We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jason Michael Paul, producer of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, and the mind behind Dear Friends: Music From Final Fantasy and PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. In our interview, Jason let us into the creative processes he and his team go through to transform the classic video game music we love into elaborate, symphonic art that pays homage to some of the greatest video game franchises. Read on to get a peek into the world of video game symphonies, the games and composers that have inspired Jason, and more.
Nintendojo: What were your favorite video games growing up, and how did they influence your passion for music?
Jason Michael Paul: Music and games have always gone hand in hand for me. I studied piano, guitar, and percussion in my youth, but I grew up with gaming, as well. I’ve always enjoyed the music of Koji Kondo, Yasunori Mitsuda– I could go on. Songs like theirs are so intertwined with their titles, and when you hear them, you always remember those moments when you were experiencing the games. Obviously the Zelda series was (and is) a big one for me; Ocarina of Time is still one of my all-time favorites.
ND: You were at the helm of the Dear Friends: Music From Final Fantasy concert and PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. Tell us a little bit about what it was like to translate video game music from electronic sounds to fully orchestrated pieces, and the challenges you encountered.
JMP: As with any piece being arranged for an orchestra, sometimes the instruments aren’t always one-to-one, but then 8-bit music doesn’t always sound as good performed live in its original form. We try and give the pieces the full “Hollywood’ treatment, making sure the overall spectacle isn’t lost. Zelda in particular has a complicated score, with a variety of different songs in different styles, so there’s a lot that goes into getting it right.
ND: What about the Legend of Zelda specifically inspired you to dedicate a symphony to the series?
JMP: Beyond my own affinity for the series, it’s especially gratifying to work with Zelda thanks to its rich history that spans fans of all ages. Everyone has their own favorite Zelda (I mentioned Ocarina of Time, right?) that they feel a deep connection with, but best of all, the series is still growing today, meaning that our Symphony can also grow and evolve over time. Just this year we added songs from A Link Between Worlds, and we re-mastered our selection from Majora’s Mask in honor of the Majora’s Mask 3D release.
ND: What are the deciding factors in which songs and which games are represented in the symphonic movements of Symphony of the Goddesses?
JMP: We want to represent many games that are iconic to the franchise. It’d be nice to include every game and every track, in a perfect world! We choose our pieces to bring together a complete four-movement symphony that evokes the hero’s journey. We do make some time for extra favorites, though, just because we can.
ND: Do you receive input from the original composers of these songs? If so, what is it like working and collaborating together?
JMP: I work directly with Nintendo series composer Koji Kondo and Eiji Aonuma. Everything is done under the direct supervision of the original creators.
ND: What sort of changes do you have to make to the original songs in order to fit your desired flow or feel, and how do you decide to make those changes?
JMP: It’s mostly a question of getting the instruments right to match the “feel” of the original songs. As I noted earlier, 8-bit music doesn’t always translate directly to the symphony. Collaborating with the original composers goes a long way towards making those choices, of course.
ND: What other video game franchise’s music, Nintendo or otherwise, would you next like to see represented symphonically (we’re excited for Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions!)?
JMP: Do you have room for several more pages in this interview?
Have you attended the Zelda symphony or any other video game symphony or concert? Will you be attending Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions in a city near you? Drop a comment below!