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Review: The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses | Dallas Symphony Orchestra


Zelda's Legend in Music

What happens when gamers fill the Meyerson Symphony Center to hear the music from The Legend of Zelda played by an orchestra?



published Wednesday, January 11, 2012
14 comments


The Legend of Zelda, according to game blogger Britton Peele, is "one of the greatest video game franchises ever created." Nintendo created the cash cow franchise and this is its 25 anniversary. This game’s manic following translated into a sold out Meyerson Symphony Center on Tuesday evening as the Dallas Symphony played the cinematic music that accompanies the hero, a boy named Link, on his quest to save the Princess Zelda. Projections from the animated game, on a giant screen, showed some of the trials Link faces on his many rescue missions over the past 25 years.

The production is on tour but this was the opening night performance so there was a celebratory mood in the hall. The audience was mostly under 30 and some were in costume. Link, being an elf, wears a Robin Hood-ish outfit with a green stocking cap (think Santa hat in green without the fuzz ball on the tip). Many, who were not in costume, sported the cap. Some parents had costumed children as young as six in tow. T-shirts were hawked as well as the tour poster. They did a brisk business at intermission

Called The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the concert is organized into a four-movement symphony with an overture, which introduced the main characters and set up the legend. Each subsequent movement represents an incarnation of the game. The music is designed to change as Link progresses from one level to the next in his quest.

The original synthesized score has been skillfully translated to the format of a large orchestra by Chad Seiter and is ably conducted by Eimear Noone, an Irish transplant to Malibu. She boasts an extensive resume as a composer and conductor for film as well as games. Supposedly, the new incarnation of Zelda (The Skyward Sword) features a live orchestra.

The evolution of the animation over the last 25 years is breathtaking. On a Nintendo, some of the recent games are in 3D. The early Link looks like a nervous Lego and can only move in straight lines and make right angles. In the latest version, which is a realistic as the best Pixar efforts, he is a handsome tween with flowing blond hair galloping on his trusty steed into a spectacular sunset. Speaking of blond, the entire cast of Zelda, on the side of the righteous, is very Nordic. Lots of blond hair and even pigtails on Link’s sister.

At least I think that was his sister. For those few in the audience that were unfamiliar with the game, it was all a little bewildering. There was virtually no narration, other than some occasional lines of minimal description, some of which flashed by too quickly to be read, and stilted dialogue. The characters doth speaketh in a vaguely King James version of English.

None of this mattered to 99 percent of the audience. They knew every character and all the twists and turns of the rescue plot intimately. And why not, they had all been Link himself for endless hours of excitement. And I do mean hours!

Jennifer Partridge, a physician’s assistant in the office of Dr. Vasquez, said that she had never made it much past the first couple of layers, which took hours to accomplish. However, she said that her brother (age 20) is a dedicated fan. When I asked her how long it took him to play the full game to the end, she said "a couple of days." With my mind agog at that, I asked what she meant by "days". She said, "Well it could be 18 hours for about three days, with only an occasional break for the bathroom and to refill the Doritos supply. But then, it is done until the next version comes out." 

The music, unlike the evolving animation, was basically the same. Japanese composer Koji Kondo is credited with being the energy behind most of the music. It is a mock-heroic John Williams-influenced style with massive crescendi, lots of percussion, a mostly wordless chorus, and a very large orchestra. Instruments that are not used all that often were present in the crowded stage. From the orchestra seating level, it was hard to see exactly what was in the back of the orchestra, but there were two harps and other extensions of the winds such as the contra-bassoon, bass clarinet, and English horn. There was a large percussion battery with four or five very active players. Associate Concertmaster Gary Levinson, in the leader chair, helped Noone hold the orchestra together. 

The biggest problem with the evening was not any of the elements; it was the creation of the concert. If it could be properly narrated and organized into more of a story, as opposed to a re-visit to the various versions, it would be a highly enjoyable animated pseudo-movie that would appeal to a general audience. It also lacked a "big ending" and just drifted away. We only knew it was really over when Noone turned around and bowed. 

As it is, devotees were in ecstasy. The few of us, unwashed and uninitiated, were left to wander through the events bereft of Link’s famous map. A consultant who was unfamiliar with the game might have been a valuable asset as it was being produced by Garland resident Jeron Moore for Jason Michael Productions. But why, I suppose? The concert was sold out in hours just by word of mouth among the fan base. 

