I love video game music. As I’ve mentioned previously, video games have an unfortunate (and mostly unmerited) reputation for being lowbrow or even harmful. Video game music is not generally considered to be of much value.
This is sad, since much of the music from video games is absolutely superb.
In addition to the great music in video games, there are thousands of remixes created by musicians who rearrange, reinterpret and reinvent video game melodies.
There are four things I particularly like about video game remixes.
I’ve heard the main theme from Super Mario Bros. remixed as electronica, performed by a string quartet, scatted a cappella and played on a piano. A single song might be interpreted in a hundred different ways. It’s delightful to find a new perspective on a familiar melody—rather like looking at a painting in a museum and recognizing the view out of my own bedroom window.
They cover pretty much every musical genre
I’ve heard at least one song rearranged with bagpipes in the style of traditional Scottish music. Need I say more?
They’re often amazing
Composers of video game music have commented on the surpassing quality of remixes they’ve heard. David Wise and Christopher Tin, among others, have spoken positively about remixes of their music. (Christopher Tin, by the way, won a Grammy for a song he composed for a video game.) I’ve heard many remixes of professional quality, sometimes with vocals or live instruments.
Most video game remixes are available for download—legally—for free. Because remixes are based on music owned by video game developers, those who make them aren’t usually able to sell them without breaking copyright law. The alternative is to distribute remixes for free, which is legal and totally awesome.
In order to demonstrate the quality, variety and grandeur of video game music, I’ve decided to give a few examples—or rather, one example remixed in several ways. The remixes are taken from OverClocked Remix, an organization “dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.”
First is the original song, “Valley of the Fallen Star” from Final Fantasy VII. The song has sort of a Native American feel to it, with muted percussion providing rhythm and a woodwind carrying the melody.
Next we have “Red XII Redux,” a straightforward rock remix—nothing fancy or extravagant, just a smooth arrangement of the song recorded live.
Moving from laid-back rock to frantic guitar shredding, “Lunatic Moon” combines rock and electronica in a song that practically radiates energy and aggression.
We finish with “Ascension to Cosmo Canyon.” The song is simply beautiful, every bit as peaceful as “Lunatic Moon” was frenetic, with piano and strings leading into a woodwind melody backed by drums and a male chorus. The song is lovely and has a decidedly cinematic feel.
These are just a few examples of how one song can be interpreted in many ways. Video game music is wonderful on its own merits—especially in these days when so many games include music from choirs and live orchestras—and remixes present endless interpretations and reinventions of video game melodies.
Remixes are also free. You can’t beat that!