Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Video Game Music: It's Finally Mainstream!

Game Music in general is reaching the point of being on par with movie soundtracks.  In some cases, they're even bigger than movie soundtracks.  Title themes from The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy have as much of a spot in the public conscious as Indiana Jones and Star Wars.  Hum a few bars of any of those themes, and you'll find a whole group of people who know what you're singing.

Ever since the advent of the home video game console, game music has become increasingly popular in the public eye.  And now, finally, video game music is reaching the point of mainstream attention.  In this rant, I'm going to point out some of the more ingenious musicians out there, as well as a few major works of art.

Quite probably one of the first games that got orchestras thinking about video game music was the Halo franchise.  The game's title track featured a rousing tempo, simple yet elegant choral backgrounds, and driving percussion that came together for an all-around gorgeous piece of work.  Once it was associated with a multi-million selling video game series, it became an easy way for newcomers to orchastral music.  While some concert halls were all for the idea of attracting new patrons, others saw it as "tainting" what concert music should be like.  However, as concert shows like Video Games Live and Distant Worlds started making global tours, more and more orchestras got on board.

Some orchestras have taken the time to arrange their own versions of video game music.  In some cases, orchestras will reach out to the original composer of the piece, who will make a guest appearance.  Sometimes, they even play the piece with the musicians, like Nobuo Uematsu and The Black Mages.

Contrary to what Video Games Live might make you believe, some orchestras go for the original style of the song.  In many cases, this is for the best.  The Sinfonia Drammatica concert in Stockholm, Sweden, called upon compser Yoko Shimomura before arranging her title track to the game Legend of Mana, a game I reviewed on Treasure Bin a while back.  I had chills going down my spine when I first heard this piece.

While some groups go for authenticity, others run the opposite direction.  There are whole youtube channels devoted to the silly and the epic.  Sometimes the music has a nifty gimmick, other times, it's just plain awesome.  Here's a few examples.

Violinist and Dancer Lindsey Stirling teamed up with singer Peter Hollens to do a rendition of the Skyrim theme, using one violin and one vocalist.  The final version of the song had 120 tracks, each recorded individually and spliced together.  Lindsey and Peter dressed the part for the video, and it looks just plain sweet.  Lindsey has also arranged medleys to The Legend of Zelda, Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO, and has even made dubstep versions of her recordings.  It's pretty crazy stuff.

This parody from Machinima's youtube channel is done in the style of Walk Off The Earth, or WOTE for short.  The same guy recorded himself five times for this video and spliced them all together.  It's an impressive piece of work.

Youtube user "Hiimrawn" has a whole series of songs that play off of storied video game franchises.  He calls this his "gets played" series.  Most of the songs are based on classic games like Super Mario Bros. and Megaman, but he also writes about more recent games like Pokemon and Call of Duty.  Here's his Legend of Zelda Gets Played.  Be warned, this is the explicit version.

So, there's a lot of really awesome people doing some really awesome things with music and video games.  If the future holds more stuff like this, I can't wait to see what's in store!

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