Sunday, September 30, 2012

Musical Potatoes and Painted Shoes.

Sometimes it's better to see the strings.  Sometimes it's better to have asteroids as potatoes and painted shoes.  If you're making a movie, and all the setting and non-human characters are created by computer, if the star of the film is sitting in front of a monitor someplace manipulating images, it's likely to pull down the film.  When I think of my favorite movies, Where the Wild Things Are, The Neverending Story, and the original Star Wars movies, most things were made of costumes, models, giant sets.  A minimal amounts of green screens.  Actors nowadays will never know how to interact with their settings, as they are all acting in front of a screen made to digitally manipulate images.  I mean, why shoot a film out at the ocean? Just create the scene, put sand on the ground, and get the right sound effect files from the studio  computer.  Jaws would (and is, have you seen the Syfy movies recently?) be so much easier to make.  No need for skinnydipping scenes and blood and the sound of actual orchestras.  Just create the sounds of the cellos on computer.  We don't need the flute players anymore.  They should go get a real job.

Of course, I'm being highly sarcastic.  Star Wars would be nothing without John Williams and his brilliance.  But maybe, just maybe, if Yoda were a puppet, and the city of Naboo had been made in some set in Brazil, maybe the new movies would have been better.  Heck, people might have actually enjoyed Jar Jar Binks, instead of finding ways of killing him.  The same thing goes with the music of any movie.  But usually movies have budgets big enough to have a big name composer create a score for it.  What happens when you are trying to make a video game, and it's the 1980's, and the technology isn't there for orchestral works, and your budget is slim?  Well,  you make your musical scores out of potatoes and painted shoes. Lets go for a musical adventure through some of the video games that I dearly loved as a child, not for the game itself, necessarily (although they were all great games), but for the music that artists do not get enough credit for, even after leaving tunes in people's heads for years.

There is no one who lived during the 1980's, and picked up the Nintendo controller, that can't instantly recall the theme for Super Mario Brothers.  But let's go back farther than that, to the days of the Commodore 64.  I must say, before I start this, that without the people that use Youtube as a place to store the history of mankind, from videos to TV to music to historical events, like Yeats' Graecian Urn, most of these pieces would be forgotten.  Let us hope that Youtube retains its function as a time capsule for future people to experience the amazing things that our generation has created.

Dig Dug  The melody track has basically two notes, with the other tracks going around it.  Dig Dug took the annoying siren noise of Pac-Man and turned it into something worth listening to.  And don't tell me that the modern day games are hard... they're nothing compared with the primitive AI of the Dragons that like nothing more than to breathe fire at you before you can blow them up.

        Another version, played on the piano.

Necromancer, by Synapse Software, was amazing, if you kept an open mind.  Grow trees to crush spiders, so the spiders won't grow and attack you while you fight the evil wizard.  It's the beginning song that makes the whole game, tho.

Or if you want to play the game, click here:

Star Soldier and Gyruss.  Nothing like space shooter games, where the space ships can bomb and blast everything in the air and on the planets below.  Actually, I loved Zaxxon from the C64 days, but when the Nintendo came out, these two were the best space games made, in my opinion.  Power ups, spaceships that are everywhere (think Galaga), but you've got to have the stimulating music to match the weaponry, something to activate my ADOS (Attention Deficit Oooh Shiny!).  These both do it well.....

And speaking of stimulating, you can't go wrong with the Intro Theme of Double Dragon. I was never any good at fighting games, but the music on this one was amazing!


And before I leave Nintendo World (which, honestly, I could go forever about Zelda and SMB...etc...), there is no video game company which was better at combining graphics, music, and, well, everything, than Capcom, especially the Mega Man series.  Mega Man 2 I would play just for the music.  I'll put the Bubble Man stage here, just because it fits so well with my next point about video game music. 

There's something about water levels and video game music. The 3/4 time of Super Mario Bros, level 2-2 is among the first actual "water" levels that I remember. When 16-bit music came out, composers used the water levels in games to let their ideas shine. The water levels were the soothing, ambient levels, where you could take the level, put the music on loop, and chill for an hour or two. Take Donkey Kong Country, for instance. I'm going to include a track on here now that is actually a remix from OCRemix which amplifies the original score. Just listen...

Perhaps the best water level music comes from the Playstation, from Final Fantasy VIII, the Fisherman's Warf level. Also check out OCRemix artist Tepid's version of it, which I have put on loop in my car and listened to it while I drove: You'll have to click here to listen to it.

Final Fantasy has such wonderful themes, so I'll put 2 more here and then leave it at that.  What I'm trying to point out is that, while the Orchestral works of modern day games are beautiful and, in some cases, easy to make, the beauty that these composers made with just the most basic of electronic music technology is well worth listening, too.  Discover the songs from your favorite games, and then see if there's any great Remixes done on OCRemix.  Below is Relm's Theme from FFVI and then the final theme from Final Fantasy Legend from Game Boy. For the Game Boy theme, click on this link: This Link Here.


1 comment:

  1. Goodness me, I know nothing about the music from video games but I can tell that you do!
    One thing I can tell you, it is so different to watch TV shows that are made in England since so many of them will use classical music and it is such a refreshing change from what I am used to in the USA. Of course, now, they are becoming more Americanized and the music is becoming more contemporary, I suppose you could call it. I just call it bad.