Multidisciplinary Artist Kevin Stebner Uses Video Games to Create Music and Art

The Calgary artist’s GreyScreen project is a multifaceted artistic endeavour centred around video games and incorporates everything from music to visual installations and poetry.

Photo by Jared Sych.

As a child of the Nintendo generation, multidisciplinary artist Kevin Stebner dreamed of composing music for video games. While that dream has yet to come true, he has since found another creative outlet that involves video games and music with his GreyScreen project, a multifaceted artistic endeavour centred around video games and incorporating everything from music to visual installations and poetry.

Originally from Red Deer, Stebner has been based mostly out of Calgary for the past two decades. He first experimented making video game-inspired music back in 2007, while teaching overseas in Korea. “I needed to find a way to make music in a small apartment in a country where [I didn’t] know anybody, so I found out about Chiptune and started pursuing it further,” he says.

Photo by Jared Sych.

Chiptune is an electronic music genre in which tracks are created with the sound chips from vintage arcade machines and computers, as well as classic gaming consoles released during the 1980s and ’90s, such as the Nintendo Game Boy. After learning Chiptune, Stebner took things a step further in 2013 by manipulating Nintendo Entertainment Systems consoles to create glitched visuals to accompany his glitched music. The visuals were in full effect last fall in the Centennial Planetarium theatre at Contemporary Calgary, when Stebner performed as GreyScreen for the opening of the multimedia exhibit, Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins: Three Dimensions.

While GreyScreen began as a way for Stebner to learn video game music, he now describes it as “a project that encompasses trying to engage with video games in a different way than just playing a game, that could be music, visual arts, poetics.” His next venture within the GreyScreen realm expands on the notion, with a book that features a series of lipogram poems that are all working Game Genie codes. The book is simply titled Game Genie: Poems, and will be published by The Blasted Tree Art Collective and Publishing Company this year.

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This article appears in the May 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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