Sunday, November 20, 2011

Killer Music Scores:
Video Game Music Composition

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 Angie Newgren, and Debra Krein

A few months ago, I was driving along listening to the radio show Performance Today with my two boys in the back seat. Normally, they're your average overly-rambunctious eight- and eleven-year-old boys. But on this occasion, they were listening intently to Fred Child's broadcast. Fred had Emily Reese on as a guest and they were discussing and playing video game music. Emily hosts a podcast, called Top Score, about the music and composers of video game music.

Be Quiet, Fred!!
As the music was playing, the boys sat in the back seat in complete silence. Fred began to comment over a piece, and from the back seat I heard, "Be quiet, Fred! I want to listen to the music!" That has never happened before.

The Best Video Game Music Ever!
A few weeks ago, on November 8, 2011, The London Philharmonic Orchestra released their CD, The Greatest Video Game Music. I'd like to nominate the cover art for one of the Ten Best Classical CD Cover Art Pictures of ALL TIME!
best video game music cover art
The CD Album cover for "The Greatest Video Game Music"  by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
The album includes 21 songs from a wide variety of chosen works, including the Tetris Theme, Zelda, and Angry Birds.

Here is the full track list:

  1. Advent Rising: Muse (Composed by Tommy Tallarico, Emmanuel Fratianni, and Laurie Robinson)
  2. Legend of Zelda: Suite (Composed by Koji Kondo)
  3. Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2: Theme (Composed by Hans Zimmer)
  4. Angry Birds: Main Theme (Composed by Ari Pulkkinen)
  5. Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali (Composed by Nobuo Uematsu)
  6. Super Mario Bros: Themes (Composed by Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo)
  7. Uncharted - Drake s Fortune: Nate's Theme (Composed by Greg Edmonson)
  8. Grand Theft Auto IV: Soviet Connection (Composed by Michael Hunter)
  9. World of Warcraft: Seasons of War (Composed by Jason Hayes)
  10. Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty Theme(Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams)
  11. Tetris Theme (Composed by Alexey Pajitnov)
  12. Battlefield 2: Theme (Composed by Joel Eriksson)
  13. Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (Composed by Jeremy Soule)
  14. Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare: Main Menu Theme  (Composed by Stephen Barton and Harry Gregson-Williams)
  15. Mass Effect: Suicide Mission (Composed by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick)
  16. Splinter Cell: Conviction (Composed by Michael Nielsen, Kaveh Cohen, and Amon Tobin)
  17. Final Fantasy: Main Theme (Composed by Nobuo Uematsu)
  18. Bioshock: The Ocean on his Shoulders (Composed by Garry Schyman)
  19. Halo 3: One Final Effort (Composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori)
  20. Fallout 3: Theme (Composed by Inon Zur)
  21. Super Mario Galaxy: Gusty Garden Galaxy (Composed by Koji Kondo)
Here is some of their work from the album:

Hans Zimmer, a well known Hollywood composer for film scores, such as The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Inception, has also done various works in the field of video game music composition. He has composed for five video games, spanning the years 1994 through 2011: Lion King, Kingdom of Hearts II, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Crysis 2, and Skylanders: Spryo's Adventure.

Another notable composer, is Nobuo Uematsu. Born in Japan, he has been a composer since 1985 and continues working today. He is probably best known for his video game theme songs for the Final Fantasy Series and is one of the most well-respected composers of video game theme songs.

Also from Japan is composer Koji Kondo, another well-known, well-respected video game music composer. Even non-video game players can hum along to some of his tunes, including The Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. He has been employed by Nintendo, since the beginning of his career, in 1984; composing music for all Mario Brothers and Zelda games.

And our last, but not least, Japanese composer of video game theme songs, is Yasunori Mitsuda. His career started in 1995 and he has worked on music for over 35 video games, including Chrono Trigger.

Jesper Kyd is a Denmark-born video game composer. He has been working in the gaming field since 1989. He is noted for compositions for the games Hitman, and Assassin's Creed.
"My job as a game composer is to immerse the player in the world and enhance the vision of the director and producers" - Jesper Kyd

While many mainstream classical music fans might not appreciate the video game theme songs, there's no doubt that a lot of composers and musicians are making a substantial part of their living in the field of video game music composition. And it certainly doesn't seem like video games will be going out of business any time soon.

Opera was the popular medium of Verdi's day for telling stories through music. Many opera overtures are now part of the standard orchestral repertoire. It's possible that some of the best video game music will make its way into the standard orchestral repertoire as well. Personally, I can't wait to hear Assassin's Creed played in the venerable Royal Albert Hall for the first time. BBC Proms anyone?

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