Thirty years ago, a 10-year-old boy received his first ever game cartridge for his birthday: a copy of The Legend of Zelda for the Famicom Disk System. Jason Michael Paul instantly fell in love with the series and now, at the age of 40, is dedicating his life to producing audio visual concerts based on the franchise’s beloved music.
Paul first worked on performances based on the music from the Final Fantasy series – Dear Friends and More Friends – before creating a series of compilation concerts of some of the best video game soundtracks, including music from Nintendo’s Mario and Legend of Zelda – PLAY! A Video Game Symphony and rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes. It was then in 2006 that the Godfather of Nintendo and legendary video game auteur Shigeru Miyamoto first reached out to Paul.
“It’s a highlight of my career,” he tells SBS PopAsia. “He wrote me a personal letter thanking me for presenting Mario and The Legend of Zelda as part of my earlier concerts. It’s been an amazing ride.”
“It’s something I cherish and continues to give me further motivation to do what I do.”
Even before producing an arrangement for the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of Goddesses concert, Paul had a close friendship with series composer Koji Kondo. He first met him during a live orchestral performance for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword at Nintendo’s E3 conference in 2010, before inviting him back to a party where they played the piano all night.
“For this particular iteration, what I did was I went to Kyoto and actually got to shoot testimonials with the original creators,” he says. “Mr. Miyamoto, Mr. [Eiji] Aonuma and Mr. Kondo…so with this concert, it’s almost as if they’re telling the story.”
“They’re providing tidbits and things taking you behind the scenes,” he continues. “For example, when Link is riding Epona through Hyrule and [he hums the sound of a horse trotting through grass] those type of things are things you get to see on this concert. Those creators take you on this journey and as a fan and producer, it’s exciting.”
Paul, who produced the orchestral soundtrack to Skyward Sword, struggles to choose a favourite game in the series, but admits that Breath of the Wild hugely impressed him.
“Breath of the Wild is amazing and where the franchise is going,” he says. “That game takes you on a whole another journey and a whole another level of exploration within the kingdom of Hyrule.”
“That for me is a masterpiece of game development,” he continues. “It plays perfectly with the concert and how we’re incorporating some of those sound effects and being able to perform with the music and in perfect sync. Those are all things that are really exciting as a producer and being able to further develop the show.”
As such, the Symphony of the Goddesses concert is in many ways a retelling of Jason Michael Paul’s journey with the franchise. His work has, and will continue to, reach out to fans around the world including the next generation of Zelda fans, waking up one Christmas morning to a copy of one of gaming’s greatest.
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of Goddesses concert will tour at the Sydney Opera House on October 29. The first part of this interview discussed the magic and fantasy of The Legend of Zelda.
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