Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2011 by Fred Flaxman

Program 189
"Video Game Music"



MUSIC: Koji Kondo: Legend of Zelda Suite performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 2] [under the following]

The music in the background may sound like a film score. But it isn’t. It is music for a video game called Legend of Zelda.

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I’m going to devote the next hour to “The Greatest Video Game Music” as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry on a new compact disc on the X5 label.

MUSIC: fades out

This CD features classical orchestrations of the best-known video game themes, including Mario Bros, Call of Duty, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Halo, World of Warcraft, Angry Birds, and many more. There are 21 tracks in all on the CD, out of which we’ll sample 15 of them in the next hour.

Over the last 40 years video games have become a popular form of entertainment worldwide. As they have become more sophisticated and realistic, the music for them has also evolved from the simple bleeps of arcade games to robust orchestrations written for complex games on platforms such as Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo.

Now, for the first time, themes from the most popular games, ranging from Tetris to Grand Theft Auto, have been recorded in the studio by a top-tier full symphony orchestra and chorus. So let’s start with Tetris.

Tetris is a puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released in 1984 while he was working for the Computing Center of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra and tennis, his favorite sport. All of the game's pieces, known as Tetriminoes, contain four segments.

Tetris was the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the U.S. The game (or one of its many variants) is available for nearly every video game console and computer operating system, as well as on devices such as graphing calculators, mobile phones, portable media players, PDAs, Network music players and even as an Easter egg on non-media products like oscilloscopes. It has even inspired Tetris serving dishes and has been played on the sides of various buildings. The record for the world's largest fully functional game of Tetris is held by Dutch students. In 1995 they lit up 15 floors of the Electrical Engineering department at the Delft University of Technology.

While versions of Tetris were sold for a range of 1980s home computer platforms, it was the hugely successful handheld version launched in 1989 that established the game as one of the most popular ever. According to an entry in Wikipedia, it has sold more than 70 million copies. In January 2010, it was announced that Tetris has sold more than 100 million copies for cell phones alone since 2005.

Here, then, is the theme from Tetris, composed by Alexey Pajitnov, and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor David Parry.

MUSIC: Alexey Pajitnov: Tetris Theme performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 11]

The theme from Tetris, composed by Alexey Pajitnov. The London Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by David Parry.

Mario Brothers is a videogame originally developed and published by Nintendo as an arcade game in 1983. Since then it is morphed into Super Mario Brothers. In the game Mario is portrayed as an Italian-American plumber who, along with his brother Luigi, has to defeat creatures that have been coming from the sewers below New York. The gameplay focuses on Mario’s extermination of pests in the sewers by flipping them on their backs and kicking them away.

The theme music to Super Mario Brothers was composed by Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo. Let’s hear that first followed by the section called “Gusty Garden Galaxy,” composed by Koji Kondo, which has one of the catchiest tunes on this London Philharmonic Orchestra CD.

MUSIC: Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo: theme to Super Mario Bros., performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 6]

MUSIC: Koji Kondo: Super Mario Bros: Gusty Garden Galaxy performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 21]

Super Mario Brothers: Gusty Garden Galaxy by Koji Kondo. You are listening to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of “The Greatest Video Game Music” on this hour of Compact Discoveries.

Next we turn to the main theme for Angry Birds by Ari Pulkkinen. Angry Birds is a puzzle video game created by a Finnish computer game developer. It was first released for Apple’s iOS in December 2009. Since that time over 12 million copies of the game have been purchased from Apple’s App Store. In the game players use a slingshot to launch birds at pigs stationed on or within various structures. The goal is to destroy all the pigs on the playfield.

Angry Bird’s popularity led to versions being created for personal computers and gaming consoles, a market for merchandise featuring its characters, and even long-term plans for a feature film or TV series. It has reached a combined 500 million downloads across all platforms and editions.

MUSIC: Ari Pulkkinen: Angry Birds: Main Theme performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 4]

The main theme from the video game Angry Birds by Ari Pulkkinen.

Halo is a multi-million dollar science fiction video game franchise created by Bungie and now owned by Microsoft Studios. The series centers on an interstellar war between humanity and a theocratic alliance of aliens known as the Covenant.

The music to Halo 3: One Final Effort was composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori.

MUSIC: Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori: Halo 3: One Final Effort performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 19]

Halo 3: One Final Effort, music by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori.

You are listening to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of “The Greatest Vido Game Music” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing]

Video game music sounds a lot like movie music to me. That’s not a criticism, as some film scores are excellent on their own, as are some video game scores. A prime example is the music to Advent Rising by Tommy Tallarico, Emmanuel Fratianni, and Laurie Robinson.

