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Video game music

Video game music
November 04, 2010, 12:13:08 AM
Some music critics are saying that the background music of the latest video games is the most sophisticated music yet written.

Item of evidence: The latest version of "Halo" is supposedly musically entrancing to an unprecedented degree.

General point: Video game music composers must meet this demand: the music must keep players entertained or in the moment, but must also have indefinite length of time in mind, because what takes one player a minute or two to accomplish, might stagger another player for 45 minutes or more.

The music must be flexible, listenable, adjustable, in a way that for example Mozart never had to think about.

So what do you folks think about this idea, that video games are challenging music composers in a new and different way??


Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 12:17:46 AM
The music of modern video games is drivel, primarily because its composition is entirely driven by the game developers, not by the composers.  The music of composers who also compose for video games is often very good.

Good video game soundtracks: Terranigma, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Edit: actually, I should say, Terranigma and Illusion of Gaia - both have absolutely fantastic soundtracks, though Terranigma's is more varied, and, thus, more evocative.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiW2DbKa_dI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTTLonw3StY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8ivcBbzdgE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuWkz5R_ijc&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFd17FhjYy8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb20Ob_a77w&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Edit 2: use of motifs in this game's music is phenomenal.  Listen to the last youtube link there, at around 1:50, and then listen to these two:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhqdOJibkUc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqPrwAgZA8g&feature=related

I'm assuming that very few of you have actually played this game before, so I'll tell you that the eponymous "Elle" of that last track is, essentially, the main character's girlfriend from his home.  However, he has been forced, by divine providence, to leave his home in the underworld, and to travel across the overworld, bringing into existence the life of planet Earth.  I think it's fantastic that the composer was able to use that theme to represent not only the sadness of others throughout the game, but, principally, the hero's sense of loss, and also his sense of triumph (the theme returning during the final battle).  The theme also returns at the end of the game, upon the possible death/disappearence/reincarnation of the hero.  There are other motifs (and even leitmotifs) which crop up again and again in the game's soundtrack.  It's easily up there with the best Metal.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 01:00:17 AM
I used to be real into game music; imported OSTs and the like from Japan, made mixtapes of arranged songs and all that shit. It's a little embarrassing in retrospect, but I blame game music for making me more receptive to the aesthetics of metal. I liked serious fucking soundtracks from Japanese SRPGs about betrayal, rebellion, and demonic rites, and this game series called Guilty Gear taught me that the electric guitar was not just something relegated to my dad's old Who records. I've lost my fervor for game music, but prior to it my only real musical love was Weird Al Yankovic, so I consider it a step in the right direction.

The main problem with game music is that it pretty much defines "sonic wallpaper," or perhaps, music that aims more towards functionality than art. Halo's soundtrack (which fucking blows, by the way, as it is an imitation of big-budget film scores) is designed to hit you over the head with overwrought dramatics so that you feel that your mission to kill alien-whatevers is serious fucking business. This tends to be the case with most game scores nowadays -- they're heavily influenced by contemporary film scores, i.e., they're tedious, overbearing junk.

Cargest noted some solid fucking examples: Symphony of the Night was always a favorite of mine musically, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana also pretty decent. (Never played Terranigma probably never will) Earlier game developers didn't feel that they were trying to top the next Michael Bay movie, and technology wasn't good enough to make music that "evolved" in-game according to the action (which turns a "song" into a pocketful of ditties that can be pulled out and strung together depending on whether the aliens are attacking you or not), so composers just tried to write interesting songs to suit a more generalized situation/area/character/mood. Once in a while composers would write songs that were genuinely interesting, with surprising and intelligent twists, and composers wrote songs in a variety of moods and styles.

The "good old days" were never as good as metal or Beethoven, but fucking god most of the new shit is repulsive.

Edit:
The music must be flexible, listenable, adjustable, in a way that for example Mozart never had to think about.
Change "listenable" to "sittable" and you're talking about a goddamn chair. When a composer thinks more of functionality than artistic purpose he's already failed as an artist: he's now an interior designer in a manufactured reality. Mozart was not an interior designer: he did not write music to serve as the atmosphere for an artificial environment.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 01:22:05 AM
every musical piece in Super Metroid for super nintendo is awesome.  I still put those songs(in order of appearance) every once in awhile.  To answer the questions at hand.  I dont think many artists are challenged to make great music for video games anymore, nobody even listens to the music of the video games they are more interested in the new cutting edge graphics.  I would definently take my SNES over XBOX anyday, the games these days just lack passion..
He who fears the dark, shall never see the light
http://www.last.fm/user/Beastofsodom

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 01:43:22 AM
every musical piece in Super Metroid for super nintendo is awesome.  I still put those songs(in order of appearance) every once in awhile.  To answer the questions at hand.  I dont think many artists are challenged to make great music for video games anymore, nobody even listens to the music of the video games they are more interested in the new cutting edge graphics.  I would definently take my SNES over XBOX anyday, the games these days just lack passion..
I personally have nothing against new games, as there were always terrible ones and the top games games of their genre in the current era are, in my opinion, even better than the top games of their genre of the SNES era. (i.e., Street Fighter II vs Melty Blood or Guilty Gear AC, Doom vs pretty much any half-decent FPS released in the last decade, Super R-Type vs. Dodonpachi series). I just think, because of the influence of film and because of technological improvements and the expectations that come with them, the music is bad.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 02:59:53 AM
Yes, I love Terranigma. Great soundtrack indeed! I of course am a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda and I adore the music greatly.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 05:10:57 AM
Michael Land of Lucasarts is the best game composer I've heard. Classically trained in composition, his work with the heavy limitations of early PC MIDI sound is excellent.

