Monday, December 14, 2009

Jay's playlist: Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

This playlist is a little narcissistic since I'm the one who arranged and performed the piece, but since it is the only (recorded) piece with those qualities I'm not too worried about posting it. "Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles" is a piano arrangement which mixes Final Fantasy themes (usually the heroines/belles' themes) with Carol of the Bells and the orchestral theme to the (relatively) obscure game Parasite Eve.

My passion for playing the piano began in 1999 when I discovered sheet music for a video game piece from the game series Final Fantasy called "Tina" (or "Terra", depending on the Japanese translation). As the years went on I learned many other pieces from Final Fantasy and my other favorite composers, and when sheet music did not exist I created it.

By 2003 I had a nice repertoire of video game/George Winston/movie theme arrangements and I began noticing common themes in my favorite pieces. A few days each week I would experiment playing one piece and immediately transitioning to the next. Eventually this practice led to improvising the different the piano arrangements in one hour long mega mix each time I sat at the piano. Since it was my Senior year in college and I knew I would no longer have the opportunity to play the piano once I departed for California I decided to record myself playing my "mega mix" to archive my experiments long after I lost the ability the play at that level. The condensed version of this recording became "Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles".

My inspiration for the piece primarily comes from the piano arrangements of Tina by Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections), Carol of the Bells by George Winston (December), Parasite Eve theme Orchestral by Yoko Shimomura (Parasite Eve OST), and Carol of the Bells by Mark Hayes (a professional piano book). Also included are brief themes from Rydia (Final Fantasy IV), Mambo de Chocobo (Final Fantasy V), Aerith and Tifa (Final Fantasy VII), The Extreme (Final Fantasy VIII), Vamo alla Flamenco (Final Fantasy IX), and To Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X). During my time at Pixar the following year (while going through severe piano withdrawals) I created a nifty logo in the Ratatouille art style and wrote out sheet music which included a snippet of Eternity from Final Fantasy X-2 (don't ask).

One of these days I will own a piano again (I did purchase a weighted keyboard but it just wasn't the same) at which point I will begin my mixes again. One of my biggest disappointments is not being able to perform this piece at this level any longer. There was a time I was working with the (now mainstream) video game concert producers to perform this for a Christmas concert but, alas, I couldn't reach the performance level necessary. Martin Leung I am not. But I will always have this recording to bring me Christmas (Final Fantasy) joy each year.

Bonus Song
The following pieces are the original inspiration to Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles:

Parasite Eve theme orchestral

Carol of the Bells (George Winston)

Tina (Final Fantasy VI piano collections)

Finally, the video the inspired me to post this:

I did a search for new Carol of the Bells arrangements and games and, low and behold, one of the search returns was of a guy still playing my piece 4 years after I released it. Seeing him actually pressing the keys to perform this (and skipping some of the more difficult sections) reminds me of how crazy I really was back then. This arrangement is not easy.

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