Summer pops 2: Video games aim at orchestras
In Wednesday's Washington Post: Video game music: more than a blip on orchestras' radar? by Anne Midgette.
I was not prepared to get so interested in this particular topic. This is a field with a lot of creative potential, where the future is open, and where orchestras are actually playing a role. There are worse ways to expose kids to live orchestral performance.
There's an interesting issue about rights that I didn't get into this story. A lot of this music is treated as if it were in the public domain. The university gamer symphony I spoke to had tried repeatedly to figure out how to get rights to perform it, but were met with silence from the video game companies. Most video game orchestras make their own arrangements of these tunes. This is certainly not an incentive for serious composers to go into video game music -- or at least, it suggests a new copyright model for this area.
Similarly, the musicians' union in the United States ultimately worked out a new contract for video game recording, because it was tired of seeing all of the work go to Eastern Europe due to the prohibitive costs associated with recording and broadcasting rights in the U.S. Within four months after the new contract went into effect, union members made something like $2 million from video game revenue.
I didn't even touch on the use of existing classical music in video games, from the radio station that plays opera in Grand Theft Auto III to the composers who have uploaded their works to Rock Band (including Michael Gordon, David Lang, Evan Ziporyn, and, soon, Julia Wolfe).
There are some interesting aspects to this field, which, unlike other forms of crossover, involves music that its audience -- gamers -- has heard over and over and over, as they focus on the games for several hours at a time. Arnie Roth, who conducts the concert of Final Fantasy music that's coming to Wolf Trap on July 30, is convinced that one reason Final Fantasy fans are so passionate about the music is that it's written with leitmotifs, so that some of the themes associated with certain characters have been developing over many years. When the orchestra plays Aerith's Theme, associated with a character who dies unexpectedly in Final Fantasy VII, “literally people [in the audience] are crying and sobbing,” he said.
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