To Nobuo Uematsu:

When I was growing up there wasn’t a whole lot of cultural positivity about gaming as a whole.  Regardless, I remember spending hours of my youthful days staring at a screen smaller than my laptop monitor playing Final Fantasy IV and VI.  I knew I was surely suppose to be playing piano, but I had a hard time finding any motivation to play.  I’d much rather indulge in fantasy worlds inside my games and cartoons.  My parents pushed me to learn piano from standard beginner books and a church lady (who was very sweet) that taught me to read music.  But it was like reading Greek tragedies when you are 8, that stuff had no connection to what I was interested in.

Nobuo Uematsu may very well be the man responsible for taking penchant for fantasy and directing it towards a keyboard.  I remember downloading my first pages of Final Fantasy IX’s Piano Collection off a fansite, a week later I imported the book.  I had never been excited about sheet music before, somehow connecting it to gaming was all my childhood self needed.  My piano teacher was somewhat confused, but any concern melted as I began playing pieces far above my level; the only real difference was motivation.  I unconsciously assimilated a myriad of techniques from all the Piano Collection books, both physical (IE chord voicings, left hand patterns) and compositional.  Before I knew it, I was a somewhat accomplished pianist for my age.  To this day, FFIX’s Piano Collection sits with my prized sheet music: alongside Chopin and Debussy.

Now, I find myself scoring short films and video games in my free time.  It’s something that really fulfills my meaning and purpose in life; and I think of how I almost missed it.  When the topic of music education rears its head, I always muse about how I almost let my musical abilities drift away because I was trying to learn music from something that didn’t interest me.  I realize now that games and fantasy should always have cultural significance because they are products of imagination, and help connect that imagination to our lives.

So now, when I hear a tinge of prog rock slip into my otherwise orchestral soundtrack I know where it came from.  When I approach soundtracks from the basis of simple, hummable melodies rather than the Hollywood-styled drones and bombast, I know where that came from.  When I obsess over Leitmotifs (character themes) I know where that comes from as well.

It came from a tiny screen smaller than my laptop and the man who poured so much effort into scoring for a medium that wasn’t even highly regarded yet.

Thanks for all the years of music Uematsu-san.

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Tunes from the 24 hour Game Jam

I finally caught one of the 24 hour game jams that I’ve heard about.  You know, the ones where you seal a bunch of programmers and students into a room until daybreak where they hopefully emerge with something ‘playable’.  Well, I actually wrote new music for 2 of these ‘something playables’ and it was really fun!  The first track (above) was for a game where the entire point was to be a pigeon and crap on poorly drawn people (and babies).  They never told me what the game was about until I saw the final product, they just requested looping ‘Skyrim epic music’.  I actually hadn’t played Skyrim so I guessed what that would sound like after watching a youtube clip, I think I nailed it.

The other team didn’t know what they wanted, it was a game about running around a school collecting notes before class.  I went with something nostalgic, something Koji Kondo-esque.  The wife was trying to talk me out of doing the game jam at this point so I managed to buy time by having her play the piano line with me…giving it kinda an extra child-like sense of rhythm (as piano is not her forte, I love you anyways hun).

Deadlines are something amazing, we all dread them–but they sometimes really bring out the best in you.  I would have never quoted someone 24 hours to make these tracks, but somehow it only took about 4 (had to see the wife!).  So, never doubt what good a deadline can bring!