Posted 2020-01-21, evaluated by Gario

Hey, listen!!

I've been running this site for twenty years, and this right here is one of the very best mixes we've posted and an instant classic; I'd like to pick my jaw up off the floor & give a standing ovation to Bowlerhat (Jorik Bergman) & collaborators, who deliver a big band vocal powerhouse take on "Zelda's Theme" - it's classy, it's sassy, and it's a musical humdinger. 2020 is young, but this feels like one for the ages. First things first, let's get the who-did-whats out of the way:

And of course, arrangement & lyrics by Jorik, who has a lot to say, and I loved reading every word:


I was flabbergasted by the positive feedback I received from my previous submission, "Samba del Anjos," and after that I actually immediately started working on something fresh. I have been polishing my arranging skillz over the almost two-year interlude between my video game arrangements and I was super excited to do something new. The two points of critique I had for myself from the big-band thingy was the audio quality and the conservative arrangement. So, when I started brainstorming about what to do next, I kept those two things closely in mind before jumping into the sketching process. The biggest selling point and difficulty about a big band is of course in its size, so, in order to make rehearsals and proper recording manageable, I downgraded the ensemble to 10 people instead of the original 17 peeps. The ensemble is made out of completely different musicians with the exception of Dirk. There's 5 horns, a singer, and a four-man (actually three-women-and-one-man) rhythm section. It was still difficult to arrange rehearsals but we managed. Everything was recorded in studio, so the audio quality is a lot better. And this also allowed for some cheating, as afterwards we tweaked some things to make everything sound a bit more tight at spots. We also secretly change takes halfway as I preferred the piano solo of our 2nd take but the overal vibes of the 3rd take. It's actually done quite smoothly, so you can't really hear the changing of takes. This is mostly because of Arno's incredibly tight timekeeping and hopefully also a little bit because of my conducting, haha.

Making the arrangement more interesting and less straightforward was a bit more difficult. Since I wanted to be more liberal in my approach, I decided to pick an easily recognizable tune that allowed for exploration so that it would always be clear that the source was there. The original "Zelda's Lullaby" track is so iconic, and beautiful in its simplicity. The range of the melody is actually really big, spanning more than 2 octaves, but Rebecca handled it expertly. I could talk for hours about all the arrangement bits I did but I'll spare you that, haha. But I personally always find it interesting to read about the writing process of remixes, so I will give some small insight.

I loved what djpretzel did with his classic remix in 4/4, and this inspired me to also make things rhythmically a bit more interesting. Instead of the original 3/4 pulse, I made a 6/8 groove, which isn't so dramatically different as to completely reconceptualize (is that a word? who knows...?) the melody, but did give it a bit more drive and space for countermelodies and such. I also gave a lot of freedom to the rhythm section so that they could do their own thing. Arno is doing some really nice juxtaposed 12/8 rhythms at places that I could never ever have come up with by myself and it's really interesting that often it has a nicer effect to just let people do their own thing rather than dictatorially deciding everything yourself.

Harmonically, I completely reharmonized everything. The piece starts with a whacky, non-functional, polyrhythmic mess, which is then modulated up a half-step only to repeat again but with a different groove. The horns and rhythm section, with the exception of the drums, play a 3-bar 4/4 melody, but when it is repeated the drums come in with a 4-bar 6/8 rhythm. I wrote it as a kind of joke because, when the piece starts, you think, "Oh, nice, a 4/4 piece," but then, bam! The drums come in and you find out it was actually in 6/8 all along. After this, there's some shout-outs to the original melody but things are still a bit unclear. There's no clear ground to stand on and you're not sure what's going to happen. Only when the bass line comes in at at 0:47 the intro is officially done and the piece really starts.

When I reharmonise, I basically think of two things. The first thing is that I never, ever change the melody to fit the new harmony, and the 2nd thing is that I make sure that the harmonic progressions are always logical and support the melody. So things start quite simple with the 1-bVII progression initiated by the bass line, but, as the theme progresses, the harmony gets more complicated and advanced as well. At the beginning, there's mostly triads, inversions of triads, and simple II-V's, but the theme ends on a whopping Emaj7add13#11#9/B chord.

After the theme is over, we go back to the whacky polyrhythmic thingy. Since I wanted Gregory to switch from tenor to soprano saxophone for the part after this, I had to keep him out for a while to switch instruments. Which meant that the overall effect of the polyrhythmic thingy would be weakened. So, instead of just keeping him out, I also threw out the alto and bari and wrote them this cool chromatic line. The effect of this is that, instead of having the same thing repeated but with a weaker harmonic body because of the absence of the tenor, it's now a different thing altogether which in the end only made it stand out for good reasons. After this, we go back to original I-bVII bass line with a restatement of the theme but twice as fast and instrumental which quite quickly leads into the piano solo.

