AIM student Harmanone (Harmanan Singh) has created an incredible audio/visual ode to the history of gaming for his new tune “OK Gamer”.
Harmanan started out as a prog rock guitarist. After being immersed in a culture at AIM that taught him to experiment, break rules and express thoughts into music, he’s now pioneering an adventurous “poly-stylistic fusion” of sounds that steals and breaks and bends elements of electronica, orchestral sounds, dubstep, EDM, hard rock, big band, hip hop and chiptune (8-bit video game music, a whole aural aesthetic in the modern world).
We caught up with Harmanan to explore the story of “OK Gamer,” which features the talents of more than a dozen fellow AIM students. Watch the killer mashup video on YouTube below.
What are the most exciting parts of gaming culture right now?
Harmanan: I think the most exciting part to me is how inclusive it is. Not just when it comes to people, but also when it comes to diversity of ideas and concepts. It is coloured with so many choices, it inspired me to make this song as I like to experiment with choices.
What would people outside gaming not get about the whole experience?
Harmanan: Nostalgia. People who aren’t into gaming will not be able find the state of catharsis that we all go through. A lot of gaming is also about venting which I guess resonates with a lot of us.
PLAYING VIDEO GAMES: A METAPHOR FOR LIFE
What is the ultimate message of “OK Gamer”?
Harmanan: I liked the idea of a gamer always trying to win the game despite losing so many times. I used this as a metaphor for the obvious hardships a lot of people and especially artists have been facing due to the pandemic. The ultimate message of the track is essentially about overcoming the obstacles in life to get to the next level. The game is a metaphor for life.
How has gaming affected your creativity?
Harmanan: It hasn’t affected it directly but I like to associate visuals and colours with music. I’ve got a condition called synaesthesia which may be influenced by video games too. A lot of video game soundtracks have also been a great influence on my musicianship.
Can you please explain [the music genre] “chiptune”?
Harmanan: Hahaha. “Chiptune” is basically old 8-bit music created for video games. The sound reflected the limits of analog gear back then but has now evolved into an aesthetic. It was just an analog synthesiser with noise oscillator acting as beats. I feel like often limitations breed creativity. You might find gold in an unknown place.
How did you get the confidence and chops to compose in so many different genres?
Harmanan: This is my style. I am still deciding what should I call it. For now it is “poly-stylistic fusion.” I’m obsessed with mixing different genres together to make something totally unique and bizarre. It is an endless rabbit hole of creativity. But it’s still new to people who are not used to it. Exploring a lot of genres taught me so many techniques (even those that I wasn’t fond of previously).
THROWING PAINT AT A BLANK AUDIO CANVAS
What is your process from idea to song?
Harmanan: I start with a theme or a concept and then try to figure out what it would sound like in a given context. I don’t care as much about the structure as long as it is able to encapsulate the emotion/thought I’m going for. Then I write the lyrics, if it’s not instrumental. My creative process starts off with throwing paint at a blank canvas. Then I make sense of the chaos through editing, subtraction and addition. I also make small compositions too and then use these compositions to make a collage of sorts.
How would you do this, live?
Harmanan: Umm get crowdfunding and then gather a whole ensemble? Unless a label allows grants to perform it live. That’s the only way to do it justice. It is tricky to do it live without breaking some rules. I would love to do a huge AIM live ensemble if I can!
Did you have the players in mind before you wrote it?
Harmanan: I did plan on writing for a small ensemble of 5-10 people but it kept getting bigger and bigger as my curiosity got more ambitious. Then I just asked musicians to perform on the track. I also made new friends through this project when I approached them to perform on this.
BREAKING THE RULES AT AIM
What have been the most relevant / critical / useful things you’ve learned at AIM in production and composing?
Harmanan: Learning how to express my thoughts into music and have a conversation. Making rules and breaking them. I started out as a prog rock guitarist. One of the teachers here inspired me to get experimental and break rules. I have never looked back.
What’s your dream project? Where do you want to go to next?
Harmanan: My dream project changes with time and limitations. My current dream project is to perform with an orchestra that revolves around the audience or use similar techniques in audio through VR capabilities. I’m currently working on my Album which will be in many genres and styles and will focus upon abstract life themes. I am also planning to perhaps build an instrument to perform a poly-temperamental piece. In addition to this, there are more collaborations to come in the future.
How much does being a part of the AIM community (rather than just being alone in your own room) affect your creativity?
Harmanan: So much! I see musicians who are ambitious and they subconsciously affect me to work hard every day. There is something beautiful about interaction. I’m so glad to find all these lovely and talented musicians through AIM.
Do you want to shout out any teachers or fellow students?
Harmanan: Honestly everyone. It was such an amazing experience to make music with so many talented musicians. It just makes it so worth it. I want to shout out to all the lovely and amazing musicians who’ve performed on my track:
Flute: Alice Bennett
Clarinet: Nicole Canham
Tenor Saxophone: Eugene Cleary
Trumpet: Andrew Batterham
Trombone: Matt Amy
Harp: Emily Granger
Keys: Charlene Van Ravenstein
Bass guitar: Brendan Henriques
Guitar solo: Mukul Jiwnani
Violin: Ni Pranaswari
Drums: Zul Arif
Male Rapper: Dixon Murdoch
Female Rapper: Morgan Kriss Mezzo
Voice actor: Amber Rogers
Mezzo: Tach Sutton
Alto: Raseca Jallorina
Tenor: Tusi James
Tenor and Voice Actor: Edward Stokes (Zalow)
Tenor: Ken Mionnet
Alto Saxophone: Phillip Johnston
I want to especially thank Phillip Johnston for agreeing to perform the sax over this. It was such a pleasure. I also want to thank Mark Oliveiro for letting me write for Emily Granger who performed the harp parts in the Sydney campus.