Miracle of Sound is the stage name of an impeccably talented musician in Cork, Ireland by the name of Gavin Dunne who composes and assembles original pieces that pay tribute to videogames and other mediums of nerd culture. In short, they’re fantastic. His songs are catchy and witty, but significantly varied in tones of expression – often times to match the tone of the videogame he is celebrating.
I have been following Gavin pretty much since the beginning of 2011. When his first song – Gordon Freeman Saved My Life went viral on the Escapist forums, I thought that despite being a bit repetitive, it was a fun hard rock tune and I hoped there would be more like it. Then about a month later, a friend linked me to another of his songs that was going viral – Commander Shepard. I was so enthralled that I frantically went to his Bandcamp, bought all the songs he had made thus far, and blasted them all over the airwaves of my college radio station. Apparently I wasn’t alone.
Since his breakthrough, Gavin has composed one gem after another on The Escapist. His eclecticism has gone from somber jazz to thrash metal, encompassing everything in between – blues, country, hard rock, Irish drinking, and more. He adds a mild flavor of pop in his songs, which increases the catchiness of his musicianship to match the witty lyrics, and sometimes he’ll structure his songs to compliment the said game’s masterful soundtrack. And he does it all himself – the guitar, the drums, the keyboard, and the voice layering, and synth effects – all him. Once in a while, he’ll recruit a musician he knows and respects to help him with a song – like a saxophone soloist for Sweet L.A. or a background vocalist like Lorna Dollery, who helped him make Back in Time and Shadows in the Moonlight. Otherwise, it’s all him.
Of course not all of Gav’s songs have been perfect, nor have they all been as popular with fans as Commander Shepard or others like The New Black Gold and Sovngarde Song, but his incrementally increasing volume of great music has something that everyone can appreciate. Even my mother, who has never played a single videogame in her life, asked me to make a MoS CD for her car.
So Gav makes songs about videogames. Good for him, but why should we care?
Because, there are two sides to the Miracle of Sound coin: what he does, and what he represents: Honesty, Quality, and Humility.
Honesty: Gavin is 100% authentic. He doesn’t touch drugs and he doesn’t fake talent. The best kinds of songs are the ones that sound like they’re sung by actual human beings rather than an arbitrary knockoff of Soundwave. He layers his voice to enrich the sound but he absolutely refuses to lip sync or invoke Auto-Tune. His exact words on the subject were: “Auto-Tune sucks the soul out of a performance”.
Gavin’s resources and talents as a musician may be limited but Gavin isn’t afraid to be up front about it. Whereas so many other artists are so insecure about their voice, Gavin understands his flaws and limits and seeks to work with them rather than find a convenient way around them. It’s a rare and refreshing trait of maturity and honesty for a musician in the current century to accept his imperfections and just work to be the best that he can be. And Gavin will never work with an artist who does not share that exact same attitude.
So what? There are other artists who don’t lip sync or use Auto-Tune. Why does that make Gav special?
Quality: The best thing that can be said about Miracle of Sound is that it’s fresh. It isn’t just good; it’s new. That’s not to say that videogame music hasn’t been a widely acclaimed thing before he came along, but Gav’s work has been a breakthrough nonetheless. It really is that much fun to rock out to a song written by a fellow gamer with lyrics you can directly identify with due to the shared experience. And it’s not something people did much of before 2011.
Through his work, Gavin has essentially proven something that I’ve suspected about the music industry for a long time. They have lost the beauty of art in their quest for instant heroin. It is an utter injustice to the world that someone like Rebecca Black can get over 40 million views on YouTube and God knows how much money in iTunes purchases for an ear-shattering piece of garbage like Friday, even if so much of that support is ironic, while an artist like (insert relatively unknown artist you think should be more famous here) has to bend over backwards to get noticed and celebrates when the YouTube hits pass 10,000.
The modern age of music has been poisoned by shallow, empty, and utterly worthless artists like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. They don’t make good music – the kind that sticks in your brain as a proud example of generation-defining accomplishment that you’ll hold dear till the day you die. Where are the Led Zeppelins, the Creams, the Black Sabbaths, and the Deep Purples in modern music – artists who have a sound so iconic and distinct, you can recognize them in three seconds? It’s not that they simply don’t exist – they just aren’t getting the attention they deserve because the industry has changed its standards from “is it good and enjoyable music?” to “is it catchy and dopey enough to go viral on the Internet?”
Now am I saying that Gav is up there with the likes of Robert Plant and Eric Clapton? Of course not; but the characteristics of authenticity, depth, and natural talent, that defined these artists are central to Gav’s artistry. He certainly streamlines his songs in the fun/catchy department, but otherwise, he stays focused on quality over quantity, knowing it might be a less lucrative prospect. He’s a musician who enjoys the process of songwriting just as much as the song itself. A struggling artist who finally found a niche; Gavin Dunne is a pioneer of fresh sound and a trailblazing entrepreneur in the realm of nerdy music. Probably the best explanation to his success that bewilders him to this day: he simply services a medium that profoundly needed it.
Humility: Finally, Gavin is among the rare breed of artists who have a direct relationship with fans and followers. He responds to every single comment on his Facebook; he answers questions on YouTube and the Escapist Forums, and he has a wildly entertaining presence on Twitter. Gav’s relationship with his fans is his greatest virtue as an artist.
Too many musicians forget what made them successful. They hit the big time and they lose themselves. They get arrogant – they stop listening to feedback and criticism, or they behave in a way that turns people off. Gavin does none of these things. He seeks out criticism. If it is useless, he makes good fun of it. But when the feedback is constructive and pointed overwhelmingly in one direction, he adapts. Fans and listeners have made Gavin Dunne a better musician, and he will never believe even for a second that he is above the people that listen to him.
This above all others is why Miracle of Sound has earned your attention. There aren’t very many artists who encompass all three of these traits. Like every artist, you’re not going to like every song he comes out with. But boy does he make it hard not to like a song. If you aren’t checking out his music, you most definitely should be.
And finally, as someone who has been lucky enough to have not only met and talked with Gav, but shared the stage with him in his Miracle of Sound Escapist Expo concert (THREE MORE CHEERS FOR GAVIN!!!), I consider it a privilege and an honor to be a fan of the man’s work and a friend of the man.