For the solo, I had a lot of options. I love Chae Yeon's piano playing, she's great. But, she's dyslexic and since we didn't have a lot of rehearsal time she had to sight-read everything, so I didn't want to give her too complicated chords. Which meant that I basically couldn't use any of the chord schemes I previously used in the song. So I took the original I-bVII baseline figure and used that as a basis to work out a completely fresh chord scheme. It's only 5 or 6 chords, which is more than some songs have in total, but when compared to the rest of the piece it's very, very little. I think that just in the 20 seconds of the piece there's like 20 different chords with absolutely no relation to each other. So, by slowing down the harmonic rhythm and keeping things somewhat diatonic, it gives the piece a much needed place of rest. And it works great. When composing, it's easy to lose yourself and just keep adding chords and more chords and then even more chords and feel cool and hip, but it can be just as or even more effective to play a few major chords and work with that. I put some shout-outs to the original theme in the horns as backings and just let Chae Yeon do her thing.

After the solo, we go back to the original theme with some different countermelodies and harmonies at places to not be too repetitive and we end with the polyrhythmic thingy to complete the cycle and the piece is done. The source is basically everywhere and I had a lot of fun writing little variations of the different motives of "Zelda's Lullaby" and sneaking them in. I also wrote the lyrics myself, which was fun. The first two sentences are from Rebecca, because my original starting lines were kinda stupid, so she suggested this, which was a lot better. There's not really a deep meaning behind the lyrics or a touching backstory, I just made sure everything rhymed, had the right vowels for the right pitches and sounded kinda poetic.

Overall, I think the result is pretty cool. Of course, there are things to be improved upon, but generally it's a nice little thing. The process was very educational and I had a really good time arranging everything, planning rehearsals, making backing tracks for practicing, conducting, giving directions, recording, and then mixing and mastering everything together with Louis. In order to get this result, I didn't just have to write the arrangement but also do all these other things, which was a great and fulfilling experience. I'd also like to give a huge, gigantrious shout-out to the musicians because they're amazing and I'm very, very thankful. They really knocked it out of the park, through the roof, around the moon and back, and I couldn't ever have done this without them."

That sustained note at 1'27" is the business... but then 1'42" comes along, and it's like... what?!?! You GO, Rebecca. Yeah, I'm geeking out a bit. Everything clicks here, from concept to execution. The 90s are far, far behind us, but I'm gonna have to break out the Wayne's World "We're not worthy!!" bow for this, because damn. Gario concurs:

"Yup, this is an amazing arrangement, no doubt about it. Everyone performs spectacularly in this, and the recording is straight studio quality. The vocalist Rebecca has a nice, sultry sound to her voice, which blends well with the jazz arrangement.

The harmonies are delicious, and yet the source is really in this thing in spades. If you like big band jazz with a great vocalist complementing the whole thing, this really is your arrangement!"

...and if you don't, I don't know if we can be friends. We'll have to settle for acquaintances, at best. I'd say more, but the artist's own words provide ample background on the creative thought process & collaboration. This is the type of mix where I'm just overjoyed that it exists in the world, I'm honored to be featuring it on OCR, and yeah... after twenty years running the site, I can still be blown away by a fresh take on a classic theme. Invigorating, timeless, & essential; huge congrats to everyone involved with bringing this vision to life. Absolutely amazing, and highly recommended.



Latest 8 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
Mr. Hu
on 2020-01-22 22:01:11

Incredible version. Like something from a Mario Odyssey version of Zelda. Some stuff here is a teensy bit raw, vocals included, and the take sounds a little loose, and it just makes it all even better.

on 2020-01-22 20:51:49

Hey this is great! just a personal gripe, at times it feels like each instrument is fighting for attention, but that is just me and im no expert on sound, something to think about anyways.

Great Job!

Ybrik Metaknight
on 2020-01-22 15:42:48

Hot holy damn this is good

on 2020-01-22 02:09:08

I can't express how good this is sheesh y'all are amazing

Geoffrey Taucer
on 2020-01-21 23:18:58




...... holy shit

Yeah, this might be the best mix on the site right now

on 2020-01-21 17:19:44

Incredible, reminds me of Snarky Puppy almost. I will definitely be song requesting this on twitch streams :-)

on 2020-01-21 17:14:41

Wow, just WOW. I'm writing this during my first listen and I'm just about halfway through, but oh my gosh, I know I'm gonna love every second of this masterpiece. I'm a huge sucker for some smooth jazz jams and this is certainly right up my alley! You nailed it with your initial collaboration, Jorik, but this is just beyond any levels of awesome. Really reminded me of another modern classic of videogame music - "Jump Up, Super Star!", which is saying a lot, I think :) This one is a little less festive, sure, but the attitude is absolutely the same. Jeez, I think I got chills like 100 times while listening to this track - that was scary good. Mind-blowing work by your crew! Keep it up!

on 2020-01-17 02:46:19

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Sources Arranged (1 Song)

Primary Game:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo , 1998, N64)
Music by Koji Kondo
"Zelda's Theme"

Tags (14)

Brass,Electric Guitar,Piano,Saxophone,Singing,Trombone,Trumpet,Vocals: Female
Lyrics > Lyrics: Original
Origin > Collaboration
Production > Live Instruments

File Information

9,171,994 bytes

Won't you let me see
what's been guiding me
Let me go
inside, let it guide
Can you hear my voice
as it clears the voids
Let it go
Waves flooding out of me
braving eternity
paving the way for all to see


Like me

Won't you let me see
what's been guiding me
Let me go
inside, let it guide
Can you hear my voice
as it clears the voids
Let it go
Waves flooding out of me
braving eternity
paving the way for all to see
like me
To see
Like me


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