Relic? Think again.

Orchestras are taking on digital-age music. IGN reports video game composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall have become orchestral concert producers with “Video Games Live,” an “immersive” audio/visual experience. Part of the immersion involves the L.A. Philharmonic playing Mario and Zelda. Wall says “Videogame music is not bleeps and bloops anymore.” Um, don’t tell that to the chiptune/Game Boy music scene that has embraced that very sound for new music.

Meanwhile, a Roman EM411 reader reports the London Sinfonietta, on tour in Italy, tried a Warp Records-inspired program, mixing in Warp music videos, live DJing and laptop music, orchestral and piano arrangements of Aphex Twin, and more. Not to mention “proto-electronica” classics from Varese, Antheil, Cage, and Reich.

Mario and Zelda on orchestras is a bit gimmicky (I think they sound better in 8-bit, thank you!), but concerts of new music for games and inspired by (or the inspiration for) modern electronica is very cool. I hope the Roman concert in particular is the kind of cross-genre, adventurous programming we’ll see more of. (My original draft apparently read to some as me knocking video game music — quite the contrary. In fact, I’d love to see all kinds of new music for new media mixed up. As always, thanks for the feedback. -PK)

  • Guest

    The London Sinfonietta did a concert last summer at the Barbican (London) with Squarepusher – probably the prototype for the Roman concert you discuss.

  • Guest

    Alarm Will Sound, a new music group from NY and Richard Devine are doing Aphex Twin arrangements this summer at the Lincoln Center Festival. Alarm Will Sound are all younger than the Sinfonietta so I'm really looking forward to it.

  • Indicator

    As a game composer myself, I certainly hope you're not implying that live orchestral performances of Video Game Music is a "gimmick"…perhaps you're referring to Cage and Reich as being "gimmicky"…?

    With the soundtrack to Halo 2 sitting on the Billboard Top 50 for "soundtracks" I, for one, am glad to see game music being taken more seriously.

    Composers like Nobuo Uematsu have been writing for games for several decades, and their work has been marginalized by musical "purists" who balk at the mere mention of the word "game". Yet I would contest that being a successful game composer is every bit as challenging as a Hollywood big-wig or a "composers" in the pure sense of the word (a la Reich, Varese, and Cage).

    And though I don't contend their contributions to music history, I'd rather listen to an Uematsu soundtrack over one of Reich's pieces any day of the week.

  • Indicator

    And to be fair to those in the Chiptune scene – they aren't creating "Video Game Music". They are using tools that were originally designed for videogames to create a new style of music – a new genre.

    So while they are creating music with "bleeps and bloops" it isn't video game music.

  • admin

    I love both ideas, don't get me wrong — though orchestral arrangements of Mario to me is a little gimmicky. (And, I think, takes away from the genius of the original composition — making the most of limited technology.) New stuff from Uematsu, Tallarico, anyone else on orchestral instruments makes perfect sense! (and that's not to say there's anything *wrong* with gimmicks, if you bring in people with recognizable tunes — a la Mario Bros — and introduce them to new stuff. Or Aphex Twin as a hook for getting people into Varese. Both are fine.)

    And Indicator, I agree about the Chiptune scene; that's my point — as game music advocates turn their noses up at bleeps and bloops, others embrace it as an instrument, not a limitation. I'm not saying either is more correct than the other — just that these are fascinating, opposite takes!


  • Indicator

    No problem, Peter. I figured, after posting, that I had misinterpreted. You're a pretty level headed guy, and, well…it's Monday. What can I say? 😉