Saturday, September 19, 2009

Symphonic Fantasies

The past year has seen a magnificent rebirth in the musical genre of symphonic old-school video game arrangements (obscure, I know). It began with the release of the "Video Games Live!" and "Drammatica" concert albums, followed by the One Ups Volume 2 release and "Play! A Video Game Symphony", then the unexpected and utterly amazing "Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections", and now the "Symphonic Fantasies" concert.

Admittedly, quite a few video game concerts/CD have launched in recent years but in most cases (like "Video Games Live!") the arrangements are either from 10+ year old CDs or are the original symphonic versions found in the recent game (an increase of game budgets in the past 10 years has allowed some games to have fully symphonic soundtracks as opposed to the synthesized beeps and bops of old). So to have four separate albums released in a year with brand new, and inspired, arrangements is something to be joyful about.

This post focuses on the Symphonic Fantasies concert performed last week in Germany and now (luckily) posted on Youtube. What makes this concert stand out is it did not consist of the usual "90% previous arrangements with one or two new ones to encourage previous concert attendees to return". Instead, it was 80+ minutes of brand new arrangements of famous SquareEnix games, many of which had been previously ignored symphonically due to the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise. And even the Final Fantasy medley was tongue-and-cheek in its acknowledgment of the overuse of certain pieces and their famous arrangements. At one point, the medley begins playing the opening notes to One Winged Angel (arguably the most recognizable, and overplayed [think Freebird], Final Fantasy piece) only to immediately segue to the chocobo theme, a piece which is both stylistically and emotionally on the opposite end of the spectrum from OWA (begin at 4:10 in the video below). The audience is so taken aback by this that they start laughing. OWA is so ubiquitous at concerts, Final Fantasy or otherwise, that to have it teased and replaced by lesser known themes is a refreshing change of pace. Although it does reappear at the end of the concert encore, yet this time it includes a 2 minute bongo solo (oh, joy):

The rest of the concert is even better! Games that rarely receive the symphonic treatment finally have their time to shine in 20 minute medleys each. I could go on and on about how delightful this is (at best, we usually get one new arrangement of each game piece every 5 years) but at this point my rambling has prevented you from listening to the music and enjoying it yourself. So click the video above and then listen to the "recommended" videos listed with it also from the same concert!


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