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Most Expressive VGM


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Hey! There's been interesting threads talking about certain kinds of VGM. This time I am wondering what you have heard that is super expressive and substantial, with a structure that perhaps goes through different movements, or at least has intro/verse/bridge/chorus etc that surpasses the usual "background music" of a lot of VGM.

I know everything can't be Ni No Kuni, the FF6 opera, or similar, but what are some examples you know of super substantial VGM that surpasses the norm?

A good example for me that comes to mind is the

soundtrack...
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For me, I found "Ami" and "The Oath" from the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack to be stand out pieces from the rest of the music from the game. It could be because I've heard both of them in an arranged format that really accentuated the overall structures of the tracks.

Hm.

And there's several tracks from Baten Kaitos that grab my attention as truly spectacular songs, but the names are escaping me. Should break that out and listen for them again. XD

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I'm a big fan of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's music so that always comes to mind in this case. LOS2 has some cool diversity,

for instance reminds me a lot of Don Davis' work on The Matrix films.

Batman Arkham City also has some really excellent music, great stuff. I like the action/predator music but the scores for the City inbetween all that

.

The big battle songs in

are pretty damn good. There's a lot I like about this soundtrack.

Whilst it's on my mind,

was one of the first video game scores to ever be recorded live and it has some awesome stuff, blew my mind at the time back in the Dreamcast days.

Also continuing on with Richard Jacques if you can find the Pursuit Force OST (the first one) that also has some damn nice stuff for a PSP game.

has music too good for the game, still a good game though.

I love the credits song to

, I'm not particularly fond of japanese vocal music when it comes to some JRPGs but this one gets me, lovely violin solo later too.

I could list a lot more but that's more than enough for now!

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Anything from Fittest (besides the Startup and Menu themes). Each of those pieces could easily stand alone as something you could put in a playlist and enjoy, especially Photosynthesis, Fusion Master, and Morsecode.

Surprise. Tim posts a Zircon track. :-P

Anyway, when I hear/see the words "most expressive" used in regards to video game music, I'm torn between two tracks.

Tomb Raider probably wins, though.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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Some of the video game music that i feel is most expressive to me are

from the game Rygar for playstation 2 and the
to the Snes game Terranigma. That song is always a 6 minutes that feel good.

Edit : Forgot to mention that i really liked that Starcraft II theme.

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Surprise. Tim posts a Zircon track. :-P

I'm about to do it again. :lol:

http://zirconstudios.bandcamp.com/album/pf2d-original-soundtrack

This was done in 2011 but released in 2014. Almost all orchestral. Most expressive tracks IMO are Sticky Sewers, Use Those Jetpacks, and Airborne Action (which for some reason isn't released???). :) (btw, the Bandcamp play volume seems quieter than the actual download volume)

Edited by timaeus222
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is pretty expressive, and the arranged piano collection version even more so.
You might be missing the point of the thread. :-) looking for stuff that is not background music, stuff that is very expressive, maybe even emotional in its expression of its movements

What Brandon is (I think) asking for is video game music that is also art music. Art music is music crafted to be "perfection", demonstrating an ideal and developing a theme that the composer wants to expand on. Dancing Mad is a prime example, but of course, everyone knows Dancing Mad.

It's a tall order to begin with, game composers are usually on such hard deadlines that they can't dedicate a lot of attention to making one really stellar piece in their soundtrack. Usually you see this when tracks have pretty good 1-minute sections that are padded around with sparse instrumentation or just continuously loop for sake of length. I noticed this particularly in Darksiders 2; each track had a pretty good theme but these themes lasted only so long (maybe 30 seconds of substantial material) and then that was it. Just vamp and padding to make it longer, no musical development beyond. It's not a problem, but the kind of stuff Brandon wants is music that goes beyond that.

Edited by Neblix
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Some of the video game music that i feel is most expressive to me are
from the game Rygar for playstation 2 and the
to the Snes game Terranigma. That song is always a 6 minutes that feel good.

Edit : Forgot to mention that i really liked that Starcraft II theme.

Oh hell yeah Rygar had stupidly good music. And Terranigma is just a given, that credits song with that ending is just really moving.

