New Classical Tracks - Game Music

by Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
January 15, 2013
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — One of the first things I did when I when I got my new iPhone last month was download a crazy little video game called "Angry Birds." It wasn't just the game that appealed to me — it was the music. A new arrangement of that music also recently caught my ear. It appears on a new collection of Game Music featuring Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau and her ensemble La Pieta. Dubeau isn't a gamer, but she wanted to reach out to a younger audience.

Emily Reese produces Top Score, a podcast about video game music. Emily agrees this music is a great way to bridge the gap between traditional and new classical audiences, and she's impressed with the way Angèle Dubeau approached this music, "Before I even heard the disc and I saw the list of music that she chose, it was evident to me that she had spent a lot of time and tried to find music that really spoke to her. One of the things I think I enjoyed the most was hearing arrangements of this music that have never been heard before. These are one-of-a-kind arrangements in a lot of ways and it's so refreshing to hear good music redone, and redone really well."

"When we're talking about a game like Final Fantasy, this is a game series that's been around for many, many years and started out as 8-bit music, like a lot of people think of video game music when you hear the Mario Brothers theme or something, the computer generated sounds," Emily explains. "That's how Final Fantasy started. And now the Final Fantasy games have full orchestras. It's really neat to hear the evolution of Final Fantasy. The arrangement that's on this recording it's almost 12 minutes long. It really stood out to me."

Angèle Dubeau also includes a beautiful arrangement from the innovative game Heavy Rain. When French film composer Normand Corbeil was approached about writing the score, he says Quantic Dream studios gave him very specific instructions: "They said to me that people are getting older and older and playing video games right now because they used to play when they were young and they're getting tired about you know the gun pow pow pow all the time, so they wanted to do something quite different, so emotion was always the word that we used on the game for everything, even for all the investigation and all this stuff, it was always about emotion, about where we want to send the character."

The first thing you'll notice about Angèle Dubeau's arrangement of Final Effort, from Halo 3, is the striking piano introduction. Composer Martin O'Donnell says including piano in a video game score is actually pretty unusual, "I remember getting some piano in even the first Bungie game that I worked on, which was Myth: The Fallen Lords. The moments for kind of a poignant, majestic sounding piano I think really became more apparent on Halo 3. It was a little bit of a risk at the time, I remember starting the announcement trailer with just single octaves on a piano that just went "bong" and I thought, well, nobody else is probably gonna start any of these trailers that way, so at least we'll get people's attention. And it ended up pretty cool."

Video Game music is pretty cool, but it's such a young industry nobody's quite figured out how to make this music more accessible yet. When Angèle Dubeau attempted to gain the rights to record her arrangement of Angry Birds, she got no response from the video game company. So she sent the arrangement directly to Finnish composer Ari Pulkkinen. He was so thrilled with this gypsy-style arrangement he sent it to directly to the production company gaining their immediate approval.

Angèle Dubeau has heard from a number of fans who tell her this music is generating some very fond memories of their years as a gamer. As you listen to this new recording you may find yourself reminiscing, or discovering a completely new musical world. Either way, Angèle Dubeau and La Pieta's new collection of Game Music is an adventure worth exploring.

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