Video game music: classical music’s gateway drug

The Super Mario Bros. theme is arguably -- but seriously, definitely -- the most-recognized video game theme. (Okay, you can make a case for Tetris.)
The Super Mario Bros. theme is arguably — but seriously, definitely — the most-recognized video game theme. (Okay, you can make a case for Tetris.)

The old school video game composers knew how to write a tune.

It just so happens that when you take video game music out of the console, flesh out the harmonies and spread the parts across an entire orchestra, amazing things start happening.

Technology limitations fall away. Bass lines get deeper, textures richer, melodies more soaring and beautiful. Here are a few of the most irresistible.

‘Final Fantasy VII’

Hironobu Sakagachi’s “Final Fantasy VII” put the music front-and-center, offering Nobuo Uematsu’s in-game soundtrack in a simultaneous, four-CD release. It’s MIDI-tastic, but in the hands of an able symphony classical atheists  can have a conversion experience.

‘The Legend of Zelda’

Koji Kondo was the mastermind behind the original theme for “The Legend of Zelda.” The game first appeared in 1986 and went on to sell 6.5 million copies. Safe to say people got pretty damn familiar with the Zelda theme, but they never heard it like this.

Kondo didn’t just pen the big themes for Legenda of Zelda. He also influenced game design by having players play a recorder (warning: very nerdy, detailed tab right there) to access secret levels.

‘Chrono Trigger’

Yasunori Mitsuda presided over this one, although Mitsuda was so driven to finish the orchestration of “Chrono Trigger” that he made himself gravely ill.

Mitsuda’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The game’s music has been remixed hundreds of times — it’s as irresistible as a James Brown drum break is for rap producers.

First one’s for free

Composers aren’t the only ones vibing to 8-bit ballads. Berklee College of Music enjoys sell-out shows for its Video Game Orchestra. (That’s their “Chrono Trigger” remix above.) Audiences are twisting up J’s while staid orchestras give over their programming to video game music.

Play it for your friends, bump it in your car and on the subway. Video games will rope unsuspecting listeners into loving classical music. Heaven help our children.

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