It's pretty amazing how far video game music has come. It's evolved from a
few notes to signify a victory or a defeat to helping set the stage for and even
to tell a story. Music from games and game series has become beloved as the
years have passed, and Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda is one such series. It's
evolved from Koji Kondo's early NES chiptunes to full symphonic arrangements,
and The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is composed
of original orchestrations based on many of the franchise's most iconic themes
and compositions from both past and present.
I was honored to attend the most recent performance of Symphony of the
Goddess during E3 week in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre. It was obvious as
soon as I arrived at the venue that this was a very fan-driven event.
Zelda-related wardrobe was donned by many of the attendees, some of whom were
dressed in full Link regalia. One cosplayer could have easily been mistaken for
Link himself; he was armed with Link's shield and played along with the
background music with his ocarina with little effort. There were many 3DS units
in use; in fact, this event was reminiscent of E3 in terms of how much
Streetpass-ing and gaming was going on while waiting for the event to start.
I had never attended one of these events before, so I really didn't know what
to expect. Even with a loyal Zelda fanbase firmly in place, I simply wasn't
prepared for the exhibition of sight and sound that I was about to behold. I'm
happy to say that this was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever
had. I was amused, I was nearly moved to tears on a couple of different
occasions, and I was able to enjoy the stories from The Legend of Zelda in a
completely new way.
The event began with an overture, which delivered familiar themes from many
of the games and set the mood perfectly for the evening of music to come.
Hearing the original overworld theme from the original Legend of Zelda performed
live with a full orchestra and chorus for the first time was simply
unforgettable. My spine tingled as the music swelled and the chorus joined in.
The crowd was captivated almost immediately, and the overture was followed by
other orchestrations including a Hyrule dungeon medley and a tribute to Kakariko
Village. The pieces were accompanied by edited in-game moments, but the music
took the lead and told the story in this instance instead of a full game
narrative. Those of us in the audience let our personal nostalgia and experience
take over as thoughts drifted back to our favorite parts of each game.
Actress, daughter of comedian Robin, and self-admitted Zelda fan Zelda
Williams served as the evening's musical tour guide, preparing the audience for
what to expect as the proceedings carried on. Seeing her passion and genuine
enjoyment not only of the games - after which she was named - but also of the
music that took center stage for the night added something extra to the event.
To have the privilege of being able to guide an audience while trying not to let
any inner fandom completely take over is a special honor, and Ms. Williams
played the part perfectly.
The Symphony of the Goddesses is a four-movement composition that spans four
different Zelda games. The prelude is a tribute to the Goddesses mentioned in
the title of the piece, who were introduced in Ocarina of Time: Din, Nayru, and
Farore. The prelude then led into movements based on The Ocarina of Time and
Wind Waker before intermission, then concluded with movements for Twilight
Princess and finally - a crowd favorite - A Link to the Past. Each
of the four movements told the story of each game through orchestrations of
music from key moments in each game. As a special treat to the fans, three
encores were played after the full symphony was completed, and each received a
standing ovation afterwards.
The event was simply awe-inspiring. The power of music was on full display at
the Greek Theatre, with the very best musicians available under the direction of
Conductor Eimear Noone. Noone led her players like a field general, with
demonstrative cues and passion that I appreciated as a former symphony musician
After the event, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Chad Seiter
(Composer/Arranger/Music director) and Jeron Moore (Producer/Lead Creative).
Both men are as passionate about video games as they are about music.
Mr. Seiter mentioned that each performance group of musicians is pulled
locally for each stop on the tour. Amazingly, each performance only has 5 hours
of rehearsal time. There are two rehearsals that run 150 minutes each. The
musicians do a lot of sight-reading for the initial rehearsal while the dress
rehearsal smoothes out any gaps and tunes the group for the final run. Mr.
Seiter noted that Symphony of the Goddesses was put together to tell a story in
a specific timeline and that Koji Kondo had input into the project before it was
ready to go. It was an understandably nervous experience for him, as he paced
for a few days thinking that Mr. Kondo wouldn't approve of the work before the
call finally - and happily - came. Mr. Seiter and Mr. Moore decided
which tracks from each of the games would be added. The last quote that I got
before my time ended with Mr. Seiter was "Music makes me happy." That was
Mr. Moore talked about the Symphony of the Goddesses project as taking a
passion and projecting it for others. Video games are just that for Mr. Moore,
who shared with me that The Legend of the Zelda was one of his first gaming
experiences - and that he does still own the gold NES cartridge. Based on
the success of this series, I asked him if there were any other series that he'd
like to produce if he could. He mentioned Mega Man and a tribute to the Elder
Scrolls series. The latter is significant because of the friendship and working
relationship between Mr. Moore and composer Jeremy Soule. A tribute to sci-fi
games was also an idea that was talked about.
In closing each interview, I asked both Mr. Seiter and Mr. Moore which games
that they'd been playing during what little spare time the two have. Both men
said that they're still playing Skyrim. I suspect that they're not alone,
either. Mr. Seiter also mentioned that he'd been playing a lot of Diablo III and
Starcraft II, while Mr. Moore mentioned Mass Effect 3. It's hard to see much
free time for either one in the near future, though, as the Symphony of the
Goddesses tour still has 14 more shows in 12 different venues over the next 6
months. Stops include Houston, San Diego, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh,
among others. Be sure to check the full schedule on
The Symphony of the Goddesses event, for me, one of the most
exhilarating musical experiences that I've ever had. I cannot recommend it
enough, regardless of whether you're a Zelda fan, a video game music fan, or
just a fan of live music in general. It's an intense and powerful concert with
extra musical goodies bookmarking the main symphony itself. You'll be captivated
by the music, surrounded by loyal fans, and you'll be left with memories that
will last for a long time after the final ovation subsides.
(Many thanks to Jeannine Jacobi from Fresh PR for allowing me to cover
the event and access to speak with Mr. Seiter and Mr. Moore, as well to
photographer Andrew Craig for his beautiful pictures after my camera died)