Archive for December, 2007

Music in my life

December 12, 2007

From about the ages of 12 to 18, I played French Horn in middle and high school with occasional forays into trumpet for Jazz Band.  When you play classical music long enough, you develop a special affection for a select set of pieces.  For me, there are two pieces (one that I played, one that I have only heard played by other sypmohnies) that really stand out.

The one that I’ve played is the fourth movement from Antonin Dvorak’s 9th symphony, a.k.a. the New World Symphony.  The song begins and ends in glorious fanfare of arpeggiating low-end brass (the beginning prominently features the french horn [I played the solo in middle school!]).  My band instructor later gave me a CD of a recording of the entire symphony, including an unabridged version of the fourth movement, and also a recording of Dvorak’s 8th.  I would listen to both all the time and really came to cherish that music. (You can find fairly decent recordings of both here.  They are noticeable flaws, though.)

The song that I’ve heard several times but never played is called “One-Winged Angel” by Nobuo Uematsu.  Uematsu is actually a paragon of video game music; his compositions won him fame in the early nineties for his work in the hugely successful Final Fantasy series.  As the technology improved and video games moved to CD, so Uematsu was able to write longer pieces for inclusion the Final Fantasy video game series, beginning with Final Fantasy VII for the Sony Playstation.  The climax of this game (“the last boss fight” in video game parlance) is accompanied by a fierce work (OWA) that, even when rendered in MIDI, is quite gripping.  One-Winged Angel was later rearranged for symphonic orchestra with choral parts.  Rendered this way, OWA is, in my humble opinion, a modern masterpiece.  (I haven’t been able to find a recording of OWA, but there are several YouTube videos of live performances of it.  Here’s one.)

I respond viscerally to both of these pieces when I hear them.  I get chills and goosebumps.  They stand their own as truly fantastic classical pieces, well worth a listen for anyone with an appreciation for excellent classical music. 

Incidentally, video game music is becoming a premier new forum for classical composition.  My brother and I attended a concert of orchestral arrangments video game music at Wolf Trap in Fairfax, Virginia about a year ago.  They played OWA, as well as themes from The Legend of Zelda, Mario Brothers, World of Warcraft, Sonic the Hedgehog, and several others.  Lest we demonize the video game too much (and it does have its negative aspects), no player will go long without being exposed to some truly exquisite compositions.