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You might be missing the point of the thread. :-) looking for stuff that is not background music, stuff that is very expressive, maybe even emotional in its expression of its movements

Yeah, and isn't that what I posted? Despite the brevity, PF2D displays a tremendous amount of development and harmonic modulations in such a short time, and Fittest has quite a bit of complex harmonies, dynamics, and flow to its arrangements.

Edited by timaeus222
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Yeah, and isn't that what I posted? Despite the brevity, PF2D displays a tremendous amount of development and harmonic modulations in such a short time, and Fittest has quite a bit of complex harmonies, dynamics, and flow to its arrangements.

Not quite... PF2D is largely still background music. Stands alone all right, but I wouldn't go to a concert to listen to it (I'd go to a concert to support Andy, though :P). I realize this is an opinionated thing, so you should refer to the examples to get an idea of what he's after.

Fittest is a little better about it, but it still suffers from the same concept of "background music". It can just loop and loop, the sections are roughly independent and you can tack them together in any random order and have it sound just as good (and what complex harmonies are you talking about? Morsecode is the only track with "complex harmonies"). Refer to Identity Sequence, that would give a better model to understand what the "intentional" aspect of music form is all about.

Generally speaking, a lot of VGM falls into this category because it has to. It needs to be granular and recyclable, but that sacrifices the thing that this thread is asking for. The kind of music asked for isn't something you'd find in level/stage themes or boss themes, but music composed strictly for the narrative emphasis (like Dancing Mad, One Winged Angel, etc. have thematic and motivic development). And most certainly, you can't link a whole soundtrack, because these gems are rarely more than a few songs from a game. :P

Edited by Neblix
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Not quite... PF2D is largely still background music. Stands alone all right, but I wouldn't go to a concert to listen to it (I'd go to a concert to support Andy, though :P). I realize this is an opinionated thing, so you should refer to the examples to get an idea of what he's after.

I wasn't actually depending on an opinionated way of listening to it as I wrote that. Maybe certain modulations resonate better with me than with others, but nevertheless, they are there. For example, Sticky Sewers has some diverse time signatures and Use Those Jetpacks has that descending part that becomes a key modulation (0:40), as well as some depth to its layers.

Fittest is a little better about it, but it still suffers from the same concept of "background music". It can just loop and loop, the sections are roughly independent and you can tack them together in any random order and have it sound just as good (and what complex harmonies are you talking about? Morsecode is the only track with "complex harmonies"). Refer to Identity Sequence, that would give a better model to understand what the "intentional" aspect of music form is all about.

Fusion Master as well; see the E. Piano. =P

Also, the pieces I pointed out were the ones that I thought were fitting the topic description IMO. They had distinct, memorable melodies, and despite being the kind of music that loops, sounded just as layered and detailed as "normal, non-VGM" music.

Edited by timaeus222
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Fusion Master as well; see the E. Piano. =P

See my above post.

They had distinct, memorable melodies, and despite being the kind of music that loops, sounded just as layered and detailed as "normal, non-VGM" music.

What kind of non-VGM music do you listen to? That might contribute to your perception. Also, it's not about layers and detail. It's about form and progression. You're looking at the vertical too much and not paying enough attention to the horizontal. You can have a three instrument ensemble that plays a more stellar arrangement than an orchestra with complex voicings.

Solo piano music understands this idea very well. Check Chopin, famous for being able to write a lot of musical progression within a very small number of measures. The "length" in seconds of a Chopin performance is around the length of a VGM OST track from Fittest, but goes through a lot more substantial musical progression. I understand it's not fair to compare Zircon to Chopin, but it helps demonstrate the idea of the levels of substance you can have in a piece of music. That's not to say I don't like Fittest, but it's a different kind of music. It's game music. Identity Sequence has a lot more substance because it's a concept album and not VG music (and because he got better over the years). It's music for music's sake, which seems pedantic, but really does make a noticeable difference in terms of construction.

