Zelda symphony brings the music of video games to new heights

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Zelda symphony brings the music of video games to new heights

Matthew_Le

Matthew_Le

Matthew_Le

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If you’re a video game fan, you’ve probably heard of “The Legend of Zelda.” The franchise has had over 15 installments on various Nintendo game systems since 1987, becoming a large part of pop culture due to its masterful storytelling and graphic design. Each game follows a young hero, Link, who is on a quest to rid the land of evil- typically from the villainous Ganondorf. Each game has a different storyline, but they all share common themes of courage and the triumph of good over evil.

“The Legend of Zelda” has contributed much to the generations who have played it, but perhaps its greatest contribution is its music. The songs of Zelda have been adapted into many different forms, including electronic and rock. Recently, it has been adapted into orchestral movements and presented as a symphony called “The Legend of Zelda: The Symphony of Goddesses,” which was performed at Powell Hall the weekend of Sept. 11. When I first saw a billboard promoting the concert on a drive to Saint Louis University, I knew exactly where I would be for at least two hours that weekend.

I saw the show on that Sunday, the final performance. Unfortunately, I arrived minutes late, so I had to wait until the conclusion of the first song to enter the hall, but I could hear the chorus of voices from outside the doors. Childhood excitement rose in me, and I quickly seated myself in the lower level when I had the chance. Surrounding me was a wide range of audience members: men and women in their 20s and 30s who played the games years ago, young children dressed in costumes accompanied by their parents, and an array of symphony enthusiasts.

A giant screen hung above the musicians. Projected onto it was the triforce—a trio of golden triangles that represent power, wisdom and courage within the games.

The strings section began with a rapid, almost frantic repetition of the same few notes. The image on the screen depicted a dimly lit cavern similar to that of Antelope Canyon. The brass section echoed two loud crescendos, and after a clash of cymbals, I knew I was following Link through the Gerudo Valley. The screen showed the young hero running through the desert, battling scimitar-wielding warriors, all to the sound of a Spanish flamenco-style melody.

The concert continued in this fashion for the next hour and a half. Cinematic sequences from all of the games were displayed, showing Link riding his horse through lush fields, swinging his Master sword at fire-breathing dragons and sailing across a vast blue ocean.

The most striking piece, for me, was one that lasted little more than two minutes. The scene is from the beginning of “Ocarina of Time,” arguably the greatest video game ever created. Link is seen in the distance, riding his steed up a hill painted against an intoxicating purple twilight. The violins softly grow louder, stopping suddenly and starting again. A lone flute joins in with a steep climb in pitch, echoing the simple yet elegant melody that I heard countless times as a child. I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up.

Video games have been the subject of controversy in recent years as a purveyor of violence in youth. This has unfortunately lead to negative connotations, leading many to believe that video games are overly graphic and gratuitous. This opinion takes away from the genius of the medium, because at its best, it can be a beautiful combination of art forms. The Legend of Zelda is exceptional. Players of the games are captivated by Link’s courageousness. When a story is complete, Link moves onto the next journey, seeking no credit for his good deeds. Players unconsciously absorb so much. They are inspired to do good. They become connoisseurs of visual arts and music. These make pleasant memories. Video games rank among the finest of arts, and that is why the music of Zelda was made into a symphony. It is a triumph of creative genius.