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The Legend of Zelda Symphony

 

The Legend of Zelda Symphony

Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Family Fun
 
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The Legend of Zelda Symphony
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The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses:
Interview with Music Director: Chad Seiter:
By Curran Dobbs

On March 14th, 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to attend ‘The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses’ concert performed by the Vancouver Film Orchestra. I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit in on the tail end of the dress rehearsal as well as interview the music director, Chad Seiter, prior to the show. The VFO’s normal music director is Hal Beckett who was generous to briefly hand over the reins for this particular show. I was surprised when I overheard that the dress rehearsal was the first time the VFO had come together to play this particular arrangement with the conductor, Eimear Noone, given the exceptional quality of the performance that followed.

    The show started in traditional fashion, opening with an ‘Overture’ which contained a medley of music from all the console Zelda games currently released as well as some of the handheld games. After which, Noone introduced herself warmly to the audience and made it clear her enthusiasm and her love of the Zelda series. The orchestra then played an introductory composition from the games and segued into the first movement. After the second movement, there was an intermission followed by the third and fourth movements and ending on three encores, so you’ll probably want some energy going in but it is well worth it. There will be more details regarding the movements in the interview portion. Continuously throughout the show, I was impressed with, among other things, Noone’s friendly interactions with the audience and affection for the music which she felt privileged to conduct, and were well timed not to go on too long but still conveyed all the information she felt the fans in the audience should know without any unnecessary spoilers.

    The orchestra played while an overhead screen played relevant footage from the games interspersed with shots of the orchestra and the conductor as there were stationary cameras hidden out of sight as well as cameramen moving around the stage.  The video footage seemed perfectly synced with the orchestra as the scenes shown were always reflected whenever the musical themes switched off, for example, if there was a scene of Link adventuring through Hyrule Field, the music played the appropriate motif and both the film and music, with what seemed like perfect timing, would switch to, say,  an early apparent of Ganondorf with villain’s theme song playing, respectively. The shots and musical order were design to chronologically tell the stories of the games they were portraying. Of course, I feel compelled to mention that the scene of Link being attacked by irate chickens was included and got a great laugh from the audience.

    It was a great evening and I would suggest it for any fans of the music who can afford it to attend one of the upcoming  ‘The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses’ concerts.

Here is the interview I got have with the music director, Chad Seiter, before the show.

Curran: First off, thank you very much for having this interview.

Chad: No problem. I’m happy to be here.

Curran: So, how long was this concert in the works?
Chad: Well, we started this about a year ago. It’s funny because every show involves a little more.

Curran: How many performances have there been?
Chad: This is our fifth performance. We did one in Tokyo; one in Los Angeles; one in London; Dallas, Texas; and now here, in Vancouver.

Curran: I’m actually pumped to watch this.  Could you tell me about the jobs that go on behind the scenes?
Chad: I could run it down. Our show is called “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses”, so the core of our show tonight is an actual symphony. I’ve written a four movement symphony around the four most popular Zelda games which are, in order: The Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and A Link To The Past. In planning a symphony, form is very important, the structure of the pieces. Producer Jeron Moore and I sat down quite a bit and plotted out the story of each Zelda game and just organized just okay, this is an important part, and this is an important part, you know, here’s the final battle with Ganon and the finale and that’s first part of the creative process and from there, we go on to actually writing the music and that’s the bigger project. I have a team of assistants and musicians who’ve gone into each of the games and taken down all the music for me. The biggest of the teams is this group called ZREOs, Zelda Reorchestrated. They’re huge Zelda fans and they’ve arranged tons of Zelda music and they did the take downs for me. They take it down by ear and put it into the computer for me and then I sit down and I start writing, again with the computer with the synthesizers and the whole writing process takes the most amount of time. From there, I click in every note and then it goes to my wife who is also my orchestrator. She puts on the final touches and prepares it for the orchestra. She gets it out of the box essentially, out of the computer.

Curran: Now, there’s video footage that accompanies the orchestra. Is that difficult to sync up with a live group?
Chad: Well, actually, the video was made for our show by Jaren, the producer, so basically I wrote the pieces and gave him the synthesized versions and he would edit the video for them. So once it goes to the orchestra, it all just syncs up.

Curran: Could you go in detail about your role as music director?
Chad: The most important part is writing the music and it’s also a lot of work because I also have to find the orchestras and book them. There’s a lot of boring business administration. It’s a full-fledged business to do this.

Curran: What in particular compelled you to get involved with a “Legend of Zelda” themed concert?
Chad: Well, it was me and Jaron. Jaron and I are friends and we met at a party and we were kind of discussing what kind of show could we do and I think we were naming video game franchises like ‘Could we do this? No. What about this? No. What about Zelda?” And we were both like “Yeah”. That was kind of the beginning of it where I knew everything would work out on this project.

Curran: Is there a CD of this concert?
Chad: Yes, actually. With Skyward Sword, the first run of the game, a bonus edition CD came with it with the highlights of this show. We did that in association with Nintendo and we recorded it with the Northwest Synphonia in a studio. Bruce Botnick his name is, my recording engineer. He’s an artist too and he records the orchestra and gets it into the computer. He’s a legendary engineer. He recorded the Doors, and the Rolling Stones, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, one of the biggest film composers of all time. So when I called him about this project saying ‘Would this be something you’d like to do?’, without hesitation, it was like ‘Yes’.

Curran: Do you have any plans or hopes for doing any other video game themed concerts?
Chad: I would love to do more. I love the concert orchestra.

Curran: You’ve done quite a bit of soundtrack composing in the past such as doing some of the additional orchestrations for the 2009 Star Trek movie, and composing the soundtrack for the first season of Fringe.  Anything you care to tell us about your own background in music?
Chad: I was trained and mentored by a man named Michael Giacchino. Michael won the academy award last year for the film ‘Up’, of which he wrote the music for. He was kind of a huge inspiration and mentor to me and I wouldn’t be here without his invaluable input that kind of prepared me for this.

Curran: Do you have any other musical inspirations?
Chad: I listen to a lot of different music. I would say for this project?  There’s a lot of Jerry Goldsmith. He’s a huge inspiration of mine. You know, I take little cues, ideas from Hans Zimmer and Dmitri Shostakovich. He’s a classical artist, long since dead. It’s not so much who’s my favourite but what bits of everybody do I like. Of course, Michael Giacchino is a huge influence on me. It’s just lots of the greats. John Williams, there was a lot of John Williams inspiration.

Curran: What draws you to video game music?
Chad: You know, I grew up playing games. I played a lot of video games. Ah, my home away from home. Video games have always been a hobby of mine so as I started writing music, both video games and music have been some of my biggest hobbies so as I grew older, I learned how to turn music and video games into my business.

Curran: It seems like video game soundtracks have been gaining a bit more respect and legitimacy in the music community than they used to have. How would you say it stands?
Well, it’s a niche market. Soundtrack releases and sales are actually quite small but with the acceleration of iTunes, for example, which is a remarkable way for musicians to release music these days and give musicians opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have, I feel like the ability to buy these albums is becoming greater and greater and more and more, these games are getting soundtrack releases only because someone loves them and can do that.

Curran: What sort of games do you play now?
Chad: A lot of Starcraft II, a LOT of Starcraft II. I think one of my favourite games of all time is Fallout 3, I’m a huge Fallout fan. I’ve recently played through Skyrim which absorbed quite a lot of my time and alienated my wife.

Curran: Finally, are you excited about tonight?
Chad:Oh, I’m pumped too. I love this.
 

 
 

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