Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good music from a game? (ゲームから、いい曲?)

Well, if we're going to be exploring my personal tastes, we might as well run the gamut, yes?

As you may have guessed from my worshipful post in regards to Mr. Alexander O. Smith (shiver), I have a deep love for video games. This love is, in fact, deep enough to guide my entire career path, and has set me on route (theoretically) to be working in the industry in the near (2-3 years) future. Pretty cool, don't you think?

... well, no one asked you.


The Final Fantasy series has always been one of my favorites; specifically I-X, because... well... XI's online, XII sucked, and I haven't played XIII since I don't own one of those brand-spanking-new systems. Legitimate reasons, all.

Aside from the fact that they're very good RPG games, it's the music that makes them all stand out, and the man behind the music is a rather hip dude named 植松伸夫 (Uematsu Nobuo).

I mean, come on, does he not look to be an awesome man full of hipness and music? He also lives in the woods with his wife and kids. That, I think, sums it all up.

However, let it not be said that I deprived you, my beloved readers, of further information snatched up from the wonderful Wikipedia:

Nobuo Uematsu (植松伸夫...born March 21, 1959) is a Japanese video game composer, best known for scoring the majority of titles in the Final Fantasy series. He is regarded as one of the most famous and respected composers in the video game community... Uematsu is a self-taught musician; he began to play the piano at the age of eleven or twelve, with Elton John as his biggest influence.

Uematsu joined Square (later Square Enix) in 1986, where he met Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. They have worked together on numerous titles, most notably the games in the Final Fantasy series. After nearly 20 years in the company, he left Square Enix in 2004 and founded his own company called Smile Please, as well as the music production company Dog Ear Records. He has since composed music as a freelancer for video games primarily developed by Square Enix and Sakaguchi's development studio Mistwalker.

A handful of soundtracks and arranged albums of Uematsu's game scores have been released. Pieces from his video game works have been performed in concerts worldwide, and numerous Final Fantasy concerts have also been held. He has worked with Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth on several of these concerts. In 2002, he formed a rock band with colleagues Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito called The Black Mages, in which Uematsu plays the keyboard. The band plays arranged rock versions of Uematsu's Final Fantasy compositions.

Yea, that's right. He formed his own rock band. Some have described it as a metal band. How awesome is that?

But enough chit-chat! I know what you're really here for...

The music!

Yes, yes, I know that I have my nifty new music player deal, but I really wanted you to see that yes, there are concerts for this music. Fancy concerts.

This song is "You're Not Alone!" (独りじゃない for you Japanese kids) from Final Fantasy IX, probably my favorite song from the game. Very moving, as it plays during the protagonist's only real mental breakdown. This orchestrated version, as you may have guessed, is my favorite arrangement. Gorgeous.

(Side Note- You watching that composer dude? He's really into the music. I totally dig that.)

The following is an orchestrated version of "Fisherman's Horizon" from Final Fantasy VIII, definitely my favorite song from that game. Don't ask me about the title, Uematsu just happened to compose amazingly beautiful music for a very fishy-sounding town. (Ah, ha, fishy-sounding. I kill myself.)

I'm not sure how I feel about the addition of a chorus... sometimes I really like it, and sometimes I think it's a little much. Regardless of the arrangement, however, this is another gorgeous song. (What's happening to my vocabulary today?) I tend to listen to it when I need calming down, and I remember spending way more time in Fisherman's Horizon during the game just to hear the music.

This is closer to how it sounded in the game. Admittedly, I'm not sure how good your speakers were, but regardless, it was a piano track. Still very lovely. (Why have I become some sort of ladies' magazine editorial piece? Good lord.)

And remember what I said about that rock band? Oh, yes.

This is The Black Mages' rendition of "Matoya's Cave" from Final Fantasy I. Again, I am picking softer tunes so as to better suit a wide range of my readers. Oh, I'm just so considerate it hurts.

Admittedly, as I heard this before I played the game, I was a little disappointed by what my tiny PSP speakers presented me with as I walked into Matoya's infamous lair. Because really. You can't beat The Black Mages.

And finally, just to even it out with a round... what, five? Oh. Well, that's not very even, but it's a good number nevertheless.

Again, you get the orchestral version, because it's more impressive, and never let it be said that I wasn't one for pomp and flash.

This is Final Fantasy X's main theme, "To Zanarkand." As Uematsu joint-composed this game, it's important that this is one of the songs he composed himself. And it's arguably the best. Yes, yes, 素敵だね (Suteki da ne) is good too, but he composed that as well, didn't he? So there. Uematsu tends to take a lot of flack for this soundtrack, but I honestly don't see the problem.

Well, I hope that you've come away from this, dear readers, with a different opinion of video game music in general. Admittedly, Uematsu is a very special case, but there are other talented composers out there, my friends!

And if you're not feeling quite that adventurous, you do have something like 10+ albums of Uematsu's work (original, remixed, and reshuffled!) that you can slog through first.

This is Edo, signing off while waving her arms enthusiastically, dreams of being an orchestral conductor reawakened.

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