3- Deep Secrets of the Earth: Scoring the Anthropocene in Horizon: Zero Dawn - Joel Oliver-Cormier, Independent Scholar

4:00 PM, Saturday 25 May 2019 (2 hours)
Guided tour "Montréal in jazz"   06:00 PM to 08:00 PM (2 hours)

Set on a post-post-apocalyptic Earth, the blockbuster videogame Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, 2017) portrays a hybrid world, one in which the natural and the technological are fully enmeshed. For the game’s characters, the robotic beasts that populate the world are as much a part of the environment as the trees, rocks, and rivers. This is a story of the Anthropocene, one that posits that even if we were able to undo the effects of climate change, future inhabitants of our world would still have to reckon with how profoundly we have transformed it.

What does this Anthropocene sound like? And how does the game’s score play into the player’s evolving understanding of the game’s world? Rooting my arguments in the work of ecocritic Timothy Morton, I explore the ways in which the composers of Horizon’s musical score—Joris de Man and duo The Flight—approach the game’s themes of hybridity and its scepticism toward the simple nature/culture dichotomy. The composers employ musical and sonic markers of Nature and Culture in inventive ways, blending and recontextualizing them to reflect the game’s cyborg world. But this sort of symbolism may also reinforce entrenched conceptions of these two categories, even as it attempts to subvert them. Building upon Indigenous games writer Dia Lacina’s criticism of Horizon’s appropriation of Indigenous visual imagery, I will discuss the limitations of such symbolism, particularly in the composers’ use of “primitivist” musical aesthetics as a short-hand for the Natural.
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