Arranging the music of one song...

"To the End of the Wilderness"

Primary Game: Wild Arms (Sony , 1997, PS1), music by Michiko Naruke

Posted 2008-08-02, evaluated by djpretzel

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.



Latest 15 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
on 2009-12-02 10:54:41

Nice sequencing. :

This is a beautiful arrangement, with great development. The orchestra sounds good as well, and even the little kid that chimes in from the audience seemed to be on pitch. Very sophisticated stuff, and I'm very happy you got a recording of this, and that it made it to OCR. :-)

Pachi Risu
on 2009-11-11 00:10:18

Nice dynamics. Good listening. More arrangements like this soon I hope?

on 2009-05-06 01:33:52

I'm choked up! Paul really did justice to this piece! The story behind the recording absolutely makes me grateful to be able to hear it as it was originally performed in concert!

on 2009-02-10 14:22:51







It is solemn, moody, grandiose, mellowly serious, quietly contemplative, and indeed the best thing since sliced bread.

Download this now. That is all.

on 2008-12-06 20:46:20 magnum opus...

So many terms I could use to describe this piece, but perhaps just "moving" would describe it best. I could listen to this piece at least once a day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it--in fact, it would probably put me in a better state of mind. No lie, I've even heard this piece in my dreams at night. If the sheer power of it wasn't so magnificent, it'd be a little creepy how amazed I am by this...this chunk of raw glory excavated from the mind of a musical genius and the talents of a symphonic orchestra.

I get the chills every time I hear this.

I really hope we get more live symphonic stuff on this site someday, especially if it's as drop-dead gorgeous as this.

on 2008-10-30 16:36:41

I apologize for my tardiness. I've been really bad listening to new posted material from OCR. For a couple of months I've been trying to get back into it and making a playlist with all the tracks I love. Today I heard this track and I shed tears. That is what I call music...

I, too, was touched by the series Wild Arms because of the track, "'To The End of the Wilderness." I've been a hardcore Final Fantasy fan all of my life, ever since I was a little girl. Sometimes those kind of fans miss on other RPGs such as the first Wild Arms. I first played it in 2006 because it was recommend by a friend.

I never finished it because I moved and I didn't have my own TV... just 3 weeks ago (before I found this track), I was showing bLiNd my memory card saves and I forgot where I was at Wild Arms. (When you forget, it's time to delete and restart.) As soon as I heard that overworld theme song, I knew I had to start all over and play it again.

That's what I've been doing recently because bLiNd bought me a TV Tuner for my PC so I can play it again. I'm almost done with the game. I stopped playing it recently because I needed to finish FFIV for the Nintendo DS and I did. Best FF remake there is, in my opinion.

I really wanna thank Paul Levasseur and the symphony for making this track and submitting it to OCR. They did an incredible job and I'm so happy we finally have a real, live orchestral reMix! :] You guys have inspired me to hurry up and play all the Wild Arms games before the year 2009 ends.

Nobbynob Littlun
on 2008-09-15 03:31:39

I was waiting for the day we'd get live orchestra here. My heartfelt thanks to the U of M!

on 2008-09-11 19:56:27

This piece is one of the most beautiful remixes I've ever heard. I've long been a fan of the original Wild Arms, and thought that Michiko did a fantastic job composing, even with the lame midi-style of the original playstation sounds on WA, but this just blows it out of the water.

The light, easy strings in the beginning has the same nostalgic feeling that most of the songs in wild arms had, they were all slightly similar, at least enough to recognize the theme.

And that horn crescendo at 1:40? I could feel that welling in my stomach. It was so solemn up till that point, so sad and quiet, then all of a sudden, things felt victorious and strong.

I really love the drums added in at 2:50, gives it a war feeling. The horns added in with that just gives it a massive push... I loved it. Then it slides so slowly back into that soft, quiet theme...

I really did cry.

Thank you, sir.

Martin Penwald
on 2008-08-25 15:27:36

Listening to this song on headphones makes the problems with this recording obvious, but to be honest, it doesn't really matter that much. This is a very nicely arranged piece of music, and having it played by a live orchestra is great, despite the minor problems of the recording.

Good job.

on 2008-08-24 04:03:23
If you try hard enough, it can sound like a crow going "caw." Kinda adds to the solemn atmosphere that way.

Never thought of it that way, and it makes the piece all the more... profound. :tomatoface:

I'm still listening to it "all nekkid n stuff", btw. Nice work. :nicework:

on 2008-08-23 02:27:48
Score! (anyone catch that pun?) :nicework:

This is really beautiful. Great contribution to the site, Paul!

(what's with the kid at 3:19?) :-o

If you try hard enough, it can sound like a crow going "caw." Kinda adds to the solemn atmosphere that way.

on 2008-08-21 15:24:56

That was beautiful! I hope he takes on more games, and achieves his ambition to compose for them. He could be Canada's Uematsu.

on 2008-08-10 20:39:11

heh, i haven't been to this site in a while. its nice to see my favorite musical theme get a most excellent live arrangement.

loved the violin. kudos. ^_______^

on 2008-08-07 15:46:37
(what's with the kid at 3:19?) :-o

Audience noise. But at least that's better than what happened with another orchestral piece Paul composed. During the performance, some bitch kept coughing and you could totally hear it throughout the recording. That's the problem with having a small room for performing.

big giant circles
on 2008-08-05 23:26:19

Score! (anyone catch that pun?) :nicework:

This is really beautiful. Great contribution to the site, Paul!

(what's with the kid at 3:19?) :-o

Sources Arranged (1 Song)

Primary Game:
Wild Arms (Sony , 1997, PS1)
Music by Michiko Naruke
"To the End of the Wilderness"

Tags (4)

Production > Live Ensemble
Production > Live Recording

File Information

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