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I walked down the hallway, fluorescent light bouncing off linoleum tiles. But that wasn’t the only thing bouncing. As I strode forward, the soft crescendo of music began to ring in my ears. It flowed and lilted as I moved down the hall, reaching its climax as I exited through the double doors and saw the symphony, instruments raised, moving in an organized chaos, and the melody filled my soul.
Symphony of the Goddesses is not entirely unique. There are other orchestras that perform video game music, such as Replay: Symphony of Heroes and Video Games Live. The Symphony is different, in that its focus is centered on the compositions of Koji Kondo, the man exclusively to thank for the music in Mario, Star Fox, and, of course, Zelda. Although a fan of the series, I never had the opportunity to attend the concert series that started in 2012, but was ecstatic when asked to attend on behalf of TSG (along with my pal, Steven Porfiri).
As I sat in the Dolby Theater, watching the performers float their fingers across strings and keys, and the conductor Amy Andersson leading her symphony with impressive bravado, I not only let the music fill my ears, but also gazed at the visuals of the various Zelda games, projected onto a massive screen behind the orchestra. My attention was split between the two, as my conscious mind fought to focus on one aspect or the other; I wanted to enjoy snippets of the games I played and love, while the musician in me wanted to watch the collective technique of the instrumentalists. Nonetheless, I allowed my unconscious to soak in the sound, absorbing the notes and chords, and I felt myself transported into Hyrule. I envisioned myself sailing across the Great Sea as music from Wind Waker played, or anxiously sneaking through the castle dungeons while the melodies of Link to the Past rang around. Listening to the music being performed live, with real instruments, brought me back to a nostalgic place in my distant past. I felt the same joy I experienced while playing these games for the first time. With a full orchestra, the music of past games came even more alive, while the music of the more recent titles sounded exactly as I had remembered them.
It’s possible to enjoy a game with bad visuals and even a bad story, but it’s extremely difficult to enjoy a game without good music. It sets the tone for every part of the game you’re in, the tempo and instruments affecting how you interpret the events which you undergo. Music helps to bring the world of the game alive, to establish a mood and then, just as quickly, destroy it and move onto something else. It gives us something to hold onto when our journey is complete, as we find ourselves humming our favorite tune while reminiscing on the games we love. Our experience with a game is fundamentally intertwined with the soundtrack and the Symphony of the Goddesses is the ultimate expression of that love of sound. It brings a new vibrancy to the music we are drawn to, a new layer and reason to love the aural element which brings vitality to the world of Zelda.
I’m only disappointed that they didn’t play anything from Zelda II. Am I seriously the only one that likes that game?