The video game culture began on the couch. Taking it to the stage required getting off the couch.
It’s a little like Richard Wagner meets “Candy Crush.” But for this event, coming to an outdoor setting Sept. 1, you won’t need a Dual Shock 4 or set of Joy-Cons.
“Undertale” (tale about monsters under the topsoil) is one of the most acclaimed video games of the past decade, with almost 4 million fans around the globe. Toby Fox, all by himself, developed this indie fun-wonder, which tells a story filled with heart, about characters filled with quirks. Fox also composed the game’s unorthodox music that furthers its tales: long ago, monsters got sealed underground. Fox added a surprise; players can resolve each encounter nonviolently, inviting us to have empathy for those we see as different.
“Undertale” roared into the gaming scene in 2015. People knew about Fox’s previous work on web comic “Homestuck,” but the popularity of “Undertale” astonished. A game of adventure, it topples players’ predictions by relying on role-playing.
But who will play Fox’s remarkable score Sept. 1? To the rescue comes the distinguished Chicago-based dectet (10 members) chamber group Fifth House Ensemble.
Fifth House launches artists’ careers through entrepreneurship residencies and training programs, working with the top U.S. music schools, including those at Yale College, Eastman, Indiana University (Jacobs School of Music) and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
What does it mean to be a 21st-century musician?
“Most people love classical music and just don’t know it yet,” said cellist and founding member, Herine Coetzee Koschak, in a Zoom interview. “This (collaboration) is about meeting people where they are.” In fact, “Undertale” is Fifth House’s second venture with video games; in this second one the audience gets to vote.
“It’s retro-style,” Koschak said. “And there’s a lot of 8-bit (video games) in it. Fox’ score is a blast to play. We use a lot of iPads.”
Alain Barker, director of the Jacobs School of Music’s Community Engagement Initiative, the program that is hosting the event, said the program acknowledges the power and popularity of game theory. “We are reimagining classical music in today’s culture. Over the past 20 years we’ve been seeking ways to respond to trends and new audiences.”
IU grad and the initiative’s lead administrator, Lauren Bishop, who along with Barker is collaborating with Fifth House, left musical theater. Her new career is in vocal and audio engineering and business. “We’re going off the beaten path with this project. It’s innovation through music.”
The Initiative improves lives in rural Indiana by connecting communities with the arts. The initiative allows Jacobs faculty and students to find solutions for problems facing rural communities.
Praised by The New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse,” the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble goes beyond chamber music to reach past what many people see as classical music’s limits. The ensemble attracts theater groups, video-game designers, corporate innovators and folk bands to tell stories.
Reaching 17,000 students each year through its educational programs, Fifth House connects K-12 core curricula to custom-crafted, interactive musical experiences. Students can not just share, but lead.
But the name: “Fifth House.” Turns out it’s easier to say than the original (horoscopic) name “Eleventh House,” Koschak said. Just as solfeggi (do re mi) is supposed to be easier to sing than the corresponding one two three, simple pronunciation works. If you can say it, you might remember to go to the (free) concert.
If you go
WHAT: “Undertale LIVE” at Indiana University. More than a concert, a meeting place where fans join the quest by voting on each show’s storyline. Fifth House Ensemble, Chicago-based lauded chamber group, will play Toby Fox’s score. For kids, too. Hosted by IU Jacobs School of Music’s Community Engagement Initiative.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept. 1.
WHERE: Outdoor venue to be announced.
TICKETS: Free and can be reserved at https://bctboxoffice.org/event/undertale-live/