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Thread: VGM - Video Game Music

  1. #1

    VGM - Video Game Music

    I've been meaning to get one of these going on PE for quite some time. This post began in the Dweezil Zappa thread, FWIW.

    And apologies in advance for the War & Peace approach here... As you'll see, it's a subject of great passion and I honestly can't help myself.


    My first memorable exposure to VGM was waaaay back in the early 1980s when my my mom, younger sister and I moved in with my mother's future husband in Big Bear Lake, CA. He owned a video game arcade next door to my mom's donut store, and that was about the coolest thing that could have happened to High School age me. Preston, who was quite the character, and who notably had a speaking voice very similar to Don Adams' Maxwell Smart, would allow me and my sis to play all the games we wanted for invisible quarters, and that was just the beginning.

    Decade 1 - 1981 - The Mountains of SoCal: Soon, Preston had me working for him, whereby my job duties included swapping & moving consoles around the mountains of Southern California, as well as dumping mountains of quarters from all the games & cigarette machines. (remember those??) This took place at both of the major Big Bear Valley ski areas, as well as those of Wrightwood and Snow Valley.

    Free games for me, hot ski babes schmoozing me for free games, free cigs... man, I was in heaven.

    THEN, during the peak of what is now considered the golden age of arcade video games, Preston began taking us to the private Video Game Conventions down in Los Angeles, where I could spend the entire day playing all of the brand new, just-released consoles like Ms Pac Man and Asteroids Deluxe, eat free food, not to mention sucking down all the beer and mixed drinks I wanted. (and this was at age 16-17) I just wish I had saved all of the brochures, posters and promo items I'd gathered at those conventions... That sort of stuff is nowhere to be found nowadays, and would be extremely valuable to the current generation of VG uber-nerds. (including my own daughter, who we'll get to in a moment)

    So, if you're old enough to remember, think back to the sound & feel of a 1980s arcade. This is where one of my personal favorite realms of modern music was born.


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    So anyway, I remember that I was always listening closely to all of that 8-bit music, because that's just how I've always been -- focused on the music, just like I was with film scores. I found the underlying silliness and cheesy menace of early game scores like Donkey Kong and Dig Dug instantly endearing and appealing. About a decade later, after watching my buddy endlessly button-mashing his NES Super Mario games, I finally broke down and bought my first console: a Super Nintendo or (SNES).

    Decade 2 - 1992 - The Suburbs of Los Angeles: The game that was included with my console was the timeless classic, Super Mario World, which opened up all kinds of new visual & musical 16 Bit possibilities. Legendary VGM Composer Koji Kondo literally changed that world with his early Mario and Legend of Zelda scores. Another landmark game of that era was Donkey Kong Country, from which the David Wise/ Eveline Fischer-composed OST stands in high regard as one of the all time great Video Game soundtracks.

    In fact, I STILL listen to the DKC & Super Mario World OSTs in the car to this day, and the console replay-ability of both these games has most definitely stood the test of time. (especially when you have a bonafide Nintendo fanatic for a daughter)


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    Which brings us ahead one more decade:

    Decade 3 - 2000 - Minnesota: With BOTH of her parents as semi-fanatical Nintendo-holics, it was no surprise that my daughter Kenzie emerged from the womb with an N-64 controller clutched tightly in her tiny hands. And so, with the birth of Kenzie, life took on a whole new meaning, and thus my journey to a true appreciation of VGM consequently began in earnest. Experiencing this genre of music through her over the last 19 years has been far beyond rewarding & enlightening: it's a critical element of the person I am today.

    When she was age 5, I, after noticing that Kenzie showed as much interest in the music as she did in the games, bought her a $100 Yamaha keyboard... and I can honestly say that it was the best hundred bucks EVER SPENT, by anyone, ever. From day one, she would stop in the middle of a round of say, Ocarina of Time, and walk over to her keyboard & start PLAYING THIS MUSIC like she friggin' knew it all along! I was just astounded and as proud as a dad could be. Admittedly, the life-long struggling guitarist in me felt a just a tad jealous of all that God-given talent, especially when I discovered that she could tune my guitar by ear.

