Tetris spawns a musical concept

Portland State University alumnus Scott Jackson is ready to take Tetris, that video game of mental and manual dexterity, to the next level. This Friday, he will present Tetrisonic, a night of live, improvised musical compositions based on the game.

“It’s taking a pre-existing video structure and overlaying a new musical concept,” Jackson said.

The idea behind it is that each performer will pre-prepare a set of five simple sounds that correspond to the basic Tetris pieces. These sounds – melodies, rhythms, noises or words – can be produced using voice, a single instrument or a small electronic set-up.

As audience members play the game, randomly selected duos of performers will create their compositions as the action of the game unfolds. Performer A will play his sound for the piece falling down the screen, while performer B will play his sound for the piece in waiting.

Jackson said the idea came from a childhood love of video games. “It’s a way to keep that going,” he said. He still plays games and thinks they can be very creative.

“With Tetrisonic I want to emphasize the creative potential in a video game format in a new way,” he said. “This is like a ‘mod,’ or game modification, that doesn’t actually involve software code, but is simply a conceptual model for group music making that is grafted over the features of a game.”

Test runs of this concept with a friend proved to be interesting.

“You get some really bizarre music out of it, but it’s constantly moving forward,” he said.

Jackson, 24, graduated in March with a degree in arts and letters, and a minor in music. He currently performs in the electro-acoustic band Priest of Robots.

So far, four performers, including Jackson, have signed on to play. Several others are tentatively scheduled. But performer submissions will be taken up to the evening of the event. To register or for more information, e-mail Jackson at [email protected] or come to the basement of The Green Onion at 6 p.m. the day of the show.

Audience members will also be needed to play Tetris. The Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game will be used.

Tetrisonic takes place Friday, April 18, at 9 p.m. in the basement lounge of The Green Onion, 636 S.W. Jackson St. Admission is free. This is a 21 and over event.