Edited by Neblix
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What kind of non-VGM music do you listen to? That might contribute to your perception. Also, it's not about layers and detail. It's about form and progression. You're looking at the vertical too much and not paying enough attention to the horizontal. You can have a three instrument ensemble that plays a more stellar arrangement than an orchestra with complex voicings.

Something like Pentatonix represents that fairly well.

And btw, even if a piece is not long (like I mentioned earlier), it can still have substantial development, which is similar to what you were saying about "form and progression"; just has to happen faster to match up with the longer, more developed pieces out there. I'm not actually looking at layers *only*, but what I'm definitely aiming to say is that the layers contribute to the expressiveness. i.e. A distant flute arpeggio does wonders to textures, and little harp flourishes add a fresh sparkle to the overall atmosphere.

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A distant flute arpeggio does wonders to textures, and little harp flourishes add a fresh sparkle to the overall atmosphere.

These are compositional "tricks"; ornamentation to add body to the sound and performance of the music. But adding pretty sounds only helps after you have a solid thematic outline underneath (learn to walk before you run). If you reduce a song to its essential components and it doesn't sound complete anymore, that means it relied too much on ornamentation. There are less ways to perform and arrange this kind of music, and additionally, it tends to get boring a little faster. It's like relying on good mixing and neat effects to make your song sound better; same idea, just within the confines of the compositional world. Rarely ever works.

That's what I mean when I say there's less substance. Not saying Phineas and Ferb suffered from this at all (zircon understands the importance of note writing), but I am saying that your "strong points" you find in the music are things I don't personally find strong at all. I guess I'm asking for you to make a better case for yourself. :) I haven't listened to the whole soundtrack, but have listened to the ones you did mention as exceptional, and I wasn't particularly impressed; they didn't seem the kind of "masterpiece" level of the other songs in the thread, nor did they even seem on par with Zirc's other personal discography (I.S., Antigravity, etc.).

Edited by Neblix
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These are compositional "tricks"; ornamentation to add body to the sound and performance of the music. But adding pretty sounds only helps after you have a solid thematic outline underneath (learn to walk before you run). If you reduce a song to its essential components and it doesn't sound complete anymore, that means it relied too much on ornamentation. There are less ways to perform and arrange this kind of music, and additionally, it tends to get boring a little faster. It's like relying on good mixing and neat effects to make your song sound better; same idea, just within the confines of the compositional world. Rarely ever works.

That's what I mean when I say there's less substance. Not saying Phineas and Ferb suffered from this at all (zircon understands the importance of note writing), but I am saying that your "strong points" you find in the music are things I don't personally find strong at all. I guess I'm asking for you to make a better case for yourself. :) I haven't listened to the whole soundtrack, but have listened to the ones you did mention as exceptional, and I wasn't particularly impressed; they didn't seem the kind of "masterpiece" level of the other songs in the thread, nor did they even seem on par with Zirc's other personal discography (I.S., Antigravity, etc.).

Maybe a better way to name this thread would be "Most expressive VGM that you have heard before". :P The extent to which you see expression is just different from how I see it. What you call expressive I might call very expressive, or I might call it just "well-written" (as a "compromised way" of conceding to your point of view). I could be more touched by certain harmonies than you might be, and you could be more touched by certain structural developments than I might be, for example.

That aside, expression in general can be vague. If you've ever used MIDI CC before (and *you* have), you'd know that expression can be stuff like vibrato, tremolo, portamento, etc., but in this case it's defined more like the word development or the word progression are defined.

What *you're* saying is to look at the arrangement in terms of the development, rise, and fall of the notes and their organization, without focusing so much on the textures, layers, and tonal character or articulations of the instruments. I certainly agree with your view, but I'm just not sure you'd believe me when I say I get that you meant that. (btw, I did read that post you made earlier about "form and progression", which I also agreed with.)

Edited by timaeus222
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I remixed this theme and I think it fits nicely into the idea here of the expressive vgm...

It goes through a lot of movements and varies heavily in mood as it goes along.

The idea was never about how complex a piece of music is, or how much articulation it has :lol:

Here is another one:

It can be vgm from any time period, I just listen to a lot more newer vgm, so that's where my examples come from..

Edited by Brandon Strader
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