Video Game music gets its due


I’ve long thought that even the earliest 8-bit Nintendo scores were often much more complex than people realized or even thought to care about. But there are some classic scores from that era and recently the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. finally paid tribute to the music of videogames.

Video Games Live has been performed more than 40 times over the past two years, in venues as stuffy as Toronto’s Massey Hall, Rio de Janeiro’s Claro Hall, and London’s Royal Festival Hall. At every show, Tallarico says, he’s been met with the same unbridled, uncouth enthusiasm. (In Dallas this year, one fan asked him to autograph her breast. He complied.) It’s the kind of response he’s dreamed of since he was 10, when he’d use his Commodore 64 to splice together his favorite sound effects and then invite friends to come by and watch him play air guitar over the tracks. As an adult, he has written scores for games like Advent Rising and Earthworm Jim, and today he hosts The Electric Playground on G4 TV, a cable network devoted to gaming. But despite years of trying, he could never sell concert promoters on the idea of the world’s greatest symphony halls hosting a show based on videogame music. So, in 2005, Tallarico launched a show of his own. “The industry wouldn’t make us rock stars,” he says, “so we decided to make us rock stars ourselves.”

If classical musicians are won over to the joys of videogames, well, great. But the reason bookers love these shows is that they do the reverse ? they introduce videogame geeks to the symphony. “It’s an entryway,” says Kim Witman, director of classical and opera planning for Wolf Trap, an outdoor concert site near Washington, DC, which hosted Play! in 2006. “It’s bridging the gap ? taking something that they know and using it to ease them into something unfamiliar.” Indeed, for anyone who hasn’t hit middle age, classical concert halls are pretty unfamiliar: Only 23 percent of classical music audiences are younger than 35. Video Games Live and Play!, on the other hand, pack every venue with twenty- and thirtysomethings, each paying up to $125 a ticket.

“Opera was invented to bring young people into the symphony,” Tallarico says. “They said, Let’s build sets and use costumes and tell stories.’ We consider ourselves the opera of the 21st century.”

Awesome. This might blow The Advantage out of the water in concept and execution.

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