    To this day, this self-taught, perfect pitch young lady spends many an hour at that same keyboard, teaching herself whatever her latest VGM obsession might be. And now she's starting to compose her own stuff, which is unsurprisingly (and objectively, I promise) quite good.

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    For more perspective, and on a serious note, my ex-wife and I give a great deal of credit to the Legend of Zelda series and the music contained therein for helping our then-10 year old Kenzie through 3 harrowing, life-threatening brain surgeries. We informed her at that time that SHE was her Hero of Time: Link in that situation, and that the nasty AVM in her brain was merely another big ugly level boss, whom she would send to a humiliating defeat like all who came before. We (and she) are 100% certain that this analogy made a difference during her ordeal; as our Kenzie made it through the nightmare, which included a near-death experience during the 3rd surgery.

    Perhaps this might help explain some of the passion I have today for this music.

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    Kenzie and I have also bonded in this regard with 4 life-changing road trips from Minnesota to my old home California & back. During these excursions, we listened to tons of VGM, Prog, Metal and everything in between -- while stopping for every roadside oddity, abandoned stretch of US Highway, National Park and ghost town we could manage to squeeze in along the way. The music you bring along enhances experiences like this beyond ALL measure, creating memories for a lifetime.

    And finally, we've been to two Legend of Zelda Live Symphony Orchestra performances together, even road tripping all the way to Milwaukee from the Twin Cities for one of them. I will tell you that I was brought to tears more than once during each of these shows, and I wasn't alone; the music really is that powerful and moving.


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    Those 4 road trips and 2 concerts are at the very tip-top of a long list of my favorite life moments, and Video Game Music played a huge role in all of the above.


    Bottom line: Even if you're not a gamer at heart, there is an untapped bounty of transcendent compositions for the adventurous Prog Fan to discover in this genre. Countless scores to countless series are out there, and they run the gamut of musical styles & textures.



    So then... if you're still here... let's hear yours...

    Last edited by Tangento; 02-22-2020 at 12:52 PM.
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    "You have the option to drill additional holes in the label,
    causing the record to rotate off the side of the turntable"

    -Tom Ellard - Severed Heads

  2. #2
    Member TheH's Avatar
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    A highly regarded genre in Japan

    Motoi Sakuraba


  3. #3
    Yeah, wow... that was just slightly proggy... JFC

    Very cool!
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    "You have the option to drill additional holes in the label,
    causing the record to rotate off the side of the turntable"

    -Tom Ellard - Severed Heads

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    Member frinspar's Avatar
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    Each time those cyclic melodies began again it meant progress, and we knew we were getting our quarter's worth.

    I was an Atari and arcade kid, those bips and buzzes that made the soundtracks were as important as the gameplay. And there has been some great music written for games. Catchy, brainworm stuff mostly in earlier games. Symphonies more recently.
    I have the Xevious theme as my ringtone. My message tone is the option select from Wave Race 64.
    I carry a small amount of tracks from various games in my digital library. It's a great platform for musicians to experiment and explore their talents. You can do beautiful and weird shit in games.

    The band Estradasphere, on their earlier albums, included various 8-bit video game-inspired songs. There's one where you can hear the player reaching into the bag of Cheetos as he plays, and then it freezes and he has to extract the cart, blow in it and restart.

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    Maybe not ENTIRELY on-topic here, since this stuff actually *IS* very progressive and gorgeously produced (rather than 8-bit...), but I'm a huge fan of Robyn Miller's soundtracks to Myst and particularly Riven:


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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    My son introduced me to a young guy named Toby Fox who also makes games - but he is an outstanding composer as well. Super talented dude.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tangento View Post
    The music you bring along enhances experiences like this beyond ALL measure, creating memories for a lifetime.
    Absolutely. I played a ton of Scottish lute music this past summer when we were there and when I play that stuff nowadays and close my eyes, it takes me back.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

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    Member PixelDelirium's Avatar
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    Not exactly video game music but Mail Order Monsters is a band that creates original music using only Commodore 64s.



    Then there's Press Play On Tape that takes music from Commodore 64 games and arranges/performs them as a full band:



    There are also a surprising number of bands/artists rerecording songs from Commodore Amiga games as well. Not to mention artists still using Amiga "trackers" (and ones derived from them on modern platforms) to produce original music.

