Posted on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 at 2:00 PM by Guest
I have never been to a video game orchestra. As a gamer, a musician, and someone whose iTunes library consists of about 80% video game original soundtracks, the ability to attend a live orchestra that plays some of my favorite songs from various iconic video game moments is some sort of event that would only occur in a nerd’s wildest dream.
Just recently, I was able to see the Distant World’s Philharmonic Orchestra perform the music from Final Fantasy series. The music from Final Fantasy is so iconic, that it was a rather fitting choice for me as both a fan of the franchise and orchestrated music.
My gamer friends were either jealous or amused and my non-gamer friends were just confused.
When I told my less gamer-centric friends and family that I was going to be attending a Final Fantasy concert, the response was often the same; the look of a deer staring straight into an oncoming truck’s headlights, or more appropriately, the look of an unsuspecting player stumbling across a hissing Creeper in Minecraft.
It is a look of utter confusion, of bewilderment.
Then follows the questions:
“Why would you want to go to one of those?”
“Are there going to be LARPER’s there?”
“Aren’t you a little old for that?”
Keep in mind, dear reader, that I am only the tender age of 22 but I nonetheless choose to do as I please. If I wanted to dress up in a silky black dress and heels and attend a Final Fantasy orchestra, I will do it, and with some damn class.
And so it was on the 25th of February that I packed my things and waited for my driver to pick me up. The trip to Pittsburgh would be a long one, and I was completely content with sleeping the entire way. Having gotten rather ill recently, I was not looking forward to the drive and inevitable return trip, but the allure of hearing some of my favorite Final Fantasy moments was calling to me.
When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately found myself right at home. Hot shower and then straight to the event. The concert took place in the gorgeously elaborate Benedum Center at the heart of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. The golden walls shone with beauty and the kind of intricate detail that I haven’t seen in years as the grand chandelier suspended from the ceiling illuminated the scene.
The overall attendance was immense. I saw concert attendees of all ages, from younger button-pushers to older couples, all of which who were there to see the best video game music has to offer. For those of you who are not as familiar with the video game orchestra music scene, there usually is a projector that sits above the orchestra itself that simulates screen images of in-game scenery and events, either cutscene or gameplay. Whether or not this is to complement the perfectly timed music with scenery or to distract younger listeners with smaller attentions spans is a mystery…however, it is an effective tactic nonetheless.
The music in Final Fantasy is spectacular, yes, but hearing it come to life was a completely indescribable experience. When I was sitting in awe listening to amazing perfection of the musician’s well timed notes, the rise and fall of the crescendos and decrescendos, the accents and the staccatos, I was squirming in my seat with uncomfortable thoughts of how I would exactly put down to paper how I felt at the time. I find that using abstract terminology to describe music often results in some rather trite and meaningless words that do little to truly express how that particular note, how that particular song, made you feel.
The concert opened with a classic: Opening Bombing Mission from Final Fantasy VII. The music from this particular scene marked the beginning of FFVII, the series’ most popular entry. Playing the classic Victory Fanfare (something a lot of fans missed in the later entry Final Fantasy XIII), the Distant Worlds orchestra followed up with “Don’t Be Afraid” (the battle music from Final Fantasy VIII) as images of a rather pixelated Squall, Zell, and Selphie in PS1 graphics were projected onto the screen. Some of the other featured songs were “Blinded By Light” (FFXIII), “Vamo alla Flamenco” (FFV), a cute Chocobo Medley, “To Zanarkand” (FFX), and Terra’s Theme (FFVI.)
Each time the conductor, Arnie Roth, stood up and spoke, his stage presence commanded a certain attention from the gamers in the audience sitting rapt with attention. When the concert closed with the classic “One Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy VII), Sephiroth’s theme, his words were met with great applause as the concert came to a wondrous close.
Video game music has grown increasingly in popularity in the past few years. Playing an requisite role in today’s games, music enhances the players’ overall experience of a game and is more intrinsic to evoking emotion in a player than stunning graphics, even though video game music still a relatively new market. Just more recently, video game soundtracks are being sold in a variety of genres in retail outlets and online stores, from rock, hip-hop, pop, electronic, classical compositions, to even music performed by popular artists.
The music in Final Fantasy is iconic and pure, making it hard to describe without sounding trite and cliche. I generally don’t recommend experiences like these to another individual without feeling 100% conviction behind my words. I would not recommend a video game orchestra to a non-gamer; there is a good chance that the financially draining venture would not nearly be as emotionally rewarding to that individual in particular.
But, for those who have felt the shiver down their spine or the tingle of excitement from a certain song during that one part of that game, seeing that music performed live in front of you is an experience that I really, honestly, truly, cannot describe.
see hear for yourself.
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