High Score – a six week analysis

While there have previously been dedicated one-off specials on the topic, British radio have not had a regularly scheduled show dealing with video game music on the airwaves at all. That was until six weeks ago, when the new series High Score started on Classic FM. We’ve been following the treatment of this genre of music on the airwaves for quite some time and now that the series has concluded we thought it’d be a good time to evaluate just how well the show has done and if a second series is on the cards (spoiler: we definitely think it should be).

Photo courtesy of Classic FM

The show, presented by the BAFTA  award winning composer Jessica Curry (Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Dear Esther and So Let Us Melt) was given a six episode run, with each clocking in at one hour each. Given the relatively short amount of airtime available to play music over the course of the series, music selection was always going to be a critical factor and I think Curry made some fantastic and, most importantly for me, diverse selections of both theme and music.

As with my tracking of the Hall of Fame hour from 2016-17, I decided to track all the pieces played in these shows to give us an overall idea of what we heard – the headlines for this are below:

  • 58 pieces of music were played over the course of the series; no piece was repeated
  • 43 separate games were represented, with music from Abzu (2) and Skyrim (2) being the only games represented more than once
  • 42 composers had their works selected for the show, seven of which were played more than once (chart below)
  • 6 pieces played were not from video games
  • The show featured 16 pieces of music from 14 different women composers, more than an entire year of shows (5 times out of 2,902) for the stations Hall of Fame Hour

When it comes to the show, I was really most impressed by the variety on offer. Curry themed the shows as much as possible which I believe helped with this, from BAFTA nominees, through a special with female composers to a show dedicated to hero and heroine themes. I was especially impressed with the special on women in games music as there were some wonderful pieces from composers who certainly don’t get the attention they deserve. I would welcome another special show and more integration of these composers into the rest of a hypothetical series 2.

As you may have noted from the bullet points, there were some pieces played which did not originate from video games, but this was on a show dedicated to pieces that influenced Curry’s music and career so definitely still retained the theme. In fact, this was one of my favourite shows in the series as it and I’d love to see the idea revisited with other composers should further episodes be in the pipeline. Curry herself was wonderful to listen to as well, obviously knowledgeable of her craft as a composer in her own right and as a fan of video game music and its creators, with a genuinely warm attitude towards her listeners and what was being played

Austin was the most played composer on High Score – picture from Bandcamp

Overall I feel the show definitely has the chops to deserve a commission for at least another series. I actually quite like the one hour format as it feel concise and focused but six episodes just isn’t enough for the variety on offer; maybe a series 2 could go for 8-10 weeks, or if they do stick with the 6 episode format then I feel it should have at least three or four runs in a calendar year. Personally I’d shift the timeslot a little to 7pm, maybe just after the station’s Saturday Night at the Movies show as I feel it would fit a little better timing-wise and thematically for the station but that’s just my preference.

Given the show’s fantastic reception on social media, I really do hope and expect the show to return. At a cursory glance, the Classic FM social channels rarely seem as active as they are during these video game music special (perhaps only busier during their annual Hall of Fame countdowns) and given the uptick the station has had in listeners under 35, giving that audience more of what they want certainly isn’t a bad idea.

So what did you think of the series? Were you impressed  with the selection of music offered or did you think there’s room for improvement? Let us know in the comments!

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