    I do play modern video games as well but I can't say I've ever listened to any of the soundtracks independent of playing the games. More money, time and effort are put into producing modern video game soundtracks than those from the 80's/90's but I can't recall a single tune from anything newer than some N64 games.

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    I'm such a freaking geek. Somebody posted on YouTube one-hour recordings of the ambient sounds in Riven, the forest scene, the clear cut scene, the elevator scene and the Moeity hive scene. People have posted in the comments that they paused the game in these spots because the background sounds were so cool. I too was mesmerized by the sound design.

    So I downloaded the hour-long soundtracks and burned a 4-disc CD-R, with screenshots of each location to illustrate the box.

    I hope when I die somebody takes the time to appreciate how weird I was.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 02-23-2020 at 01:09 PM.

  10. #10
    I'm not in videogames at all, but I do have a couple of soundtracks, from which Chris Vrenna's American McGee's Alice stands out:


  11. #11
    Member Mr.Krautman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheH View Post
    A highly regarded genre in Japan

    Motoi Sakuraba

    Wow ! Is this REALLY the kind of music japanese kids are listening to when playing on their videogames ? Impressive stuff...

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    NEARfest Officer Emeritus Nearfest2's Avatar
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    I'm rooted in the first wave of VGM.

    One of my favorites was the theme to Moon Patrol:


    And though it was all classical music and not original music, I always love Gyruss:
    Chad

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Krautman View Post
    Wow ! Is this REALLY the kind of music japanese kids are listening to when playing on their videogames ? Impressive stuff...
    I think so, the Studio versions of the games sountracks Sound the same (I like the live stuff more)
    But I never played Star Ocean or Valkiery Profile so I'm really sure what it sounds like in the games.

  14. #14
    Around 1998, I hooked my NES and SNES up to a cassette deck and recorded as many games as I could find. Some of my favorite music came from games I'd never played, like Taboo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMjx_gvSZDg

    I arranged it for a short-lived live band:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1bs_mQKc2w

    Also thought the gameplay was terrible, but like the music for Super Dodge Ball:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_2xFCHz-wE

    And covered it long ago:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/super-dodge-ball

    Mother 3 has notoriously difficult rhythms:

    https://youtu.be/xgDK1z95NtQ

    I arranged a couple songs just as an exercise, but none of the insane rhythm stuff:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/...e-intense-guys

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    Member frinspar's Avatar
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    A direct prog link between the arcades and the bands.
    I remember seeing Watchtower a lot on Austin Access when I was growing up. I was too young to get into the clubs then, but I caught so many locals being played over and over on the local access channels back then. This thread made me remember a section where Ron does this little Frogger interlude with Jason and Doug.

    It's at the 5-minute mark in case the time embed doesn't work.


  16. #16
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    my fave thread in awhile!
    No one plans to take the path that brings you lower

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    NEARfest Officer Emeritus Nearfest2's Avatar
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    Anyone have this from our friends in Might Could?

    https://mightcouldguitars.bandcamp.com/
    Chad

  18. #18
    I played the hell out of this game.

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    f-ing great game - many quarters went into that one
    No one plans to take the path that brings you lower

  20. #20
    Member frinspar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ergalthema View Post
    Around 1998, I hooked my NES and SNES up to a cassette deck and recorded as many games as I could find. Some of my favorite music came from games I'd never played, like Taboo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMjx_gvSZDg

    I arranged it for a short-lived live band:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1bs_mQKc2w

    Also thought the gameplay was terrible, but like the music for Super Dodge Ball:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_2xFCHz-wE

    And covered it long ago:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/super-dodge-ball

    Mother 3 has notoriously difficult rhythms:

    https://youtu.be/xgDK1z95NtQ

    I arranged a couple songs just as an exercise, but none of the insane rhythm stuff:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/...e-intense-guys
    Those are great! Thanks for sharing them.
    There was a Stop N Go across from my high school. We took over the section where they had several games, so they opened a storage room in back of the store and put the games in there so we could swear and smoke without being annoying. Super Dodge Ball was one of the games.

