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Friday, September 11, 2015

Live: The Legend of Zelda comes to life through its music

Posted by on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 11:15 AM

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The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Over the past few years, it’s become apparent that video game music is having a bit of a moment: The Red Bull Music Academy produced a documentary on VGM’s history. UK music site FACT has gone long with their coverage. One guy in the WWE is even taunting opponents by playing “Victory Fanfare” from the Final Fantasy franchise. This is without even mentioning the 33 ⅓ book released this year that dives into the music created by legendary composer Koji Kondo for the original Super Mario Bros.

But it was Kondo’s work for another series that was truly transcendent. Sure, every kid on the block knew all the bleeps and bloops of the “Super Mario Bros. Theme,” but music was never terribly crucial to Mario and his gang. It was another NES hero who wore that crown: Link from The Legend of Zelda. Since the franchise’s groundbreaking first installment in 1986, the tunic-wearing, sword-wielding protagonist relied upon music to empower his quest to save Hyrule. Back then, he carried around a rather simplistic recorder made mostly for teleporting from one part of the fictional kingdom to another. Over time, the recorder transformed into an ocarina, most notably in 1998’s brilliant Ocarina of Time.

As the series evolved, so did Link’s selection of instruments—a conductor’s baton, a golden harp, bagpipes, bongos and so on. The evolution culminated with 2011’s majestic Skyward Sword, which boasted a first for the franchise: fully orchestrated music that came packaged with the game on a bonus CD. The compositions created by Kondo and his team of collaborators received new life in this form, and they have only continued to grow through the concerts presented by the Symphony of the Goddesses.


On Thursday night at DPAC, the 90-piece orchestra and choir made its performance debut in North Carolina to a packed house of Zelda enthusiasts. While most concert-goers opted for comfort when it came to their garb, a fair amount went the cosplay route, with two women providing fantastic portrayals of the titular princess and her A Link Between Worlds counterpart, Hilda. The audience as a whole was diverse, particularly in terms of age. Middle-aged parents, millennials, youngsters and everyone in between was eager to hear their favorite songs from the Zelda canon translated into classical music.

The symphony received multiple standing ovations after stirring medleys of music from The Wind Waker, Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess, A Link to the Past and show-closer Skyward Sword. While some wished for specific songs, it was difficult to empathise. This is a 29-year-old series with more than 20 titles and multiple songbooks worth of music; in other words, yeah, you probably weren’t going to hear everything. But what we did hear was superb, a tightly knit collection that touched on the most essential pieces and moments from the series.

The giant projection screen behind the Symphony made the performance that much more engaging, as the music and the visuals were perfectly synced. It featured clips of series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, producer Eiji Aonuma and Kondo, too. While Miyamoto and Aonuma cracked jokes and offered lighthearted observations, Kondo touched on his mission with crafting the Zelda music. It’s all about creating empathy to build a connection with the characters and their feelings. When you really get to the essence of music—hell, art as a whole—isn’t that the point?

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