Timbre, Genre, and Polystylism in Sonic the Hedgehog 3

  • Megan Lavengood
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


In the soundtrack for the Sega Genesis game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994), the genres represented include calypso, funk, carnival, new wave, prog rock, and more. Soundtracks for video games frequently shift genres this way, to create aesthetic themes for different levels or characters. Turning toward an account of the game’s soundtrack as a unified and continuous work, I posit that the music of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 might be understood as analogous to a series of “samples” within a polystylistic whole, following Leydon (2010). Leydon notes that instrumentation “bears the bulk of the semiotic burden” in communicating genre, but stops short of detailing how different instrumental timbres themselves might signify these genres. In my close analysis of two specific levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, I detail how timbre, as a musical parameter separate from instrumentation, can evoke specific intertextual and extramusical associations. In doing this, I will show how study of timbre might inform and enhance analyses of genre, both within video game music and more broadly.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan Lavengood
    • 1
  1. 1.City University of New York Graduate CentreNew York CityUSA

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