Friday, January 6, 2012

Here Dad...Listen to This

Back in December of 2011, a creative brief flew across my desk for a concert the Dallas Symphony Orchestra would be performing on the 10th of January. The image was not your typical concert musician shot nor did it resonate any sort of idea that this would be a symphony concert. In fact, the only reason I knew what the image was is simply because I have four boys who play video games. And The Legend of Zelda, a popular Nintendo video game series, would be the feature for this musical presentation.

Upon digging into the brief, I discovered that the music from The Legend of Zelda had been composed for a symphony concert which really had me a bit baffled. This was not the norm within my world as I've been helping promote classical concerts for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the last ten years of my life and throwing a video game concept into the mix was just...well...weird.

Come to find out, this is not a new concept. Back in 2008, composer Nobuo Uematsu joined up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a one night only performance of Final Fantasy. According to an article in NPR, the show sold out in three days. As I mentioned previously, I've been doing this for a long time and the idea that a classical concert would sell out in three days is unheard of.

This particular concert with the DSO, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, is being produced for Nintendo by Jason Michael Paul Productions, Inc. by producer/director Jeron Moore and music director/lead arranger Chad Seiter, the guys responsible for bringing The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert to London and Los Angeles back in October 2011. Working closely with Nintendo's Koji Kondo, JMP Productions, Inc. was able to bring the evidently iconic music behind the game to the symphony hall. 

When telling my own children of this, they were already two steps ahead of me with purchased Zelda music in hand all loaded up on their iPods. "Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

"Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

Let me tell you why this is probably one of the most important statements I've ever heard. It's true that this is a successful show and symphony orchestras everywhere will revel in the success of selling tickets out at record speeds. Sold out is a phrase that's hard to come by these days on any venue and I don't care if you're John Mayer or Maroon Five. But the mere idea that thousands of children are listening to such wonderful music is something I don't think even Nintendo could have imagined.

As a developer or creative person, an agenda is the last thing on your mind. You just want to produce a great piece of work, whatever it is that you're creating. The innovation behind using classical music to engage animation and action is the result of an extremely driven creative brain. And the result of great creative is what we're seeing now with The Legend of Zelda. Success.

Appreciation for classical music within young people has always been a challenge. You don't ever hear of anyone giving their children classical piano lessons anymore. My wife is a bit of an endangered species as she took classical piano resulting in recitals as a young lady. She loves classical piano and still plays on occasion but gets really aggravated when I come in and listen. Apparently that makes her nervous but what I'm getting at here is a real loss of culture within our own society. Without classical music being taught to our children, where will classical music end up?

My hats off to Nintendo as well as producer Jeron Moore, executive producer Jason Michael Paul, music director Chad Seiter and all of the great musicians, composers and orchestrators that made this happen. I'll bet they had no idea that just by creating something so incredible, they would spark a classical fire within the heart of a child. 

Here's to Zelda...pointy ears and all.


  1. Isn't it great? Kids listening to orchestrated movements? It proves how much of an impact video games have made in the aspect of music, and I'm all for it! :D

  2. Very cool, Edwin. On that note (pun intended), here's a link you might find interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is such a great way to introduce kids to classical music and bring interest and awareness to those who were not interested when previously introduced. The concert comes complete with a large screen projecting video synced to live orchestral music from this popular game. This modern touch to classical music is a great way to attract younger audiences who didn't even know they enjoyed classical music. The Dallas Symphony also plays film music for the Masters of Film Music concerts. These concerts feature clips from film scores as the movie scenes are projected above. Many people don't realize that they are actually enjoying classical music while watching their favorite films!

  4. I remember, long ago, my informal introduction to classical music was not in the format of an album but in select episodes of Buggs Bunny. Many of the episodes I can still see in my mind as if they were grand operas (which some were). Anyway, happy to see that it continues today albeit a different format.

  5. I didn't think about old Bugs but your comment did remind me of Star Wars and how they used orchestrated classical music as well. In fact, I knew a kid that had purchased the album but that was back when we listened to records. Whatever those are.

  6. It's amazing how far video game music has involved as well... It used to be all electronic noises, and now, even entire video game soundtracks are entirely orchestrated!

