broader realm.

Shortly thereafter I found my way (spoiler?) into the garage, wondering if there would be some interior room tone to contrast with the outdoor sound design. Instead, a movie-like melodic cue was waiting for me. More to come, as I wander around.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , / Comments: 2 ]

2 Comments

  1. David Mead
    [ Posted October 9, 2021, at 11:02 am ]

    Edith Finch is on my “to play” list at the moment.

    Have you checked out SABLE yet? That’s first person, but is a no pressure explore game with a really nice soundtrack by Japanese breakfast.

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted October 9, 2021, at 9:15 pm ]

      Thanks! I’ll check it out.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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