Journey, Music, and Orientalism

5 thoughts on “Journey, Music, and Orientalism”

  1. Very interesting point! The carpets are also reminiscent of the pop culture idea of the “magic carpet”, especially the large carpet beast that you can ride during the final level. It is literally a flying carpet.

    “In many ways, this song stands as a metaphor for the game at large; a vaguely exotic potpourri of spiritual-sounding axioms, which attempt to give every player the feeling of uniqueness.”

    It is interesting to note that while the game recalls “The East” to invoke the Mysterious, this song invokes almost exclusively Indo-European languages (with the exception of Japanese). I wonder what for?

    1. From a creator’s point of view, the rationale for using Indo-European languages was probably, “hey, this sounds cool” – but Barthes and the death of the author and etc, so I think it would be possible to read something about the power dynamics of the visual/verbal into this choice. Influences of hegemonic nations – Japan would count here due to its recent technological innovations – get to be articulated in the verbal, while the influence of less powerful nations get pushed to the background of visuals. Alternatively, the use of European languages could have been an attempt to avoid Orientalism – while it’s true that the game is influenced by Asian cultures, having the credits song be in Asian languages as well may have just been too much for the creators – Orientalism so egregious that the creators could recognize it as such and feel accordingly hesitant. Unfortunately, biases work beneath the conscious level as well, so it is still possible that certain exoticizing influences still came through in the design – that, or they just thought it would look cool (and it does).

  2. I think this is a very useful reading. The orientalist music was the first thing that jumped out at me when we were playing through this game, since it is a concept I have been thinking about in film. I’m very intrigued, in the example you used, by the correlation between The Legend of Korra and orientalism. According to Edward Said, I believe, the attempt to represent “the orient” is an attempt to represent no-place, a location that does not exist. Korra has been puzzling me because it does specifically reference a place, or two places: the idea behind the music was to imagine what 1920’s jazz would have sounded like if it was developed in China instead of the United States (although this particular theme does not really have any of those jazz elements). Does the fact that this show references particular musical traditions (as opposed to using a pentatonic scale to represent something vaguely oriental) prevent it from falling under the banner or “orientalism,” or is the fact that it is being appropriated by an American cartoon for an American audience enough to maintain orientalism as a useful distinction?

    Sorry my response/question is more about The Legend of Korra than about the Journey. I am planning on taking up more of a look at the game, including some of the ideas mentioned in this post, in my own separate blog posting.

  3. Great points. i think was in denial about the game as an exocitization. Do you think the game embodies a caustic form of passivity? I like the game so I want to say no but now I’m not sure.

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