The Dig soundtrack comes across as a synthesis of Wagner and the renaissance. This almost puts Lord Wind to shame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptVDOer08Lo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GVGWWR4HYU

On a lighter note he also did the music for the popular Monkey Island series. Impressively baroque for a video game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eapJ1fbh3XA

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 05:40:24 AM
Yes, I love Terranigma. Great soundtrack indeed! I of course am a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda and I adore the music greatly.
Ha, I remember that feeling when turning on the original game in the series for the first time, even though it was on the NES, it really felt as if entering into a myth thanks to the beautiful music. The latest games have failed to capture that mythical feeling for me, feeling far too polished and cinematic, though this is probably a case of nostalgia. But yeah, the series will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Michael Land of Lucasarts is the best game composer I've heard. Classically trained in composition, his work with the heavy limitations of early PC MIDI sound is excellent.

The Dig soundtrack comes across as a synthesis of Wagner and the renaissance. This almost puts Lord Wind to shame.
First song you linked was great, really playful and you're right, it does have some Renaissance vibes. Second song, ugh, I couldn't take it. I feel like Enya is about to break out into a solo, I think I'll stick with Lord Wind. But thanks for the links!

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 06:15:24 AM
Quite extraordinary:
The soundtrack of Blizzard's Diablo
I haven't played this game for ages, but I did remember that it has good music/ambient.
Upon relisten, this sounds even more unique than I remembered - it has elements of the eerie ambience of Beherit and the somber medievalism of early Mütiilation.

The soundtrack of Blizzard's Diablo II
Also extraordinary, this one probably has the same composer. Like its predecessor, it's creative and well-thought ambient utilizing a wide range of instruments, exotic included to create a perfect atmosphere for autumnal countryside, middle-eastern desert, dense jungle or the abyss.

With the Lord of Destruction add-on, the music was changed into dull, "epic" movie soundtrack music played by a classical orchestra and unfortunately this shall be the musical style of Diablo III as well.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 06:19:04 AM
I'm assuming that very few of you have actually played this game before, so I'll tell you that the eponymous "Elle" of that last track is, essentially, the main character's girlfriend from his home.  However, he has been forced, by divine providence, to leave his home in the underworld, and to travel across the overworld, bringing into existence the life of planet Earth.  I think it's fantastic that the composer was able to use that theme to represent not only the sadness of others throughout the game, but, principally, the hero's sense of loss, and also his sense of triumph (the theme returning during the final battle).  The theme also returns at the end of the game, upon the possible death/disappearence/reincarnation of the hero.  There are other motifs (and even leitmotifs) which crop up again and again in the game's soundtrack.  It's easily up there with the best Metal.

I liked the first link, but the rest were a bit too weepy in a Japanese "I sad because I lose loved one" video-game way. The best music brought out the heroic themes in these games (often the battle scenes) and the problem with the actual games for me was the cycle of the hero's father/brother/sister/girlfriend dies, hero fights for revenge shallow tirade which the Japanese never seem to tire from.

Luckliy that doesn't affect the quality of the music which is usually a lot better than mainstream music. I think the skill needed to program music into a machine (the old way) gives it a unaffected baroque-like quality - an attempt at programming emotion in music is either programmed successfully or not at all. Unfortunately new technology has meant incompetent composers can now make game music, or record it.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 07:57:51 AM
I think I just posted the first ones I found first, which, on hindisght, are the town/theme/weepy ones.  Try these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqwc6fgW9c8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NFmgQqLmSo&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gYUpgsaMlM&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW9p_f-bmyY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMfflLjoLNo&feature=related

These are the more often heard tracks in the game, the dungeon/castle/mordor ones.  The third and fifth are particular favourites of mine.  Perhaps through association with the game's content, they just make me think of old, abandoned, rotting fortresses.

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 08:36:58 AM
Mario's theme is the most endearing video game music in this respect (i think i know it note for note )
Da stopper rittet
Som varte i en livstid
For herren gĺr (inn i slottet fra drřmmen)

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 12:10:14 PM
Jesus, I haven't played a video game in forever, but I do remember Capcom pretty routinely having well composed soundtracks (by video game standards).

Re: Video game music
November 04, 2010, 02:03:19 PM
Well it looks like I will be playing Terranigma once I am back home from going into Philadelphia!