Video Game Lets You Drop Beats As You Drop Blocks Chime, a puzzle game created to raise money for charity, lets the player remix songs by Philip Glass and Moby.

Video Game Lets You Drop Beats As You Drop Blocks

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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

TRAVIS LARCHUK: And I'm Travis Larchuk.

And now it's time for our weekly Xbox 360 Live segment.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: Travis, I thought we talked about this. And just to reassure the folks listening, we do not have a weekly Xbox Live segment.

LARCHUK: Not yet.

RAZ: Travis Larchuk is one of our producers. And Travis, what are you doing in the studio?

LARCHUK: Well, Guy, I came here to play a song for you.

(Soundbite of song, "Brazil")

RAZ: Oh, this is actually kind of nice.

LARCHUK: Yeah, this is the song "Brazil" by the composer Philip Glass. And actually to be more precise, it's a remix of the song, which was created in a game for the Xbox 360. And I actually brought my Xbox 360 into the studio here with me.

RAZ: Aha, I see it.

LARCHUK: And Guy, I understand you've never actually seen one of these before.

RAZ: That would be incorrect. I have actually seen one at Best Buy.

LARCHUK: Yeah, but have you played one?

RAZ: No.

LARCHUK: Well, you've been missing out.

RAZ: On pretending to be a carjacker or a serial killer? I don't think so. And plus, I like spending time with my family, Travis.

LARCHUK: Well, Guy, it's not just about killing people and stealing their cars. There's puzzle games. There's music games, trivia. You can watch Netflix movies through the Xbox.

RAZ: That sounds a little more promising.

LARCHUK: Right. And the game I'm about to show you is called "Chime." It came out earlier this month, and I think you'll really like this one.

RAZ: Okay, so what does it do?

LARCHUK: All right. Well, you know that Philip Glass song we just heard?

RAZ: Mm-hmm.

LARCHUK: This game lets you remix songs by well-known artists as you play the game.

RAZ: Okay, go on.

LARCHUK: All right, so have you ever played "Tetris"?

RAZ: Yeah. That's the game where you've got these different shaped blocks, and they're falling onto the screen, and there's Russian music in the background, and you have to arrange the blocks into lines.

LARCHUK: Yeah, well, it's kind of like that. Here, let me show you.

(Soundbite of video game, "Chime")

LARCHUK: All right, so the basic object here is you're trying to arrange these Tetris-looking blocks into rectangles. And depending on where you drop them, you're remixing this song by Philip Glass.

RAZ: Okay, so I'm looking at this TV screen now, and I'm seeing a big, empty, white grid, and then obviously we're hearing this music loop.

LARCHUK: Right. And I'm going to drop the blocks on different parts of the grid, and just listen to what happens.

(Soundbite of video game, "Chime")

RAZ: All right. So it's triggering different musical notes.

LARCHUK: Exactly. So if I put one high up, it'll play a higher pitched note. And if I put one lower down on the grid, it'll play a lower pitched note. And if you arrange these shapes into a rectangle, it'll make an even cooler sound. Here, I'll show you.

(Soundbite of video game, "Chime")

RAZ: And all these sounds are actually created by the composer Philip Glass?

LARCHUK: Yeah, that's right. I talked to the guy who created this game. He's with the UK game developer Zoe Mode. His name is Ciaran Walsh.

Mr. CIARAN WALSH (Creator, "Chime"): Everything you're hearing comes from the original song. So there are phrases like flute phrases and percussion phrases, all sorts of different parts that we've pulled out. And you might hear them in the original in one place, but you hear them combined with a completely different part of the piece when you hear them in the game.

LARCHUK: So there are five different songs you can remix in this game. And each song is a different level that gets harder as the game goes along, and each one's by a different artist.

RAZ: Okay, so let's hear another one. Who do you have?

LARCHUK: All right. Well, this one is the song "Oh Yeah" by Moby.

(Soundbite of video game, "Chime")

RAZ: Okay, I'm hearing a computer voice that seems to be saying: Oh yeah.

LARCHUK: That's right. Unlike the Philip Glass song, which is instrumental, in this level, you really get to play with the vocals. So here's Ciaran Walsh again.

Mr. WALSH: We really picked out the vocals as an interesting thing for you to play with and trigger. You know, you can take a vocal phrase, and you can transpose it. So its the - you hear the same phrase at different pitches.

What that gives you is a kind of mosaic effect of all the different phrases.

(Soundbite of video game, "Chime")

LARCHUK: I mean, one of the really cool things about this game, actually, is that all the people who worked on it and all of the artists whose music are in it gave their work for free because the proceeds of this game actually go to charity.

RAZ: A charity, I gather, to rehabilitate video game addicts?

LARCHUK: No, it's for Save the Children and the Starlight Children's Foundation.

RAZ: How do you get this game?

LARCHUK: Well, you can download it through the Xbox for five bucks.

RAZ: That is one of our producers Travis Larchuk, who, believe it or not, was actually paid to play video games this past week.

Travis, thanks.

LARCHUK: Thank you, Guy. And by the way, I was carrying my Xbox through the hall, and I heard this rumor that Daniel Schorr is a huge Xbox fan.

RAZ: That would be a false rumor.

(Soundbite of music)

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