The Many Voices of "Still Alive"


Posted May 22, 2010 - By Rick Damigella

Jonathan Coulton’s “Still Alive” may likely go down in history as the “Smoke on the Water” of the video game music world. Why? Because it is iconic, catchy as hell, relatively simple to play and inspires musicians, YouTube fame seekers and those with only a moderate amount of programming ability to perform the theme song to Portal  in seemingly immeasurable ways (It is also one of the only acceptable uses of Auto-Tune, but that's another article). Seeing as how there now over 1.5 million more people playing Portal since it hit Steam this week, The Feed has jumped through hoops to bring you a 7-layer cake made from some of the better and more interesting cover versions of this nice little song about science and death. Step through the portal we opened for you below.

In no particular order of awesome, we have our first version of “Still Alive.” In this recently posted video, we find a pair of young gentlemen performing the song as a duo for piano and violin. Very nice, indeed.


Next up, we find that a precursor to GLaDOS has learned how to perform Coulton’s Concerto for Computer on its own.



Not to be outdone, an even more primitive form of music technology has accomplished the unlikely and performs “Still Alive” in a rather ghostly fashion.



For the glow stick twirling crowd, there is this rave-tastic, but altogether too short, trance remix.



Ok, enough of these machine-based versions of Portal. How would GLaDOS sound if she was a real woman you ask? With a ukulele? Why like this, of course!



Now here is an example of the duality of “Still Alive.” Listen to how this piece goes from gentle and simple and then morphs into something diabolically different (not unlike the game itself).



We have saved the most unique version for last: an entire children’s voice choir performing a very pretty (and slightly creepy, considering the lyrics) rendition of “Still Alive” that makes me simultaneously think “what was that teacher thinking” and “why couldn’t my school have been this cool?”


These only scratch the surface of fan-created covers and variations on Jonathan Coulton’s theme. Honorable mentions to this guy and his solo accordion, to the programmer of a version in Mario Paint, this guy and his ocarina, this young lady and her ocarina iPhone app version, the handmade music box roll, the obligatory chiptunes devolution and the supremely nerdy theremin performance. Those of you looking to recreate “Still Alive” on an erhu, a glockenspiel or with a marching band are still treading on unexplored ground.

I won't offer you cake and you won't have to go through any portals if you want to follow my game music musings on Twitter.

The Many Voices of "Still Alive"


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