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Does Guile's Theme REALLY Go With Everything?

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I agree this probably doesn't belong here by intent, but I'll try to give it a bit of a scholarly twist. Bear with me, Bardic!

Making something go with Guile's theme has little to do with genre. In fact, it more often than not has little to do with connecting to other music, if I'm recalling the meme correctly - it has to do with rhythm of an image syncing up with the beat pattern of the music. At a BPM of 120 (which is the standard march tempo - likely why Guile's theme uses it), this means that as long as video has something happening at a rate of precisely twice a second, it will "line up" with the beats of the music (120 beats per minute = 2 beats per second = 1 beat every half second). Since this lines up well with how we sync time, this beat rate lines up perfectly with many things - from the frequency of fire alarm strobes (the standard duty cycle is either one or two flashes a second) to march patterns (all set to 120 bpm), Guile's theme will seemingly resonate with more things than it should.

A study of the theme and how to precisely line it up with any other song (regardless of genre) would also be interesting, but it's not something that I'll do at work. Maybe I'll give a melodic and harmonic breakdown some other time and show what music would (theoretically) work with Guile's theme, and what music wouldn't.

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The thing about it is that there is no answer to your question. 
On this website's database, the remixes of the theme are very conservative, not changing much from the original.  Although I have heard other arrangements in other genres, there aren't many.  Most of them are very conservative.

There are several reasons why it could work and not work in other genres.  For one, the rhythmic motives of the melody are pretty idiomatic to the commercial genres of music, rock, jazz and latin, so it works very well in those areas.  Metal is a wildcard genre, as literally anything that doesn't swing works well in a metal setting.  On the flip side of that, those rhythmic motives don't work well in many genres without sounding like a parody of that genre.  This deals with idiomatic writing to various genres, and is the reason that things seem to work or not work in many genres.  For example, take something from the swing era, particularly around 1940, and then arrange it in the style of Bach.  Suddenly you can't have the swing, so the music loses quite a bit of the drive.  You can't use a lot of the harmonic devices because they don't function in the same tonal aspect as they did during the common practice period. 

I was working on a smooth/acid jazz arrangement of the theme, but couldn't make it work.  Part of that reason was the form of the original tune doesn't lend itself well to other genres outside of its original habitat; that is to say that it doesn't follow an AABA, AB, ABA, or any other form that is widely common in the genres you would want to go to.  In order to make it work and sound idiomatic to the point that it could have been written in this new style just as well, there would be quite a bit of mangling of the form, and when you start doing things like that, the things that make Guile's theme what it is start to disappear. 

I have an argument that the joke that is Guile's Theme goes with everything is largely what it is because of the intro.  Most of the time when I see one of those videos, I don't listen very far into the melody, I heard the intro, saw the joke, it was funny, I move on with my life.  That intro is very distinct, and also falls into the pitfalls I mentioned above in regards to idiom.  The rhythmic motif is basically exclusively idiomatic to the commercial genres, and it is very widely used in jazz and Latin music.

When it comes to genre, there are expectations that are established when the genre becomes a definite entity.  When you listen to rock, you expect a 4/4 time signature with a strong beat on the 2nd and 4th beats, and syncopation is not a key feature.  Harmonic progressions are generally somewhat slow and not overly complicated, generally dealing with triads rather than extensions.  Jazz is similar, where it has the strong off beats, however there is more syncopation and the beats are generally pushed by a half count in a lot of places, to give that forward feeling motion.  Classical has none of these things, having emphasis on the down beats, generally little syncopation, and rhythmic figures that more evenly divide into subdivisions.

To flatten out the rhythm of the intro causes weird things to happen, and it loses that distinct character.  If you flatten out the rhythm of the whole tune, it loses the impact it has, and suddenly everything you do with it sounds like it isn't Guile's theme anymore.  Essentially, you either have to be really conservative with the arrangement, or you suddenly end up being really liberal with it.

When going from genre to genre, it is important to note that while a lot of things claim to be in a genre, the actually aren't.  It isn't really apparent in genres that people generally deal with, such as rock, metal or EDM, for several reasons.  For one, they have a strong familiarity with that genre because it's all they have ever dealt with for the most part, so it's kind of like speaking a native language.  And since a lot of video game music that does genre hopping starts in a genre that is similar and shares a lot of genetic similarity, the work transitions well.  For other things, like jazz or classical, there are many more stylistic nuances that aren't picked up by the arranger or performer, and although it "sounds" like that genre, an analysis of it ends up showing that it's basically gibberish, or more specifically like trying to write Japanese like this:


Ai raiku to purae da jazu andu roku mujiku.

It "sounds" and "looks" like Japanese, but for somebody familiar to that language it doesn't mean anything.

An example of this is the Godot theme from the Phoenix Wright series, everybody's like "AHH so jazzy so cool" but if you analyze it, it actually falls into a genre that is better described as anti-jazz.  But it sounds jazzy, so people think it's jazz.  Same thing when I see people do a "classical" remix of something where it ends up being an epic orchestral version.  Yes, it uses an orchestra and no electronics, but it is in no way classical because it doesn't follow the conventions of the mid to late 18th century.

In conclusion, while Guile's theme does go with everything for the reasons that have been mentioned above in regards to tempo, it does not go into every genre.  That is to say that the theme as we know it does not retain its character when put into different genres, sometimes to the point that it is no longer recognizable.  Unless there is a lot of work done to make the tune work in a new genre, it may end up sounding to somebody familiar with that genre like the Japanese comparison I made above.

In a new genre with just an attempt to make it "sound" like it works:

In a new genre with an attempt to follow the stylistic nuances, but still trying to make it "sound" like it works

In a new genre following the conventions and nuances of the new style:

It may not sound like the original at the point, but at least it will be stylistically true.

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