Quick: name a few iconic tunes from video games. There is a good chance that one of the songs you conjured was the main theme from The Legend of Zelda, right? The music from the Zelda series has been part of pop culture and an imperative staple in gaming history since the game debuted on the Famicom system in 1986. (Even Trent Reznor did a tribute!) The Legend of Zelda was released in North America on the NES a year later, in 1997.
That puts us, in 2017, at the 30th anniversary of the franchise, and fans of the series and its music are invited to celebrate in a big way. Presented by Jason Michael Paul Entertainment, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on May 20. Designed to warp fans through the past 30 years of Zelda through a live orchestra performance and multimedia experience, the concert will feature memorable and nostalgic pieces as well as some new surprises.
I had the chance to ask Jason Michael Paul (Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy and Play! A Video Game Symphony) a few questions about his work, his love of game soundtracks, and the upcoming show.
Ansley Grams (TCG): What is your personal relationship with video-game music?
Jason Michael Paul: I have been playing video games and enjoying the music to those games over 30 years.
TCG: Was there a specific game soundtrack or specific song that started that relationship?
Jason: The original Zelda theme has definitely been ingrained in my mind. Also music from Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Metroid, Mario, Street Fighter.
TCG: Do you have a current favorite soundtrack or song?
Jason: I am enjoying our Zelda symphony arrangements from the new Breath of the Wild game! They are amazing and a reason enough to attend the Zelda Symphony.
TCG: As technology advances, so does the potential for video-game soundtracks. We’ve gone from blips and boops to complex MIDIs, then incorporating real vocals for select tracks, on to full-blown orchestras. But we are seeing a shift to include much more intimate soundtracks as well, such as Gustavo Santaolalla’s The Last of Us. Where would you like to see soundtracks go in the future?
Jason: I would like to see more video-game music soundtracks being recorded with orchestra and choir in the studio. I want to hear actual musicians and singers performing and recording these soundtracks like film scores.
TCG: When producing material from properties such as Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, which are so deeply nostalgic and often personally meaningful for the audience, how do you stay true to the source material while making it a new experience?
Jason: I always want to stay true to the game and the original creators who made it. If we follow that rule, then the fans will continue to want to come to our concerts. The concerts are truly an extension of the original creators. I am just merely a facilitator.
Hola from Buenos Aires – the first stop on the 2017 tour! Thanks to all our amazing fans tonight <3 pic.twitter.com/V8MHdSYoQq
— Zelda Symphony (@zeldasymphony) March 18, 2017
TCG: Zelda and ocarina are pretty inseparable. How do you incorporate a musical element like that, which is almost a character itself, while keeping things interesting?
Jason: We incorporate similar sounds for the ocarina from other instruments. In some shows, we have performed with an actual ocarina player and use two harps as part of the live concert.
TCG: Video-game music has come so far that many non-gamers are listening to soundtracks. How do you make non-gamers feel welcome at your performances without turning off avid gamers?
Jason: The show is designed to appeal to all persons. We don’t want to alienate anyone, but still make it so that people become even more engaged with The Legend of Zelda. There is something for everyone!
TCG: Is there anything you’d like the geek community here in Minnesota to know about the upcoming concert?
Jason: We’ve got Breath of the Wild music and visuals, “Ballad of the Wind Fish,” a new symphony movement from Skyward Sword, and a new encore that will be performed.
So give yourself a little extra time to find your Master Sword, grab a Bow-Wow (it’s dangerous to go alone!), and pull out your rupee bag for Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. Tickets are available here.