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  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Maybe not ENTIRELY on-topic here, since this stuff actually *IS* very progressive and gorgeously produced (rather than 8-bit...), but I'm a huge fan of Robyn Miller's soundtracks to Myst and particularly Riven:
    No way man, this is right on the mark! As On Topic as it gets. This isn't about any particular era or platform, it's about ALL of it.

    I remember when I bought my first IBM PC back in like 1998, I had just come into a bit of money and decided to go "all out". I spent like over $1000 for equipment that would now be used to keep your car from rolling away during a brake job. The only 'specs' I can recall were that it sported a THREE GIGABYTE HARD DRIVE.

    So I bought 2 games for this PC, one of which was RIVEN the sequel to MYST and the other was a 'marooned in space' title called Descent. When I could actually get the damn games to actually LOAD and maybe even WORK for a few minutes, I was instantly struck by how cool the ambient music was. Before long, I honestly could care less about the gameplay. Back then, extracting the music from PC Games for enjoyment on the road was a tall task, at least for me. I had attempted and failed at this until I finally gave up. But that Riven track you posted is especially killer, and will definitely be brought along for the next road trip.


    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    My son introduced me to a young guy named Toby Fox who also makes games - but he is an outstanding composer as well. Super talented dude.
    DUDE, Undertale! For those not familiar, it's an awesome retro-8-bit title that went viral a few years back. My daughter was an instant fan, and beat the game through both story arcs within days. Toby Fox is one talented dude for sure, as both game developer and composer. Here's one of my favorite VGM tracks from any era; one that Kenzie and I hope to jam if we ever get our long-dreamed of band going:




    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    I'm such a freaking geek.

    So I downloaded the hour-long soundtracks and burned a 4-disc CD-R, with screenshots of each location to illustrate the box.

    I hope when I die somebody takes the time to appreciate how weird I was.
    Done. You are not alone in this world, my friend. 👽
    And you didn't even have to die!


    Quote Originally Posted by ergalthema View Post
    Around 1998, I hooked my NES and SNES up to a cassette deck and recorded as many games as I could find. Some of my favorite music came from games I'd never played, like Taboo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMjx_gvSZDg

    I arranged it for a short-lived live band:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1bs_mQKc2w

    Also thought the gameplay was terrible, but like the music for Super Dodge Ball:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_2xFCHz-wE

    And covered it long ago:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/super-dodge-ball

    Mother 3 has notoriously difficult rhythms:

    https://youtu.be/xgDK1z95NtQ

    I arranged a couple songs just as an exercise, but none of the insane rhythm stuff:

    https://disproof.bandcamp.com/track/...e-intense-guys
    Wow, I will have to set aside some time to dig into this!


    Quote Originally Posted by MudShark22 View Post
    my fave thread in awhile!
    Yeah, I've dreamed of doing this for years, let's keep 'er going!


    So I can't believe I failed to mention 2 things in my epic opening disquisition:

    #1 - Bands who do VGM covers, ranging from Estradasphere (mentioned above) to Mr. Bungle, to the lovely Watchtower/ Frogger dance posted above, but this was one of the first bands to get serious about it... The MINIBOSSES

    Which brings me to thing #2: Mega Man!!!

    Last edited by Tangento; 02-25-2020 at 10:36 AM.
    -----------

    "You have the option to drill additional holes in the label,
    causing the record to rotate off the side of the turntable"

    -Tom Ellard - Severed Heads

  23. #23
    Digging around a bit, it turns out that the PC game I bought back in '98 was actually Descent II, and now I remember why:
    I had learned that Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy had worked on the score. (which is made quite obvious at 14:13 Ratzez)

    VERY cool stuff here, makes me want to give the game another go:

    -----------

    "You have the option to drill additional holes in the label,
    causing the record to rotate off the side of the turntable"

    -Tom Ellard - Severed Heads

  24. #24
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    The Descent soundtrack comes from the era when video game soundtracks were as elaborately produced as movie soundtracks.

    That reminds me of another "photorealistic walkthrough" game I played, The Legacy of Time. The graphics weren't as good as Riven, and the gameplay was pretty meh, but the soundtrack was fully realized and pretty cool.

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    Robyn Miller, who did the great Myst and Riven soundtracks, in 2015 scored another similar videogame (which I didn't play, having moved on) called "Obduction":



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