Maestro Mario: How Nintendo Transformed Videogame Music into an Art

Maestro Mario: How Nintendo Transformed Videogame Music into an Art

“Pa-dum-pum-pa-dum-pum—PUM!” Super Mario Bros. for the NES contains some of the most recognizable tunes in popular culture, and yet it’s safe to say that only a handful of people have thought beyond the music’s entertaining surface. After all, what could possibly be art-worthy about an early Mario score? Or any early game sound for that matter? In search of answers to these questions, Andrew Schartmann takes us on a journey from the primitive “pongs” of arcade machines to the complex musical fabrics woven by composers of the NES era. Where does that distinctly Nintendo-flavored sound come from? What sets NES music apart from its predecessors? And how has that iconic ‘80s videogame sound “invaded” popular culture?

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About The Writer

Andrew has been a gamer since the age of four, when he used to sneak into the basement at night to play BurgerTime on his dad’s TI-99. Andrew is also a composer and music theorist, who is presently working toward his PhD in music theory at Yale. One of his goals is to bridge the divide between the ivory tower and the videogame den with in-depth studies of the game music we love so much. Find out more about Andrew’s many projects at

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