Lost in Music

This is a story about a boy and his piano. And also his Internet-equipped computer. Anyway, the piano is more important.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 11/24/2010 13:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

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So here’s where it all begins. You’re sitting, as usual, at the computer desk, your spindly eight-year-old legs dangling in midair as you try vainly to spin your dad’s posh office chair with the sheer force of all forty pounds of you. Giving up on that, you try typing at dad’s computer a little bit. Last week, your dad, the computer engineer, finally decided to install this crazy thing called the Internet into your house, with something called dial-up, after you told him that this rich girl named Julie would not shut up about it in Mrs. Johnson’s class. Dad didn’t really like this idea of having to keep up with technology– it will be almost 1999 when he decides to finally upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, handicapping the household by only four years as opposed to a century –but he did it anyway, because even though he yells at you a lot for not studying hard enough, he’s a pretty nice guy. Also, you told Mom about it, and you have quickly discovered in your meager eight years of life that Mom has a lot more influence over Dad than you’ll ever have.

But now you have the Internet, and since you’re a curious little kid (except in realms of numbers and letters), you decide to visit a few of these websites Julie was talking about. (You hate this girl with all your hateful spirit and really don’t want to enjoy what she seems to enjoy so much, but man, this Internet thing is just too enticing.) You’ve already gone to all the websites you’ve been able to find, on the back of cereal boxes, or advertised on PBS. You Rule School, where Lucky Charms and Count Chocula live, is especially enticing. But it’s time to find something new. Idly clicking on “Bookmarks”, you notice that Dad’s bookmarked this Yahoo! page. It takes about a minute to load (though it’s a treat to see this beautiful website load– any site, really) and suddenly you can search for anything you want. This. Is. Amazing.

Naturally, you search for Zelda first. Well, you search for Celda, but you realize that Zelda is weird and has a Z in front. There are a lot of fansites but one stands out to you: “Brian’s Zelda Page”. Brian is your three-year-old brother and you think it’s the height of comedy that somebody else in the world has the same name as your dinky little brother. Ha ha! You laugh really loudly. But then you click the link and, hey presto, this is amazing all over again. What is this? A message board? People can talk to you over the Internet? But that’s amazing! Everything is amazing. But little do you know that things are about to get even better.

You have no idea who Ganon is. You’re still stuck inside this thing.

Some girl (or, in retrospect, probably a guy) named Saria seems to be the most prolific poster on the message board, next to your little brother’s imposter of course, and idly browsing a few of the posts (a lot of them have big words like “Ganondorf” that you’ve never seen in your life– you soon learn they’re Zelda characters, but then again you’re still stuck on the Great Deku Tree in Ocarina of Time because you don’t know what the heck to do with that locked door with a creepy eye over it) you notice one particular post with a lot of links. “More websites!” you think, giddily. You click on the first one that looks interesting: Mio’s Zelda Music Studio. You’re learning about music right now in Mrs. Hagan’s class. She sings a lot and makes you sing “Baby Beluga”. You’re kind of disturbed most of the time but you like sea animals, so you sing anyway. And anyway, if you don’t sing, she makes you sing by yourself. And nothing is more embarrassing for a grown-up like you to be singing about baby belugas in the deep blue sea that swim so high and swim so free. (Heavens above and the sea below, you’re a little white whale on the go.)

But back to the music studio: oh, great, it’s all in Chinese or something. (It’s Japanese, but you’re an eight-year-old Chinese kid.) How are you supposed to read this stuff? Wait, what’s this? It’s a big button. You click on it, and what appears but a list of more links. You’re starting to get bored about this whole link thing, but you click on one anyway.

It’s music. Sheet music, to be precise, for the piano. You probably should have expected this, since it’s Mio’s Zelda Music Studio, but still, you didn’t realize this was even possible. Who would take the time to write down music to play on the piano? The piano, as you know from Mom’s forced piano lessons, is a boring, boring, boring instrument. But the fact that someone actually took some Zelda music and arranged it for piano means that a) Zelda music must be good and b) piano must be good. Your mind boggles and all your convictions built up over your eight years of life are starting to fall apart. Not knowing what else to do, you print out the music (a newly acquired skill) and go downstairs with the music.

And then you play.

The song’s catchy. Really catchy, actually, a lot moreso than that dumb Ode to Joy thing Mrs. Gee is having you play right now. But you’ve never heard it before and you have no idea what it’s supposed to sound like, barring whatever “Lost Woods” sound like. All you know is that those notes– F-A-B, F-A-B, F-A-B-E-D, B-C-B-G-E –just go round and round in your head, and won’t stop running, and you can’t stop hearing that melody and you can’t stop and you won’t stop until you hear it in the actual game. But before you go off to try to get through the Great Deku Tree again (it must be the last level, you think, it’s so friggin’ hard) you have to play it again. And again. And again. Your mom, meanwhile, is in the kitchen listening to your incessant playing (F-A-B, F-A-B). She is slowly going mad.

