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Video Game Music Outside of its Original Context: Remixes and Fan Arangements

January 10, 2011

This is an area that is significantly different from the other ‘out of context’ situations I have looked at. With the Original Sountrack releases and Live Performances the music has not changed in any significant way from as it appeared inside the context of the original video game.

With video game music remixes and arrangements the original music is modified, reinterpreted and rearranged in a significant way. Having musicians and composers putting their own original take on video game music is, I think, significant, especially for video game music as a ‘genre’ or practice in its own right.

Another reason why these remixes and arrangements are significant is because, unlike films or music that can remain popular decades after their original release, video games are constantly moving forward technologically. This makes it hard for games that came out in the 1980s, for example, to remain current or to have any contextual value today. This is also true for the music from these games. And it is for earlier and forgotten games that I think remixes have the most value and significance to, because it helps make the game’s original music relevant today and introduces it to a new audience who may never of been introduced to it otherwise.

To back up this claim, it is the older games that are getting remixed and reinterpreted the most. The principle video game music remixing and fan site – OverClocked Remixlists figures for the most remixed games with the year they were released. Here is the top ten (current from 10/01/11):

Chrono Trigger, 1995 – has 95 remixes and arrangements of it’s music.

Final Fantasy VII, 1997 – has 87 remixes

Final Fantasy VI, 1994 – has 74 remixes

Mega Man 2, 1988 – has 47 remixes

Final Fantasy IV, 1991 – has 38 remixes

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, 1991 – has 36 remixes

Xenogears, 1998 – has 36 remixes

Donkey Kong Country 2, 1995 – has 34 remixes

Secret of Mana, 1993 – has 28 remixes

Sonic the Hedgehog 3, 1994 – has 28 remixes

Looking at these figures, it is clear that the most popular games to have their music remixed and reinterpreted are those for the early to mid 1990’s. All of them are over a decade old and most a bit more also. I think these figures show that people are passionate about music from older games and want to promote and keep alive their music, which backs up why I think this kind of remixing is important for video game music as a whole.

But as well as this value, they also have value as pieces of music in their own right. Contextually, video game remixes have to fit two main contexts. They have to contain a significant amount of the original piece’s elements, be it melodies, chord progressions, structure etc. While remaining true to the original piece of music, it must also take it to a new context. An example of this would be where a simple chiptune piece from an 1980s arcade game has been rearranged into a  jazz piece. This piece would have to relate to the original piece of music, as well as fitting the new genre it was placing upon it, in this case jazz.

Here is an audio example of what I mean by this:

Here is the ‘Terra Theme’ from Final Fantasy 6 (The original)

Now here is an arrangement of that piece of music from professional video game composer Jeremy Soule:

Here the original piece of music, completely made in midi, has been turned into an imaginative orchestral piece. The original piece is quite basic with the main melody being supported by a basic bass line, some strings and brass and a drum beat.

The remixed version has been sequenced with orchestral samples and maybe even some live playing (it’s hard to tell, because the arranger didn’t say what they had used to make the arrangement). The arrangement is quite lavish and almost romantic in style.

I think in this instance the arrangement of the piece has brought the original piece of music into a more rel

Importantly, the practice of remixing video game music is a good way for composers and musicians to get involved and noticed by the video game community if that haven’t had the opportunity to score music for an actual game. And in some cases, people have gotten work by the strength of their video game remixes. It is my view that this should be an essential part of someones practice if they wanted to get their name out there in the video game music world.

In my interview with Andrew Aversa he confirmed that his love of remixing video game music led him to peruse a career which eventually led him to writing music for video games as a career:

“My love for creating ReMixes led to a love for creating music of all kinds, which in turn led me to focus on music as a career. Nowadays, I still make ReMixes primarily for the fun of it, though it’s also something that helps my career; many fans of my original works heard about me first through OC ReMix.”

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