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Apr. 9th, 2005 @ 06:35 pm stage clear
Current Music: Eric Barker - Jenova for Classical Piano
Sign #434 that you go to an awesome college: Arranged videogame music concerts. By exceptionally talented student pianists. FUCK YEAH.

I have been itching to hear live game music ever since I downloaded my first Secret of Mana midi in 1995. As a child my ears perked up at every bass thump on the radio, every trill from the elevator speakers, every whistle from passersby in the vain hope that it would be the beginnings of Terra's theme from Final Fantasy VI or the battle song from Chrono Trigger. Sure, I was occasionally able to snag a live recording of some other game-music freak performing his or her favorite game music at his college or high school (theotherbaldwin singing "Aria de Mezzo Caraterre" comes to mind), but that just wasn't the same. I've met maybe one or two people since then who have shared this love for videogame music, but it's a lonely genre, possibly one of the indiest of all. Especially considering that the best music comes from games that until recently had a relatively small cult following. It's no fun being indie if you're so indie that you have no one else to be pretentious with. Sadness.

So yeah, hearing TIMARA major and resident madman Eric Barker beat the living shit out of his baby grand to his rendition of the Final Fantasy VI battle theme absolutely bent my mind. Nobuo Uematsu's masterpieces! On piano! Really good piano! Live! Head-explosion! For three minutes and fifteen seconds I was home, I was understood, I was in a magical happy place made of hugs and sunshine.

And his "Ocarina Medley"--a smooth, ambitious, powerfully emotional mix of songs from various Zelda games, was simply astonishing. His hauntingly melodic take on the Zelda 64 Kokiri Forest theme, gently slurred with the Lost Woods music, was divine enough, but as he seamlessly moved into the overworld themes from Zelda 64 and A Link To The Past, then a mournful, dirgelike version of the Song of Time--it was the musical equivalent of a multiple orgasm. And the honky-tonk version of the Super Mario Bros. 2 theme (complete with spontaneous player death!), the terrifying Norfair level theme (Super Metroid), the pensive and technically ambitious "Jenova for Classical Piano", the heartwarmingly nostalgic version of Sonic the Hedgehog's immortal Green Hill Zone level music...goodness. Good goodness.

Good arrangers play with the listener's familiarity with the source material; great arrangers take that familiarity and blow it out of the water, amplifying the spirit of the original to incredible proportions while completely fucking with what your ears expect you to hear. I'd say Barker leans pretty heavily towards the latter. Even VGMix likes him, and VGMix is a pretty tough crowd.
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