by Stephanie Klimov
Even if you aren’t a gamer, I would bet that most of you love music. Some exercise, work, write, or just laze around with music blaring in the background. Melodies draw us in and help us focus or even amp us up for a job interview or a test. A source of music that tends to go unnoticed in the mainstream world comes from video games. Personally, I stream Legend of Zelda soundtracks day in and day out. From the whimsical, the somber, and even the atmospheric, the Zelda franchise pumps out some of the most amazing music that’s ever graced my ears.
“Video game music? But video games aren’t art!”
Although more widely accepted today, many argue whether or not video games constitute art. While that can be a completely different discussion (and perhaps maybe a future article from me), music produced from video games is not something to be ignored.
Now, back to Zelda…
The Legend of Zelda franchise has been around for almost 35 years, and one of the most cherished aspects fans adore is the soundtrack. Even in the 8-bit era, the spine-tingling melody in the title screen of the original Legend of Zelda stays with us to this day. I attribute part of Zelda’s success to music as it links (no pun intended!) people to precious memories!
My love for Zelda music soared to new lengths when I attended The Symphony of the Goddesses. Back in 2011, Jason Michael Paul Productions—with Nintendo’s blessing—hired a producer and composer to create the music behind this live orchestra. In fact, the music became the CD that accompanied Skyward Sword in celebration of Zelda’s 25th anniversary. The concert series kicked off in January 2012, starting in Dallas, Texas, and touring the United States and Canada. Given its success, they added subsequent tours in additional countries: Second Quest, Master Quest, and Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.
I was lucky enough to attend the Symphony of the Goddesses in the Wang Theatre in Boston in October 2017. The best part of attending this particular year was, of course, the release of Breath of the Wild! And you can bet they included music from their latest release. The sweeping overture in Act One immediately captured my heart. I gripped the sides of my seat as images of gameplay and concept art played on a large screen that hung above the orchestra itself. The combination of sight and sound provided an immersive experience that strung my nostalgia chord like nothing ever had before. After the overture, the orchestra transitioned to various interludes: “Dragon Roost Island,” “Majora’s Mask Medley,” “Breath of the Wild Medley,” and a slice from A Link Between Worlds. Before intermission, the symphony played two movements, one from Skyward Sword and the other from Ocarina of Time.
The Second Act was just as strong. They bewitched the audience with an intermezzo of the “Temple of Time” and movements from the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. By the time the orchestra played its final notes, it’s safe to say I had been moved to tears. Maybe this is overdramatic to some, but the performance exceeded all my expectations. They captured the essence of the Legend of Zelda series perfectly by not only replaying classic songs but even remixing some.
Performances like these only prove that video games can be viewed as art. The heart-hammering excitement evoked from the “Gerudo Valley” track or goosebumps you get from the vocals in the Twilight Princess theme are easy examples of the power of music. Koji Kondo and others have done a great job elevating music in the series, making it just as important as gameplay. In fact, most times it’s an inseparable experience.
My deepest, most sincere wish is that once the pandemic passes, Jason Michael Paul Productions will revive another tour in honor of the 35th anniversary! My personal wish-list would be to dedicate an entire movement to Breath of the Wild and to include music from Age of Calamity and Cadence of Hyrule. Pretty please?
If you have not attended or heard of Symphony of the Goddesses, I highly recommend you look it up and keep your eyes peeled for another tour. It is an experience of a lifetime!
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Sources included: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_Symphony_of_the_Goddesses
Photos: My own