An hour and more discouragement later (you just don’t know how to open that dumb door! what’s that eye there for? it won’t stop looking at you!) you decide to print out more sheet music. And more. And still more– until you run out of paper. Dad’s not home and mom’s knowledge of technology stops at calculator usage, and so you’re forced to copy down the music from the computer if you want to play it. And you go downstairs and play some more music, despite your never having heard it before, despite your (often) lack of skill when it comes to certain songs. Other than the incessantly catchy “Lost Woods”, this “Zelda’s Lullaby” piece becomes one of your favorites; “Gerudo Valley” is friggin’ hard but, at least when played slowly, sounds like it might be pretty nice. “Nocturne of Shadow”, though, is way out, especially since when you play it Brian starts to cry and your mom glares at you like you’re made out of rancid Jell-O. But mostly these songs are nice. Before you know it, you’re playing piano for far longer than you ever have before, and though you still rush through all the songs that you’re supposed to play, ignoring them in favor of “Zora’s Domain” (which is friggin’ hard but sounds like it’d be really impressive to play for Jul– er, Brian), Mrs. Gee starts to comment that your piano technique is really improving, and have you been practicing more, because you’re suddenly able to grasp some inner motifs of songs much quicker and blah blah blah boring stuff. All you care about at this point is Zelda music, and every day you go back to the Zelda Music Studio to see if it’s updated.

Many years later, you’ve long since stopped going to the Music Studio. The Internet’s no longer magical, and having beaten Ocarina of Time some time ago (so you had to shoot the eye– what a concept!), you’re on other, next-generation games now. (Luigi’s Mansion scares the crap out of you.) But you still play piano. And you still play ‘Lost Woods”– as if you could ever forget that glorious piece. Even your brother has gotten in on the action, learning “Lost Woods”, falling in love with it just like you did, causing every moment in your house to be filled with Kokiri music. One day, while slowly driving your mother insane via a visit to “Song of Storms”, you suddenly realize that you no longer have any Zelda sheet music– all of it has been recycled or thrown about or otherwise lost, and you’d really like to chance “Zora’s Domain” again after giving up on it all those years ago. You vaguely remember the website you got it from, but you haven’t visited in a while. You quickly type up a search query in Google (Yahoo!, you have learned, is for silly people) and, though it takes a while (Brian’s Zelda website is long defunct; its denizens disappearing into the nether) you find a link to Mio’s Zelda Music Studio. Bracing yourself, you click the link– and nothing pops up. The site is long gone– just a small notice in Japanese that, when Babelfish translates it, amounts to “this page has been deleted, we are very sorry”. This saddens you to an unimaginable extent. You’re never going to be able to play “Zora’s Domain” anymore. At least, not without sheet music.

The Legend of Zelda: Best Collection. After Mio’s page died out, you bought this book. It makes you happy.

What Mio’s Zelda Music Studio has done for you– that is, what the kind soul who ran it, as well as Koji Kondo, who wrote the music, as well as the Zelda series, which provided the vessel for the music –has already been incredible, and you know it. You’ve managed to kindle an intense love for the piano, as well as all the music you can possibly make for it, and at the same time songs like “Sheik’s Theme” or “Treasure Chest Game” have honed your skills to the point where you can make a pretty good argument for the practice of Zelda songs as a supplement to a classical piano education. Mrs. Gee expresses excitedly how you’ve grown from someone who used to despise practicing the piano to someone who actually really enjoys it (even if you’re not playing Zelda songs all the time), and indeed it’s a love that will stay with you for your whole life. Maybe it’s not a life-saving skill, or a life-changing one at that– and it’s certainly not a social skill, considering that the piano is generally a solo instrument. (Julie plays the violin in the school orchestra, and makes fun of you all the time for playing an essentially friendless instrument. You don’t hate her that much anymore, but sometimes you still want to beat her over the head with your friendless instrument.) But you like the piano, and you like what it’s done for you. It’s changed your life, even if it hasn’t others.

So you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. And as you sit down to play “Lost Woods” another time– to the despair of your aching mother’s ears –your only regret is that you can’t thank Koji Kondo or Mio in person. Then, playing some more, you forget about it. They probably speak Japanese anyway. But somehow, they’ve managed to speak to you anyway.

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