How videogame music gatecrashed Classic FM

On November 10 2012, UK radio saw a significant first. Classic FM, the UK’s biggest national commercial radio station, aired a two-hour special dedicated entirely to videogame music. Not a half-hearted documentary about chip tunes, or badly edited interviews with composers, or anything else conceived to pander to a general audience. This was a full show playing nothing but orchestral suites and scores from some of the biggest games of the past 25 years.

And if a station more used to playing Beethoven and Sibelius – with a smattering of Williams, Shore and Zimmer et al – should devote its popular Saturday evening show entirely to videogames was surprising enough, the excited response across social media was more so. People were listening and loving it. They wanted more. Cue a follow-up show the month after and suddenly the unthinkable had happened: listening to the Secret Of Mana suite on the radio had become an actual, real thing.

But then 2012 could be seen as videogame music’s breakout year in the UK. The London leg of the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds tour sold out the Royal Albert Hall in three hours (it took pianist Lang Lang ten times longer to do that). The Greatest Video Game Music 2, an album of videogame tracks performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, went straight to the top of the Amazon download chart, nudging both Taylor Swift and Psy’s Gangnam Style aside for a few days. But more importantly, 2012 saw the inaugural entry of not one, but two pieces of music from videogames into the annual Classic FM Hall Of Fame, the world’s largest poll of classical music tastes.

Jeremy Soule’s stirring theme to Skyrim was placed at number 238 and Nobuo Uematsu’s eternal tear-jerker Aerith’s Theme came in at an incredible number 16, putting it one place above Barber’s Adagio for Strings (if you don’t know that piece by name, you’ll probably recognise it as the music that plays during Willem Defoe’s death scene in Platoon).

For me, it was fitting tribute for an often over-looked genre. Having been part of the rapturous, standing ovation at 2011’s Distant Worlds concert it was obvious to see just how much passion exists for videogame music, so why was it so ignored by the mainstream? Why is it that radio stations and high-profile concerts are happy to play movie music, yet videogame scores, often written by the exact same composers, stay on the fringe?

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