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So I attended PLAY! for the first time and now I have to rant


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I'm a little late on the uptake here, I know (and apologise haha) but the weekend I got to see PLAY! was all sorts of incredible as Select Start had been playing Video Games Live (and getting all sorts of VIP happiness) less than two days prior. So yea...a full dosage weekend of VGM, composer meeting/networking, and hilariously - I didn't take a single autograph. I think I was too immersed in conversation. There's nothing like debating aesthetics with Jeremy Soule, gamer show gossiping with Tallarico, getting a hug from Mrs. Jack Wall because you were bawling your eyes out at the music, and getting a card thrown your way by Gerard K. Marino as he tries to get the entire band to go for drinks...all in the same weekend. ^_^

So far as the performances go, I have this massive article in the works that I can't start on until graduate school auditions are over, but I wrote general impressions in an OUS boards post a while back which I shall just copy-paste some of here...

During PLAY!, Arnie Roth being sick resulting in the associate conductor stepping in at the last minute made for a sadly sloppy Seattle Symphony (!!!!!) and we got to hear the concertmaster flub (I will not deny that it was really disappointing to hear him play the "Time's Scar" solo so very Weiniawski-ish >_<). But then, they also didn't know the material. There was a lack of energy in the performance because they didn't have much to musically refer to. For most of those musicians, it was comparable to playing a Beethoven symphony without ever having heard it in that you don't know what goes where or which parts are significant when the conductor isn't familiar with the music either...I'm not sure if that really makes sense...hehe

One of the major differences I noticed about the VGL orchestra (which was a contracted personnel orchestra) and the Seattle Symphony was that the former orchestra still gave the music their all, as much smaller and under-rehearsed as they may have been in comparison to the larger orchestra. VGL's orchestra's performance of "Kingdom Hearts" dissolved 3 of the 4 Select Start girls in tears (guilty) both times we heard it - once in rehearsal and then in the actual performance. Sadly I wasn't moved QUITE as much by any Play's performances. (However, to give them credit where it is due, the oboe solo from the Play! performance of 'Kingdom Hearts' DID shoot straight through my soul and got me a little teary. I'm hard pressed to think of a comparably gorgeous solo in my past four years of constant concert attendances. That man is badass.) The Guild Wars piece was a surprising highlight since I'd never heard any of the music from it before and I found it really nice. Larry Kenton's orchestration was just awesome.

Is this to say that by the time I got to hear PLAY! I was desensitized by common compositions presented? Perhaps. But I still enjoyed hearing many of the pieces that VGL didn't play: "Battlefield 1942", "Liberi Fatali", and "Guild Wars" (to name a few off the top of my head) really stuck with me.

Oh, and how lame and unnecessary was it to mic a full symphony orchestra? If Play!'s directors are going to tout how amazing it is to have a full symphony orchestra playing VGM, then leave the microphones out - especially when levels are sub-par (percussion treble was far too high) and the orchestra's playing on their home turf in an naturally acoustically gorgeous hall. Also - major disappointment to discover that the "electric guitar" during 'Silent Hill 2' was actually a keyboard with a wiggle stick. Play! couldn't afford to find an electric guitar player in Seattle? Seriously, now.

At the same time, VGL definitely needs to make sure they have a full percussion section. Such an addition might mess with the click tracking if the percussionists aren't skilled, but personally, as a freelance violinist, I get really nerve-wracked and wibbly coordinating to pre-recorded material, what with physics and sound travel and all. Perhaps a full percussion section would even mean one less thing for the soundman to have to coordinate (though I can perfectly understand if the case was that the performance of VGL I caught didn't have a full percussion section because of contracting issues.) There's also a little musical integrity lost when you realize that the musicians are, on a certain level, having to be robots to the click track - conductor included.

In the end however, and completely honestly, without any sort of diplomatic bias, can't really pick one over the other. They both cater wonderfully to two very different crowds. If you're looking for a more laid-back, "fun" setting (which actually contributes to not being able to hear the music about 15% of the time), go with Video Games Live. If you're looking to hear a respectful, charming love note video game music, go to Play.

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If you're looking to hear a respectful, charming love note video game music, go to Play.

That basically summeizes my feelings on attending PLAY! Arnie Roth really understands this aspect of producing the concerts and chooses pieces accordingly. This is particularly why I like PLAY! more, because it PLAYS as a symphonic concert. Also, VGM needs this kind of recognition as having sustainability just as much as it deserves having a more mainstream presentation like VideoGames Live. The two concerts balance each other by showing two different sides of presenting the same music.

I can only hope that in the future, touring performances of VGM can also cater to other styles and genres of music, such as live rock and electronica. Also, these symphonic concerts need more Hitman music.

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Your story of sitting behind Marty O'Donnell reminds me of my story of going to the PLAY! premiere in Chicago. I had nabbed front row seats and came sort of early. As I walked by my seats I saw some seats with paper on them and didn't think much of them until I got situated. I turned around again to look at the paper and they had these names written on them: Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuzo Koshiro etc.

I can't remember everyone who was there but good to say I was seating right in front of about 5 or so pretty prominent Japanese composers. Was pretty cool and I didn't really have the guts to turn around and say anything to them (my Japanese was much much weaker than it is now so they probably wouldn't have understood me). Oh yea Jason Hayes (WoW composer) sat to my left and I did get to talk to him a bit. I also think Jeremy Soule was either to my left or right.

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