By the time this book displayed the twentieth example of a musical score (a 1-up sound effect), we realised we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Never has our favourite GIF, the one which shows Homer Simpson's brain leaving his head, been so useful in expressing our feelings.
Such was our first exposure to Bloomsbury Academic’s 33 ⅓ range, a series of short books devoted to the study of significant albums or, in this case, soundtracks.
While we weren’t expecting a book in this highly academic series to be like Music for Dummies, sometimes it feels like Schartmann has forgotten that a lot of his readers don’t hold two music degrees. As this 106th volume of the series is their first gaming title, we feel there should have been quite a bit of dumbing down as Super Mario Bros. is an extremely popular subject that’s likely to bring in a lot of new readers. Not to mention the fact that we’re quite thick.
The bits we understood, however, were generally informative and entertaining. The first half of the book was dedicated to the historical context of the gaming industry in general and Koji Kondo specifically, as well as dealing with the technical limitations he had to work with when creating his seminal soundtrack. This was easily the most fascinating part and we would’ve been happy if the book was written entirely in that style.
But it is what it is. We look forward to reading more gaming titles (certainly there are thousands of words to be written about soundtracks like Donkey Kong Country or some of the Grand Theft Auto games), but if they’re as impenetrable to the casual reader as this one then you can count us out. If you are a music enthusiast or can tell a treble clef from a high C (are they even different things? We don’t know), you’ll probably enjoy this book. Anyone else is advised to just read the first half.
INFO: 33 ⅓ : KOJI KONDO’S SUPER MARIO BROS. SOUNDTRACK / AUTHOR: ANDREW SCHARTMANN / PUBLISHER: BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC / RELEASE DATE: JULY 16TH