Ben Houge

Associate Professor
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  • Career Highlights
    • Video game audio development since 1996, including seven years at Sierra and four years at Ubisoft
    • Freelance work for companies including Harmonix, Microsoft, ArenaNet, and Hidden Path
    • Developed audio for video game projects including Half-Life: Opposing Force, Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail, and King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, among many others
    • Composed the string quartet soundtrack for Arcanum (2001), and served as audio director for Tom Clancy’s EndWar (2008)
    • Developed an ongoing series of food operas using video game techniques to provide an immersive, real-time soundtrack to a five-course meal, in collaboration with chef Jason Bond
    • Premiered "The Tomb of the Grammarian Lysias," a setting of a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy for voice and audience mobile devices, at the International Computer Music Conference/Sound and Music Computing Conference in Athens, Greece
    • 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
    • Presented a lecture on Optimizing Audio for Mobile Development at the Game Developers Conference in China
    • 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
    • Generative video piece "Shanghai Traces" shortlisted for the Guggenheim’s YouTube Play biennial of creative video
    • Artist residency at MIT, 2012
  • Education
    • B.A., St. Olaf College, 1996
    • M.M., University of Washington, 2004

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.”