The marriage of a video game and a symphonic orchestra might seem strange, but if you've ever played "The Legend of Zelda," you can probably see the logic. The music for that series is an emotive, sweeping soundscape composed by one of the pioneers of VGM (Video Game MIDI) music, Koji Kondo, who also composed the iconic "Super Mario Bros." music. And now his acclaimed "Zelda" compositions can be experienced on an entirely different platform.
"We have a 66-piece orchestra and a 24-piece choir so there's not really any corners being cut whatsoever," says Zelda's producer, Jason Michael Paul.
That's right, 90 professional musicians paired with stunning visuals bring the world of "Zelda" to life in jaw-dropping fashion. It's a production entitled The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, and it's coming to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center this week.
For Paul and his production company, Jason Michael Paul Entertainment Inc., this sort of multi-media experience is nothing new. Since 2004, he has produced orchestral showcases featuring the music of "Final Fantasy," "Halo," and "Silent Hill" among others. "It wasn't being done," says Paul. "So I really wanted to be on the ground floor of such a kind of breakthrough if you will: VGM music being performed live with visuals and a huge orchestra and choir."
What sets this particular production apart from past performances is that it will be the first to be arranged in the traditional four-movement symphony structure, each movement featuring the music from a different video game in the series, with the visuals reflecting that concept. "We have carefully chosen all of the visual accompaniment," says Paul. "Same thing goes with the music. We carefully pick the music as it's synced with the visuals. So all the visuals, everything is in perfect sync so it's a very cohesive production."
Another aspect unique to this production is a video, following the opening overture, that features some of "Zelda's" original creators: Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and composer Kondo. "The focus needs to be on the original creators," says Paul. "So I more or less have them taking you on this journey. And they're talking about some of the inspirational moments, how it feels when [they] play the game, how [they] dreamt things up. So you get a little insight into kind of what they were thinking when they created these major games."
And it's quite a franchise they've championed. Since the release of the original "Legend of Zelda" in 1986, there have been 16 sequels or spin-offs released on eight different gaming consoles. Talk about prolific.
And it's not as though developers let the series lapse into uniformity and vapidity. They've experimented with different points of view, game structures, and the story has always been captivating, gaining depth and nuance with every new release. "'Zelda''s right up there with anything comparable to Star Wars or Star Trek," says Paul. So you, who just celebrated Halloween in your Wookiee or Vulcan or Klingon costume, the next epic fantasy tale is coming to town.
And this one-of-a-kind production careens through all of the requisite drama and terror and adventure, with the music serving as the auditory representation of the journey.
The all-new arrangements, approved by Aonuma and Kondo, don't take the easy way out: They are demanding of the orchestra. "Kind of a hallmark of all my productions since I started doing this back in 2004 was I always wanted to feature the orchestra — the solos and things of that nature," says Paul. "And the quality of musicians. We use AFM (American Federation of Musicians) musicians all across the country. So it's true to a symphony."
And the audience will be able to get up close and personal with these world-class players. "We have an IMAG (image magnification) component to our concert so we have the ability with our cameras to get right up on the musicians," says Paul. "For example the harp, you can actually get right in there and you can see the fingers plucking away at the harp."
It's a multi-media experience for gamers and music lovers alike. "I think what makes it such a great show is that you don't have to necessarily know about the 'Legend of Zelda' or play the 'Legend of Zelda' to appreciate the music," says Paul. "It's good on its own. And that's what I think is the attraction to not just gamers. I think it can appeal to a wider, more of a mass audience. That's been my goal since day one, to bring video game music to the masses."