The Legend of Zelda franchise is loved by millions. For many, waking up in a treehouse in the fairy-elf village of Kokiri in the 1998 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 was their first experience playing a video game.
The series has since evolved as a 30-year-long franchise, and a staple of the video game medium - often alongside Mario, Pokemon and Final Fantasy - creating a series of wonderfully lush fantasy worlds that people of all ages and backgrounds have fallen in love with.
“I think there’s a reason why The Legend of Zelda is able to tour the world and be appreciated by so many,” Producer of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of Goddesses tour, Jason Michael Paul, tells SBS PopAsia.
“Not many games can compare in terms of the music and visuals in the way that the Legend of Zelda has.”
The concert, which Michael Paul and conductor Jessica Gethin are involved in, captures the magic of the last thirty years in a four movement orchestral show; from a compilation of the many series’ overtures to A Link to the Past’s “Time of the Falling Rain,” to music from the recently released Breath of the Wild. According to them, a four movement performance based on music from a video game has never been done before, and has allowed for a variety of different themes.
“Whenever you have a game that’s continually evolving as a franchise and developing, it makes my job [as a producer and composer] much easier because we can always stay relevant,” says Paul.
“We can present the classics in a way that only help to further tell the story. Now, with Skyward Sword which is the first game as part of the [canonical] timeline [of The Legend of Zelda series], we can move that to the first symphony movement, which is really exciting.”
The Legend of Zelda soundtrack doesn’t just immerse you in an incredible world and sense of fantasy, but according to Gethin, “it’s a fantastic gateway to symphonic orchestra,” too.
“It’s got lots of drive and big filmic moments and a lot of excitement and some beautiful tender writing as well,” she tells SBS PopAsia.
“When we’re describing the soundtrack to a film or game, the music has to change so quickly because it’s a crucial part of telling the story,” she continues.
“You’re going through a number of different tempos [and] a number of different character changes, [which] logistically for the musicians is quite busy because we are doing all that within the score to reflect what’s happening on the screen.”
Gethin, who recently conducted a Disney on Tour symphonic performance in Singapore, covering music from Frozen, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, recognises that the music of Disney and Zelda share a similar magical connection to their audience, one that goes deeper than the source material they’re based on.
“The actual colour and harmony that is used and the richness of melody as it's developed is quite similar,” she says.
“What I tell the orchestras is that this isn’t just a bit of video game music...this is really well thought out cleverly orchestrated beautiful written music based on the game.”
The Legend of Zelda’s narrative and gameplay is so iconic because of how well synchronised it is with the music; familiar interlude sounds of opening chests, solving a puzzle and discovering an item have become enshrined in pop culture. For many, the series helped them overcome difficult moments in their life, and even, according to Gethin, saved lives.
“That’s the power of music,” she says. “It can be an escape or a refuge for the young, it can bring a sense of nostalgia and history for the older, and it can bring people together in communities.”
“I think we feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure that what they are hearing does take them back to playing that part of the game but is just enhanced so much more,” she continues. “I hope when they go and revisit the game that they listen to it a bit differently as well.”
“It’s one of those titles - those franchises - that will continue to grow and continue to improve,” says Michael Paul, “There’s really no end to it. It’s timeless.”
The Symphony of Goddesses concert will be touring at the Arts Centre Melbourne on September 3, and at the Sydney Opera House on October 29. Stay tuned later in the week for the second part of this interview, which looks at the producer Jason Michael Paul’s connection to The Legend of Zelda music and when he first met series creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
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