Two encores were anticlimactic. The last was announced from the stage by Noone as "so familiar I won’t even tell you what it is." It played without visuals, once again just faded away, and no one near me had the slightest idea where that music came from. Thanks For Reading




Comments:

Greg writes:
Wednesday, January 11 at 12:29PM

This was one of the best and most epic and passionate concerts I've ever attended! I've been to hundreds of concerts over the past decades in all musical genres and this unique symphonic work was truly stirring, rousing -- and, as one attendee near me commented, "spectacular." As one of those who knew nothing about the Legend of Zelda before last night, I came for the music. The DSO and Ms. Noone did an absolutely outstanding job and the audience was spell-bound throughout the performance and wildly enthusiastic at the end of each movement. This is sure to be an epic work performed many, many times in the coming years and audiences everywhere it plays are in for an auditory and visual treat.

Ben writes:
Wednesday, January 11 at 3:18PM

The last encore was The Ballad of the Windfish. The ending from Link's Awakening (1993). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtGrBQuNy8s

Raven writes:
Wednesday, January 11 at 5:07PM

You do realize that this concert wasn't for you, as in non-fans. It was made for the fans of Zelda, who did recognize the last piece if our multiple standing ovations made plainly obvious. You are obviously not a gamer, as being evidenced from your surprise at spending "18 hours" on a game, but seeing that you are someone with a love of music, you should have been able to enjoy the awesome performance given last night without the need of the visuals as after all, mp3s don't give you eye candy either. Your review reads more like a bitter rant than an actual review of a concert.

Jonothon writes:
Thursday, January 12 at 8:23AM

Easy there, Raven. He's expressing bewilderment at the impermeable nature of the concert from the point of view of a music lover. He didn't actually say the music was poorly written or 'bad', he just said it wouldn't have hurt to provide say: a) an annotation of the themes and where they come from, b) an introduction to the world and characters, either on screen or by program, etc. I love LOZ, but let's not jump on someone because their review isn't 100 percent rave.

Petr Tucker writes:
Thursday, January 12 at 11:26PM

It is to be hoped the revenues for this one sold out house will help fund performances of more earnest 'straight' or 'abstract' contemporary classical music, non-derivative music composed for the sake of music itself, without association or context of games, anime or film. The gamers can never know how little the music means to those outside the context of having 'lived' the game. (I find it an unimaginative stretch of musical episodes wholly insupportable as a listen on its own.) For those attendees who were 'within the context of the game experience' it must have been a great evening, and I advocate the experience of hearing, live, a good full orchestra in a good hall over recordings -- any moment of any day. Nothing like it!

Belledaynight writes:
Friday, January 13 at 8:49PM

I greatly enjoyed this concert! The experience was pretty good for both the music lover in me and the gamer....now...I think I'll plug in Twilight Princess and give my Wii some love!

LC writes:
Tuesday, January 17 at 3:48PM

I performed in the choir, and even though I knew nothing of the game, it was clear that the passion the audience had was going to make the evening a memorable one. I even learned a little about the game just from rehearsals/performance! BUT, I will agree that musically, we could have been more polished. Regardless, it's a fabulous concept, and I've never seen the Meyerson so packed! A definite hit, and I think they should do more of this.

Jack Crocker writes:
Wednesday, January 18 at 3:22PM

Bah, I would die to hear that rendition of Ballad of the Wind Fish again. I seriously hope they release a compilation.

Michael Gagne writes:
Wednesday, January 25 at 7:45PM

As a long time fan of the game franchise, I was very happy when I found out that the DSO would be performing this. Overall I thought the performance was wonderful and the music selection was impressive (with so many pieces from which to choose). I'm always curious what the musicians think of the music (having been to several game-based performances). Speaking of which, I enjoyed this symphony more than the Final Fantasy concerts I've attended at the Meyerson. I would have liked to read a more detailed opinion of the arrangements. As I said above, I enjoyed the music selection and was especially impressed that the symphony culminated with the series' third installment (A Link to the Past). I was slightly disappointed that we did not hear the Kakariko Theme despite the fact that Ms. Noone stated that the piece was part of the symphony. Maybe I missed it early on as part of a medley. There were also a few occasions where the orchestra timing was noticeably off for several measures. Despite those minor drawbacks, I will absolutely attend another Zelda symphony should one come to Dallas again, and of course I'll continue enjoy the other great offerings at the Meyerson year round.