The game starts with the protagonist escorting a group of human ambassadors to a meeting with an alien race. What follows is -- let me put it this way -- not peaceful. I wonder if any video games are. I’m waiting for one to come out in which the players work together to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The music would be by two composers: one Israeli and one Palestinian. It would start in a minor key and the goal would be to end up with a peace treaty in A Major. But I digress.

Here is Advent Rising: Muse as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

MUSIC: Tommy Tallarico, Emmanuel Fratianni, and Laurie Robinson: Advent Rising: Muse performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 1]

Advent Rising: Muse as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

You are listening to “The Greatest Video Game Music” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide Fred Flaxman.

Next up, two cuts of music from Call of Duty, a first-person and third-person shooter video game series franchise created by Ben Chichoski. The series began on personal computers and later expanded to consoles and handheld devices.

The earlier games in the series are set primarily in World War II. Starting with Modern Warfare, set in modern times, the series has shifted focus away from World War II to the Cold War and beyond. The games have sold more than 55 million copies, earning more than three billion dollars.

Let’s listen first to the theme from Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2, composed by Hans Zimmer, and then the main menu theme from Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare, composed by Stephen Barton and Harry Gregson-Williams.

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer: the theme from Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2 , performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 3]

MUSIC: Stephen Barton and Harry Greson-Williams: the main menu theme from Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 14]

Music from two video games in the Call of Duty - Modern Warfare series.

Next the London Philharmonic Orchestra under David Parry perform the main theme from Final Fantasy 8 and Liberi Fatali, from the same video game, both composed by Nobuo Uematsu.

The game’s story focuses on a group of young mercenaries who are drawn into an international conflict, and seek to protect the world from a sorceress manipulating the war for her own purposes. The main protagonist is a 17-year-old reclusive loner and student at the military academy, who is training to become a mercenary paid by the academy.

MUSIC: Nobuo Uematsu: main theme from Final Fantasy VIII, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 17]

MUSIC: Nobuo Uematsu: Fiinal Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 14]

Music from the video game Final Fantasy 8 by Nobuo Uematsu, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Uncharted - Drake’s Fortune is an action-adventure platform, third-person shooter video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation 3. It charts the journey of protagonist Nathan Drake, supposed descendant of the explorer Francis Drake, as he seeks the lost treasure of El Dorado with the help of friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan and journalist Elena Fisher. Nate’s theme was cumposed by Greg Edmonson.

MUSIC: Greg Edmonson: Uncharted - Drake’s Fortune: Nate’s Theme, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 7]

Nate’s Theme by Greg Edmonson from the video game, Uncharted - Drake’s Fortune.

Metal Gear Solid is a Japanese video game published originally in 1998 for the PlayStation video game console. The game follows a soldier who infiltrates a nuclear weapons facility to neutralize the terrorist threat from a renegade special forces unit. The Sons of Liberty Theme was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams.

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams: Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty Theme performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 10]

The Sons of Liberty theme by Harry Gregson-Williams from the video game Metal Gear Solid.

Battlefield 2 is a video game developed in Sweden. Players fight in a modern battlefield, using modern weapon systems. It features missions that involve clashes between the U.S. Marines, China, and the fictional Middle Eastern Coalition. The theme music was composed by Joel Eriksson.

MUSIC: Joel Eriksson: the theme for Battlefield 2, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 12]

The theme to the video game Battlefield 2. The music was composed by Joel Eriksson.

We’ll conclude this hour devoted to video game music with Garry Schyman’s music for Bioshock. This game is set in an alternate 1960. It puts the player in the role of a plane crash survivor who must explore the underwater city of Rapture and survive attacks by the mutated beings and mechanical drones that populate it.

MUSIC: Gary Schyman: Bioshock: The Ocean on his Shoulders, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 18] 

The Ocean on his Shoulders from the video game Bioshock.

And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s X5 compact disc recording called “The Greatest Video Game Music.” This is your guide, Fred Flaxman, admiting that I have never played a video game in my life and have absolutely no interest in doing so. But I enjoy the music and hope that the recording I used today might introduce video game enthusiasts to the sounds of a great orchestra playing orchestral music, just as film scores have introduced generations of movie-goers to the beautiful sounds of a large orchestra of accoustic instruments.

Please visit our Compact Discoveries website, CompactDiscoveries.com, where there are links to streaming all of these programs on demand, and join me again next time for more Compact Discoveries!

MUSIC: ending of Joel Eriksson: the theme for Battlefield 2, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry [X5GroupA X5CD114, Track 12]

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you. [0:28]

Total Program Timing: 58:00