Becoming literate in a certain field requires the obtainment of information that is relative to and simultaneously pushes the study/narrative of that skill. Engineers understand, to a certain degree, that the fringe elements of design such as math, chemistry, carpentry, and physics play an integral role in the culmination of their craft.
Is music, the audible (sonic) science, any different? I openly submit that it is not. Though arguably in comparison to a mindset such as engineering, there are not as many physical factors; We can't measure a tangible length or weight to any piece of music. Perhaps a conceptual "length of time" can be a substitute, but it is hard to argue that music or sound has a "weight" or "mass" in the literal sense of the words.
[Cut to the chase, Suezo]
What is a genre? A characterization? How do we classify certain pieces of music in difference to one another? How do we measure things like "song" (which is a category all on it's own) within the boundaries of their discipline? You know the difference between electronic and rock because of the way they sound. You know the difference between an ensemble and a soloist because of the number instruments being utilized. Here is my question to you, reader:
How do we differentiate music pieces of the same SONIC profile?
No pun intended in the transition. Simply put, if you have a body of music (Example: OST) consisting of a similar sound profile for a specific purpose (game, movie, etc.) How do you theoretically separate them aside from saying, "This one is called track 1, and this one is called track 2."
One way we do this is called "Form." The big picture building of a piece; The road map. Let's make this as understandable as possible to the untrained ear. Here is the musical form for the piece called Mystic Cave Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Basically, form is the arrangement of phrases that offer a further classification of a piece of music. This is expressed as a musical theory; a predictable pattern that most man-made music will follow when created in traditional terms.
What does this have to do with Sonic the Hedgehog?
Interestingly enough, Sonic 2 is a great example of the most common type of musical form in retro gaming: Binary Form
Figure 1.1 Binary Form (Teoria.com)
The easiest way to describe binary form is a piece of music with two different ideas. You could probably imagine, at this moment, a piece of music that fits this very description. Congrats! You have unconsciously identified a binary musical selection.
There are a number of versions in binary to help theorists pinpoint specific identity. What we come across in the Sonic 2 OST is the Simple Binary (Fig. 1.1) and the Sectional Binary (Figure 1.2). The sectional binary is different only in that within either larger portions of the piece, similar yet not perfectly identical musical material may be introduced. If you view to the video example above of "Mystic Cave Zone" you'll notice the split in the larger "A" section between two somewhat similar musical phrases, that contain the exact same rhythm and bassline.
Figure 1.2 Sectional Binary (modified Teoria.com)
Now that we've established these two forms let's dissect each level. Feel free to listen and compare!
SONIC 2 OST (LEVEL LIST)
Emerald Hill ZonePopSectional BinaryIntro [A (a, b) | B ]
Chemical Plant ZoneElectronic/IndustrialSectional BinaryIntro [A (a, b) | B (a, b) ]
Aquatic Ruin ZoneLatinSimple Binary[Intro + A | B ]
Casino Night ZoneJazzStrophic[Intro + A (a, b)]
Hill Top ZoneCountrySimple Binary[Intro + A | B ]
Mystic Cave ZoneHip-Hop / FunkSectional BinaryIntro [A (a, b) | B]
Oil Ocean ZoneEastern / Harmonic MinorSectional BinaryIntro [A (a, b) | B]
Metropolis ZoneRock / PopSimple BinaryIntro [A | B]
Sky Chase ZoneAlternative Rock/PopSimple BinaryIntro [A | B]
Wing Fortress ZoneInstrumental MarchSectional Binary[Intro A (a, b) | B]
Death Egg ZoneElectronic/ContemporaryStrophic[A (a, b)]
Using what you know now, do you think you could discern a binary piece within your library of retro favorites? Give it a try! One thing will obviously catch your eye on this chart; the word "Strophic." The fun part about putting together these little articles is applying the information given to an area that appears foreign.
Assuming that we are still talking in terms of Letters describing different musical ideas, what do you believe Strophic could mean in theoretical sense? Happy research, fellow Retrologists!