Kumako writes:
Thursday, June 7 at 3:03PM

The music was beautiful, it really was moving...then again Koji Kondo is a true master of his art. But in saying that, I felt it was thrown together haphazardly and as the article mentions the visuals left much to be desired. Legend of Zelda is a beautiful game with many memorable scenes and characters but it just seemed like they just randomly chose some of those scenes and tossed them about and on top of that sped through dialogue as if the person had died ten times and was tired of reading the same passage. We probably have it more memorized than not, I get it. It doesnt mean I'm going to skip a paragraph in my favorite book or skip a scene in my favorite movie because I know what they say. I really did expect it to be a journey through the games... I wanted and expected a narrative. I realize we all know it anyway but I guess it felt as if they took my favorite book and made it into an abstract rendition of a Hollywood movie because the director had his/her own vision. I just felt cheated, I felt it didn't give Legend of Zelda the respect it needed and I felt I have seen better fan made videos as well as "journey through [insert game]" on ocremix. It just made me wonder...was this production even made by a true fan? It lacked the love and passion that I felt this should have required. The game scenes were awesome, they were not created by them but cut and paste...the music also awesome and likewise not created by them but rearranged....so how is it that they took something that is so special to us and presented it in such a mediocre way?!

Sophia writes:
Sunday, July 1 at 7:28PM

Link isn't an elf.

Jeron Moore writes:
Tuesday, July 3 at 2:46AM

Kumako, the section you're referring to was during the Spirit's Message portion of the Twilight Princess movement - and yes, the capture during those dialogue scenes were rushed through by the player. That has since been corrected. I'm truly sorry (and saddened) that you didn't connect w/ the presentation. The music director and I lovingly and passionately crafted the music and visuals, all under the careful guidance of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and composer Koji Kondo. -Jeron Moore, Producer (and dedicated, life-long Zelda fan -- since 1986)

Adam from Pittsburgh writes:
Monday, July 30 at 10:57AM

I attending this performance in Pittsburgh just a few days ago and I was extremely impressed. My wife, who is a Music teacher, was blown away by the quality of the performance. Video game music really can compete with the big boys, and I hope that the mainstream crowd can start to acknowledge that with the help of performances like this one. I absolutely ADORED the triple encore (Ballad of the Wind Fish followed by Gerudo Valley followed by the Majora's Mask Suite) and it proved that the creators really did know their audience and exactly what they wanted to hear before walking out the door. I do realize that this would require an entire restructuring of the music, so it probably won't be changed any time soon, but the solitary gripe that I had through was the composer's insistence to end each and every suite with a Ganon boss fight. This was an issue to me because it really only gives musical justice to the beginning and end sequences of the game and skips a lot of the wonderful music from the middle of the game. Also, I think that most people would agree that the final battle music is far from the most interesting music in any of the games, and ending each suite with such a long and fairly boring sequence is a shame because it could have been filled with some other wonderful themes such as the Zoras Domain Theme, Goron City theme, etc. In other words, restructuring SOME of the suites so that they don't just play chronologically through the game and instead touch on the best of the music would really work wonders in helping the flow of the concert. All in all, a wonderful experience that I hope the world can experience again some time soon!

JoeMega writes:
Tuesday, July 31 at 11:38AM

The 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda concert, "Symphony of the Goddesses" was a truly spectacular event. The arrangements of these tried and true tunes were beyond my wildest expectations. Never have the songs felt more alive or filled with more power. Aside from the glorious arrangements, we had a stellar performance from an orchestra and choir that had razor-sharp technical skill. I teared up and nearly wept multiple times... not just from the prowess of the symphony or the fluid movements from the conductor, but also from the concentrated doses of re-awakened memories and nostalgia. Truly an incredible performance and concert. Well worth it. I'd see it again just to hear such bliss.


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Zelda's Legend in Music
What happens when gamers fill the Meyerson Symphony Center to hear the music from The Legend of Zelda played by an orchestra?
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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