Thursday November 15, 2012
Final Fantasy videogame comes to life via music
By QISHIN TARIQ
Distant Worlds brings the spirit of the Final Fantasy videogame series to life via music.
A FINAL fantasy come true” is how videogamers would describe the debut of Distant Worlds Music From Final Fantasy at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur.
Distant Worlds conductor Arnie Roth explained that the Final Fantasy (FF) videogame series was a pioneer in using recorded orchestra and choir tracks within the game, and that a philharmonic hall was exactly where the music was meant to be played.
“While many orchestras still seem to have their ‘blinders’ on, and have not yet scheduled any videogame music concerts, it is certainly growing,” said Roth in an e-mail interview, noting that the DFP would be joining the alumni of venues which include London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House.
“We have only received the greatest respect from the world’s greatest orchestras when performing the Distant World scores. They are challenging and yet very rewarding, with the overwhelming focus being on the orchestra musicians themselves, not relegating them to accompaniment,” remarked the Chicago, Illinois, native.
Roth felt that videogames, especially role-playing games like FF, were like the operas of old presented in a new medium, often featuring complex storylines, plots and character development. He noted that the series’ composer Nobuo Uematsu recognised this and even used the medium itself within FF’s sixth edition with the operatic Maria And Draco.
Distant Worlds is now in its fifth year of touring, making long-awaited stops in new locations including Kuala Lumpur, Adelaide in Australia, Paris in France and Munich in Germany, before returning to Japan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game it was based on.
Roth said that Distant Worlds had built up its repertoire to include some 50 FF scores from dozens of games in the series. He added that the genres of the music went from full orchestra scores, to a cappella choirs, rock bands, and pop songs, reflecting Uematsu’s varied taste.
“We find that 60% of our audience is between the ages of 18 and 35, and since FF is now celebrating its 25th anniversary, I believe that we have many new fans of the recent releases, as well as those that are devoted to the scores from earlier games.
“We have fans attending in their 50s who played the first releases of FF and are now bringing their children to the concerts, as well as 13 to 17-year-old fans who have just started playing the games,” he said.
Roth described the audience to these concerts as “amazing”, calling them a blend of the most attentive and quiet listeners but with the most demonstrative applause and accolades for the performers. “They are wonderful!” he enthused.
The conductor, who previously lead the concert Play! A Videogame Symphony, admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure how his career progressed from classical violin playing to leading orchestras through videogame soundtracks.
“While my formal training was mostly from the classical world, from the very beginning of my career as a violinist I have always been involved with different genres and many different media.
“This involvement in recordings, film scoring, concerts with so many different artists and in so many different styles, lends itself to the wide range of styles we perform on the Distant Worlds concerts,” shared Roth, 67.
His first foray into videogame music was through a collaboration with Chicago-based composers Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori on the Halo videogame soundtrack more than a decade ago.
However, it was through Dear Friends, another videogame concert based on Final Fantasy scores, that he met Uematsu and began his long time involvement with music from the Japanese series.
The Grammy-winning conductor said it would be impossible to pick three favourites from such a library, but pinpointed “evocative vocal songs” like Suteki Da Ne and Eyes On Me, plus battle themes like FFVI villain Kefka Palazzo’s Dancing Mad.
“One could look at the game’s epic battles or the villains like Kefka and Sephiroth, but in FF, some of the greatest themes come from heroes like Aerith and Terra, the love songs and even location-specific tunes like Zanarkand And The Phantom Forest,” he listed.
“Uematsu really set quite a high standard with the superb melodies and structures of his scoring,” Roth praised.
He divulged that fans in Malaysia could look forward to a medley of themes from the earlier FF games including the opera Maria And Draco, local guitarist Az Samad on Vamo’ Alla Flamenco and Dear Friends, and choir-driven tunes like Liberi Fatali featuring the Dithyrambic Singers.
The performance in the DFP would also feature videos from the corresponding games and an array of lighting magic not usually seen at more sombre orchestral affairs.
The concert in Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur runs for three days beginning tomorrow. Showtime is at 8.30pm, with a matinee at 3pm on Nov 18. Limited tickets are still available. For bookings, call 03- 2051 7007 or fax 03-2051 7077 or e-mail email@example.com.