  7. This music can be performed by humans?! o.o

  8. The Final Fantasy's musics and orchestra are, too, very wonderfull and gorgous like the The Legend of Zelda ones :)

  9. I remember 6 years ago I went to my first symphony orchestra and that was Video Games Live. It's co-founded by Tommy Tallarico who composed various video games like Earthworm Jim. Then later on I found out about Play! who does the same as VGL. Just a few months ago I found out about a choir from Berklee called Video Game Music Choir. But to be honest if it wasn't for VGL, I wouldn't be majoring in music and working at a local music school where I believe that if you introduce a kid a piece of music from their favorite video game they would be motivated to learn. One thing for sure, I was gutted that I had to miss The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert show in Los Angeles. :(

  10. Sarah (Düsseldorf - Germany)January 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    Can't wait 'til the orchestra is touring in europe! Unfortunately I missed them playing in London UK.
    I've already got some of the compositions on cd which was added to the game skyward sword and they're just awesome. I can't avoid a grinning whenever I listen to 'gerudo valley' or 'ballad of the goddess' - great work! :)

  11. Isn't is cool to meet children listening to these wonderful songs? At first I didn't appreciate too much about songs of videogames, but after listening to them better I wanted to play too. Now I'm doing piano classes.

  12. it is thanks to nintendo that i now listen to classical music in the form of bethoven and mozart.

    had it not been for their music choises i doubt i would have found the great music in the classical music genre.

    - Hans William

  13. The St Louis symphony has been doing these sorts of things for the past four years or so, and to great commercial success. Lord of the Rings highlight, Final Fantasy, The Music of John Williams, Showtunes, Disney (talk about getting them young), James Bond, you name it. They even did the real time scoring for Fellowship of the ring while the movie played on the big screen. That was really cool to hear the entire 3 hr score.

    They've also integrated more popular classics to bridge the gap between the two audiences. We saw Carmina Bruana this year (FABULOUS) and I know they did Bolero integrated with Spanish dance and Spanish guitar, and have a dance company coming in very soon as well. And they still do all the classics, of course. I remember the conductor giving his introductions during one of the shows and saying there had been something like 10,000 FIRST TIME SYMPHONY ATTENDEES come in since they began the popular music program. Which is phenomenal. Personally, My family is a huge fan of Motion Picture Scores. They comprise the largest chunk of our music consumption, so it is very satisfying to see some of these guys like Williams and James Horner getting some love from their own music community. Being acknowledged for their beautiful works. They deserve it.

    On the flip side, my friend in Philadelphia said their Orchestra is bankrupt and as far as she knows they are not participating in any such 'popular music' program. She attributes it to purity or snobbery. I don't know for sure on that, but they are failing financially because no new blood is coming in. How are they supposed to continue to practice their art if they can't keep the lights on?
    Anyway, I give the St Louis symphony a big round of applause for doing things to be both proactive for themselves, in the community (they are that), and for recognizing the talent and beauty of other composers not on the traditional who's who of classical work. Providing it is successful elsewhere, I expect to see Zelda at the Powell in the next year. Which makes me very happy. We have the CD and it is great :)

  14. My 13 year old daughter has been playing Zelda since she was 6 (a long tradition she learned from her big brothers. She's grown to love the music as much as the games. We went to the LA premiere concert last October and I'm sure we were the only monther/daughter attendees. She has even re-arranged portions into trios and quartets for her orchestra in school. I can definitely see her composing in her musical future. Thank you Nintendo (Mr. Kondo) for creating the avenue for our young ones to appreciate the classic orchestra and appreciate the beauty and complexity of classical orchestrations. And the 25th anniversary symphony....just awesome. The CD that came with Skyward Sword has yet to be ejected from the CD player in my car!

  15. I was one of the singers for both the recent Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Chorus products of "Zelda" and "Masters of Film Music: James Newton Howard." The "Zelda" concert sold out in 6 hours. The "Masters of Film Music" pair of concerts were about 75% filled halls. For both, the majority of concert-goers were first-time participants. They ROARED with approval for the music; for the conductor/composer; for the musicians on the stage; for specific well-loved sections of the music they recognized. And from my on-stage point of view, the average age of the "Zelda" concert goer was around 29 or 30; and the average age of the "Masters of Film Music" was around 35. Excellent music. Excellent marketing. Excellent audience. This is one of the best ways to bring in new audiences. We also performed the "Lord of the Rings" Symphony, and the Star Wars symphony, to sold-out crowds. In fact, management had to add an extra performance for the "Lord of the Rings" symphony. I hope more classical groups do this sort of pops concerts.