ReMix: Wild Arms "A Symphonic Tale"
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Well, it's certainly been awhile since our last posted mix, but after getting engaged and celebrating my 29th birthday (thanks to all who chimed on the announcement threads!), I sorta needed a break. Actually, I ended up working quite a bit on OCR stuffs, just not posting anything; among other things, we wrapped some more interviews regarding SSF2THDR (acronym to end all acronyms!) and I finally finished my Doom 2 arrangement from the upcoming album, which should be here SOON.
At any rate, we're back, we're bad, and we've got something special for you this weekend. We're proud to introduce newcomer Paul Levasseur, who with the assistance of the University of Manitoba Symphony Orchestra has provided OC ReMix with our first LIVE orchestral ReMix! Kaleb Grace actually sent Paul our way, and it's taken us a very long time to post his (excellent) arrangement of Wild Arms as performed by the U of M orchestra, largely because we wanted to wait for the right time to coordinate, talk to a few of the folks involved, etc. The arrangement speaks for itself, but the story behind it is an interesting tale of VGM arrangement "invading" the academic musical world, so to speak... Paul writes:
"I currently attend the University Of Manitoba where I am studying composition as a major and Cello as a minor. I have one year left in my studies and then I intend to pursue composition at the graduate level. I have a website that Kaleb runs and I have some original work up there.
I've often contemplated using my compositional abilities as a game composer and it was this goal that first convinced me to apply for music school to study composition. Since then, I've rediscovered many great works of art and I really enjoy composing for the sake of creating something. I think that the Wild Arms track 'To The End of the Wilderness' was a piece of music that captivated me and eventually convinced me to buy a PSOne. The music in that game was solid throughout and it was very influential on my decision to study composition further. As a result of this, I decided to arrange it for orchestra after taking my orchestration class last fall. An ensemble in the states had requested game music to be arranged for orchestra so I intended my arrangement to be performed by them.
I initially asked our (U of M Symphony Orchestra) director Earl Stafford to look over my score and provide feedback. He told me he'd read through it (with the orchestra) for me instead, but when he saw the arrangement he was very impressed and said he'd put it on the final concert.
We almost didn't get a recording of the piece. I was counting on my colleague, Borisa to have recording equipment set up since his piece was being premiered and he had assured me that he wanted it recorded. Well, I arrived, ready to play the concert and we had a sound technician present so I assumed everything was fine. Unfortunately, he began to pack up his gear at intermission so I gave him my contact info and begged him to stay and record my piece. I am so very pleased I did this, since the arrangement is such a great addition to my portfolio.
I think when I approached the arrangement, I was thinking of how I could adapt it for orchestra. I was presented with a few challenges, one of which is how to mimic the sound envelope of a guitar. I decided to use plucked strings with sustained notes in the wind instruments for these parts. This decision was great, because it provided a connection with the original work. I also used thematic material from the original piece. This is obvious, especially in the fanfare near the end of the arrangement. I decided that the melody and original chord progression is what every listener identifies with and wants to hear, so I purposed to have this occur at at the climax of the work. This is important, since every musical event before this drives towards this pinnacle. I transformed the material by the use of orchestral tutti, the strings playing melody with an occasional flute doubling, and the winds and brass playing the rhythmical accompaniment capped with percussion.
As far as the rest of the arrangement is concerned, I took a three note guitar melody from the original and used that as a re-occurring puzzle piece throughout the arrangement. Indeed, the solo cello opening begins the arrangement with said puzzle piece. This use of short identifiable musical ideas is called motivic development and the musical idea is called a motive. From there, I just listened to my 'ear' (the inner voice that tells me which notes to use) and altered the harmonies to what I felt was more suitable for what I was trying to achieve.
In the end, I think all the elements of the original are present, but the music is rewritten for a different ensemble (orchestra) and transformed in genre to a short symphonic overture, which is much more classical and coherent in structure. In short, I used Michiko Naruke's material to create a new piece of music based off of her ideas."
Which is what we're all about here, so it's awesome Paul submitted this. The story is pretty classic too - VGM inspires student to continue pursuing composition major, student arranges said VGM, arrangement gets approved for actual performance by university orchestra, the whole thing's captured in a live recording, and the end result gets posted here, where hopefully it will inspire others, in addition to being enjoyed by a wide audience of VGM fans. It's worth mentioning that Larry and I had the chance to attend a concert by the UMGSO earlier in the year, who've also been doing great things for VGM on the college campus; it's great to see more enthusiasm in the academic world for this music! The arrangement starts out with solo cello, then ensemble strings ease in with a cymbal roll, joined later by winds and brass. At 0'56" you've got beautiful horn, followed by a gorgeous violin backed by pizzicato and flute. I've got to say, Paul's got a really firm handle on changing up between ensemble and solo passages, and blending that together... his studies have paid off, big time. The violin solo at 1'53" almost made me cry; Wild Arms is perfect for this sort of epic, embellished incarnation. As someone who performed in a concert band in high school, I personally also really admire the recording and performance here. Is it spotless? Of course not... the more musicians you've got on stage, the greater potential for minor intonation issues, page turning sounds, etc., not to mention audience noise, but honestly this is pretty damn clean, with superb stereo imaging and professional, expressive, and genuine performances.
I love many genres of music; it's why I encourage such variety on OCR. I personally listen to film soundtracks, rap, classic rock, modern rock, anime OSTs, reggae, techno, whatever. However, I find that in the vast spectrum of music, there is a certain range of emotions, power, and impact that only a live symphony orchestra can capture. It's the weapon of choice for some of the greatest composers who've ever lived, and remains as relevant today as it was back then, for good reason: the web of relationships, the tension of that many disparate yet complimentary instruments all contributing to part of the same whole, the entire symbiotic fabric of such a performance... takes the breath away. When done right, of course. Paul's done it right, without doubt, and the University of Manitoba has given him all he could have asked for - an awesome performance of his arrangement. I'm extremely proud to be posting the gift they've collectively given to the world of VGM here on OCR.
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