Ben Houge

  • Career Highlights
    • Video game audio development since 1996, including seven years at Sierra and four years at Ubisoft, in addition to consulting for companies including Harmonix, Microsoft, ArenaNet, and Hidden Path
    • Composed the string quartet soundtrack for the cult role-playing game Arcanum (2001), served as audio director for Tom Clancy’s EndWar (2008), and developed audio for many other game projects including Half-Life: Opposing ForceLeisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail, and King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity
    • Developed an ongoing series of food operas, multisensory dining experiences that apply video game techniques in restaurants to provide an immersive, real-time soundtrack to a meal; collaborators include Jason Bond (Bondir, Cambridge), Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory, London), Janice Wang (Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Oxford), Zeitgeist music ensemble, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra
    • Composed "The Tomb of the Grammarian Lysias," a setting of a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy that presents an innovative approach to using audience mobile devices as a crowd-diffused speaker array, with performances in Athens, Paris, Beijing, Kingston, Vancouver, and Boston
    • Composed a real-time score for U.K.-based dance group New Movement Collective's "Please Be Seated," performed at La Rambleta in Valencia, Spain, and Southbank Centre in London
    • Lectures widely, including presentations at the Game Developers Conference (San Francisco in 2016, Shanghai in 2014), the International Symposium on Electronic Art, the Web Audio Conference, the International Computer Music Conference, and the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, in addition to institutions such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Shanghai Conservatory, and the University of Hong Kong, as well as at leading restaurants including the Fat Duck and Mugaritz
    • Active in the Chinese music scene from 2004 to 2010; performed with Yan Jun, Wang Changcun, Elliot Sharp, Safety Scissors, Torturing Nurse, Dajuin Yao, Nosaj Thing, and Owl City
    • Digital art exhibited internationally: "Transportation Is Getting a New Look" (OV Gallery, Shanghai), "Study for Insomnia" (Art+Shanghai Gallery, Shanghai), "Kaleidoscope Wallpaper" (Today Art Museum, Beijing), "Self-Portrait, Dusk, at the Point of Departure" (True Color Museum, Suzhou), "Mobile 4" (San Diego Museum of Art), "Landscape with Water and Woodblocks" (Museum of Fine Arts, Valencia), and "Shanghai Traces" (Boston Cyberarts Festival, shortlisted for the Guggenheim’s YouTube Play biennial of creative video)
    • Berklee Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship (2017); Knight Foundation grant (2015); artist residency at Spring Workshop, Hong Kong (2012); artist residency at MIT (2011); artist residency at True Color Museum, Suzhou (2010); Stranger Genius Award (2004)
  • Education
    • M.M., University of Washington, 2004
    • B.A., St. Olaf College, 1996

In Their Own Words

“For me, innovation in music technology is not just about teaching tools; it’s about ideas. Tools come and go, but if you understand the underlying concepts, you’ll be able to apply them to tools that haven’t been invented yet or, even better, invent your own. In the world of technology, perhaps more than other disciplines, it is important to learn how to learn. I seek to cultivate an inherent inquisitiveness in students that will lead to continued growth. Simply teaching someone which buttons to push in a piece of software is a guaranteed path to obsolescence.

"Nonetheless, I believe in a hands­-on approach when it comes to programming. Programming problems are structural, which is to say compositional, challenges. I commonly compare learning programming to learning orchestration; if Ravel hadn’t been a master orchestrator, invested in the problems of orchestration, he never would have had the compositional impulse to write Bolero.

"My artistic perspective is deeply interdisciplinary, and I believe strongly in the importance of the liberal arts and a healthy dialogue with other cultures in learning music technology. In my experience, innovation emerges from being able to draw ideas from other disciplines and apply them to new challenges.

"It’s important to place the challenges of nonlinear media in a historical context; I draw examples from Pérotin, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Alexander Calder, James Brown, and John Cage, alongside established video game composers. I’ve been working in the field of video game audio since 1996, and I believe that applying video game music techniques to the unpredictable, emergent events of daily life represents a new and relatively unexplored arena of cultural production. In the post-physical media era, this kind of portable, dynamic, and personalized musical experience represents a growth area for composers who can manage the exigencies of nonlinear composition.”

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