ReMix: Secret of Mana "Into the Funk of It"
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- Game: Secret of Mana (Square, 1993, SNES)
- ReMixer(s): HatTrax, krissalad, MaximumHamburgers, mklachu, Tetrimino
- Composer(s): Hiroki Kikuta
- Song(s): "Into the Thick of It"
- Posted: 2016-02-02, evaluated by djpretzel
- Terms (BETA): energetic funky fusion live-instruments organ piano prog-rock synth tempo-variable timesig-4-4 timesig-6-8 timesig-irregular violin
HatTrax of Tetrimino says everything that needs to be said, making my job WAY too easy:
"Hello! Tetrimino here! This is our fifth submission to OC ReMix. Our lineup consists of Michaela Nachtigall (mklachu) on violin, Kristopher Salada (krissalad) on piano/synths, Matt Mukerjee (HatTrax) on bass & audio production, and Mitchell Cairns (MaximumHamburgers) on drums. Here's a video of our performance edited by our good friend and fellow musician Marc Papeghin (http://youtube.com/marcpapeghin): http://youtu.be/JjnB5NuH63M. This is Matt writing to you today, so this is going to be a long read. ;P
tl;dr: Epic Secret of Mana Tetrimino-style arrangement without constraining instrumentation to four live instruments.
For our 10K YouTube subscriber special, we wanted to try something different. We've always worked with a "live band" limitation; our arrangements have solely consisted of violin, piano, bass, and drums. For this special occasion, we decided to remove this limit -- what would Tetrimino sound like if we expanded our instrumentation? We wanted to sound bigger and better than before, but still like "Tetrimino." So, for this piece, we chose to add a lot of synth and piano parts to our arrangement, and eschew more common choices like guitar.
This time, we wanted to try new ideas across the board: new arrangement and instrumentation ideas, new playing techniques, new approaches to recording, new mixing ideas, new video ideas, etc. For example, we made great strides in our instrumentation, by having Kris play multiple synth parts split across his hands. Combining these split keyboard parts with the rest of our instrumentation allowed us to create even richer arrangements! We decided to go full force to bring you guys our most energetic jazz fusion/prog rock remix to date!
The piece we decided on is "Into the Thick of It," the field theme from the SNES RPG Secret of Mana. We go "all out" to turn this simple field theme into a jazz fusion/progressive rock tour de force! The original piece is fairly conservative, as you'd expect for a field theme. The focus of the original is a repeating arpeggio on guitar, fleshed out with a flute melody, choir pad, and some string harmonies. The familiar "A" section is the bulk of the song, with a short "B" section where the choir pad takes the lead. There's also an often forgotten sparse "C" section which provides a break from arpeggios.
We decided to arrange the piece in our unique jazz-fusion style but heavily borrow stylistic elements from progressive music. We turn this piece on its head by focusing not on the "A" section, but the less well-recognized "B" and "C" sections.
In our arrangement, the intro is the "B" section, with a very dreamy piano with synth elements, the bass hinting at the melody from that section, and some tasteful cymbal work. We then head into the familiar "A" section, and get the first taste of our expanded instrumentation: organ and piano parts together. This freedom meant there was less need for a left-hand piano part, which frees up the low end for bass to shine. Bass is doing some tasty slap riffs with some sloshy hats from the drums throughout.
At 0:40, things go prog. 3 x 7/8 + 4/4 complex meter reinterpretation of the "A" section, lead by arpeggios on the piano. When we finally reach the "B" at 1:04, we breathe a sigh of relief; back in common time. The energy drops dramatically at 1:18, quoting the "C" section from the original.
At 1:31, we hit our first original section, a violin feature section. The key focus in the section is space. Lots of rests, and thus, lots of punches. Lots of interplay between piano, bass, and drums that we pride ourselves on. Violin provides a particularly charged solo, especially in the second round.
At 2:03, things get very... different. Piano gives way to some ominous synths and a slap bass and drum groove. From there, things get epic. We already heard an epic violin solo and we'll shortly hear a virtuoso piano solo, but this section is for bass and drums. Intense double-thumb slap grooves on bass and tons of prog metal fills and double bass on the drums! Stylistically, the section was arranged with Lavos's "Final Battle" theme from Chrono Trigger in mind, but the melody riffs off the "B" section melody from "Into the Thick of It." The energy of the section grows to a head and then the dynamics drop down again, quoting the "C" section from the original.
At 3:08, we enter a jazzy piano feature section, using our original 4-person instrumentation constraint; a classic "Tetrimino" jazz-fusion section. We continue the piano feature into a gospel-like section, with some added percussion.
Finally, at 3:46 we play through the "B" section two last times as a reprise, once normally and once with extended octaves in both bass and violin. Just to throw in one last proggy bit, we end with a large drum buildup in 3 x 6/8 + 4/4.
PHEW! We hope you enjoy the nostalgia!"
Not all musicians/composers/arrangers enjoy writing about their work, or are even *able* to remember & convey all the detail and structure that Matt does... it provides a tremendous insight, and unlike my own analysis, it's coming straight from the horse's mouth. In this case the "horse" is a team of immensely talented artists who should now be quite familiar, after four equally compelling and varied featured arrangements. While their music speaks tomes about their distinct personalities as musicians & cohesive synergy as a group, the additional background info Matt's provided has been icing on the cake, offering an invaluable glance behind the scenes. This jam breaks their traditional constraints & branches out the instrumentation, but things are still very tight, with each note of each bar accomplishing something and each individual performance shining throught. Larry Oji writes:
"For any VGM fan, Tetrimino listed on a track is practically an automatic seal of approval. Meanwhile, "Into the Thick of It" is such a rich, catchy theme that immediately stands out as something arrangers can naturally build off of, so this was a true treat to find in the inbox. As usual, the synergy is strong with these extremely talented online collaborators, with strong performances & solid mixing that allow the beauty and skill of each part to be clearly heard AND combine well with everything else in play.
Props to the group for working in some more aggressive stuff within the piece, largely driven by the bass and percussion from 2:17-2:57, all without sacrificing any of the trademark energy, dynamics, and upbeat fun of their usual jazzy pieces. Once again, Michaela, Kristopher, Matt, and Mitchell are a fearsome fusion foursome. I hope to attend a live show of theirs some day! :-)"
What he said :) Great stuff, breaks some new ground for an already groundbreaking group, and pays funky, progressive homage to the masterful music of Hiroki Kikuta!
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