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Keys to Play

Music as a Ludic Medium from Apollo to Nintendo

Roger Moseley (Author)

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Paperback, 470 pages
ISBN: 9780520291249
October 2016
$34.95, £27.00
Other Formats Available:
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How do keyboards make music playable? Drawing on theories of media, systems, and cultural techniques, Keys to Play spans Greek myth and contemporary Japanese digital games to chart a genealogy of musical play and its animation via improvisation, performance, and recreation. As a paradigmatic digital interface, the keyboard forms a field of play on which the book’s diverse objects of inquiry—from clavichords to PCs and eighteenth-century musical dice games to the latest rhythm-action titles—enter into analogical relations. Remapping the keyboard’s topography by way of Mozart and Super Mario, who head an expansive cast of historical and virtual actors, Keys to Play invites readers to unlock ludic dimensions of music that are at once old and new.
Roger Moseley is Assistant Professor of Music at Cornell University. Active as a collaborative pianist on modern and historical instruments, he has published essays on the interface of the keyboard, the performativity of digital games, the practice of eighteenth-century improvisation, and the music of Brahms.
"“Keys to Play” has been called a “game-changer” and “dazzling and daring” by reviewers. It cuts across the traditional sub-disciplines of music studies to offer new and challenging connections between them."—Cornell Chronicle
"With Keys to Play, ludomusicology has finally arrived on the scene. Moseley’s book cuts right across the traditional subdisciplines of music studies and offers new and challenging connections between them. Whether our interest is in performance, compositional technique, music theory, improvisation, notation, audiovisual media, historiography, or aesthetics, Moseley teaches us how much the field of music studies at large has to gain from taking play seriously. This wise book is full of brilliant aperçus and provocative observations, bursting with novel ideas. In a word: stunning."—Alexander Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music, Harvard University

“Roger Moseley hones a new and versatile set of tools for the toolbox of music studies: the critical consideration of human play. Wonderfully transhistorical, allusive, rich, clever, erudite, and earnest, this book will open new horizons for music scholars of all kinds. Dare I say, a game-changer?”—Elisabeth Le Guin, Professor of Musicology and Music, UCLA

"Keys to Play is a dazzling and daring book: an intellectual symphony, a virtuosic boss run, a vigorous expedition in media-musical archaeology, and an exquisite love letter to the vitalities of interdisciplinary play."—William Cheng, author of Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination

"Keys to Play offers nothing less than a new approach to central episodes in the narrative of European art music refracted through histories of the keyboard, video games and improvisation. It is at once provocative, bracing, and yes, profoundly playful."—Benjamin Walton, University of Cambridge

"The keyboard is Roger Moseley's Archimedean point: give him one and he shows you can move the musical world in unexpected directions. Keys to Play is dazzling in its virtuosic amalgamation, combination, and recombination of its many themes and ideas."—Emily I. Dolan, author of The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre

Otto Kinkeldey Award, American Musicological Society

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