Beep boop (Gb maj13 - Fm9)
May 21, 2017 10:48 AM   Subscribe

 
These are great, thanks! IMO the most important - and serendipitous - aspect of classic NES scores is that the timbral limitations imposed by the 8-bit chip forced composers to create interesting rhythmic and melodic complexities in compensation. That "Mario music" link does a fantastic job of showing all of the compositional tricks that were used.

It also helps that Koji Kondo is a straight-up genius: any composer would give a major organ to create just one single song as memorable as the overworld theme in SMB, but throughout his career Kondo created a whole suite of god-level compositions, from the Super Mario series to Zelda to any number of other Nintendo classics (I've always been partial to the proto-vaporwave Pilotwings soundtrack).
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:29 AM on May 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


This series is fantastic if perhaps a bit too much, but it's another thing making me wish people still wrote essay essays instead of making everything a video essay regardless of whether video adds anything. I would eat up this same thing even more in just-words-and-images format. This one about Final Fantasy VII's victory theme is interesting too, if perhaps a bit too much.
posted by byanyothername at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


Two minutes into the first video and I hear him say "Mario bros" - I've always read it and said it as "Mario Brothers." No one says Mr. as "mhr" instead of "mister" but for some reason people see "Bros." with a period at the end denoting it is shortened, and still say "bros."

This bugged me in grade school in 1985 and it bugs me now.

Sorry for the rant. I'll go back to the video now.
posted by thecjm at 1:09 PM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


He's pronouncing "ocarina" differently than I've ever heard it, but given how much of this music theory stuff is going over my head, I'm willing to defer to this dude's expertise.

This is a great idea for a video series. I get what y'all mean by "too much" but I subscribed anyway. I'm fascinated with how the first few generations of video game composers got so much music out of those old chips. My cardio playlists are full of the stuff. Was gonna skip the gym today, but I woke up with Ninja Gaiden's World 4-2 music in my head so instead, I'm as determined to get to that punching bag as I once was to finally make that one goddamn jump with that one goddamn bird that would swoop down at you right when you got to the goddamn edge of the cliff.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:08 PM on May 21, 2017


I was just talking to someone that was telling me how Chrono Trigger used compositional techniques ahead of its time. It has always sounded like something special, and I've always handwaved it away as "jazz chords or something." This explanation is much better. The subtle expectation defying (in the western music culture sense) makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for posting this! I look forward to watching the other links.
posted by ignignokt at 2:35 PM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


In a minor key it's still peppy, but a little more ominous.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ahhhhh, I forgot how fucking good the music in Chrono Trigger is.

Yes, including Robo Astley.
posted by duffell at 2:56 PM on May 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


I really like this, but tend to concur that video isn't necessarily the best medium to make it accessible to the most people, at least not exclusive video. I know a bit of music theory, but my knowledge is pretty limited. I think I could learn from these more easily if I had time to read and look and listen at my own pace. I think that what would be best for me, personally, would be a multimedia essay, with audiovisual bits inserted in that I could click on and watch as many times as I like. On the other hand I can see that people with better musical skills and knowledge than me wouldn't need that level of handholding, so a video might be better for them.

Anyway it's cool stuff and I can always skip back to replay bits if I get lost.
posted by howfar at 3:08 PM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think that what would be best for me, personally, would be a multimedia essay, with audiovisual bits inserted in that I could click on and watch as many times as I like.

Something like this?
posted by NMcCoy at 3:53 PM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


These are great, thanks! IMO the most important - and serendipitous - aspect of classic NES scores is that the timbral limitations imposed by the 8-bit chip forced composers to create interesting rhythmic and melodic complexities in compensation.

To flesh that out a bit, in film and modern video game scores you have all the the sounds of orchestras and synthesizers and everything else to play with, so you can create a lot of the mood simply from the different kinds of sounds you use and the wide range between softest and loudest. But it's pretty hard to hum the low rumble of cellos, the strumming of chords on an acoustic guitar, a record scratch, or a single repeated tinkling piano note.

But when all you have is a square wave, triangle wave, pulse wave, sawtooth wave, and a noise generator for some percussion, the only thing you really have to work with is melody and rhythm, which are the parts of music we can hum and more easily remember.
posted by straight at 5:15 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


It certainly does take on a different character when done by, say, the London Philharmonic.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:21 PM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm on mobile and can't seem to find a good link right now, but some years ago there was a podcast called Into The Score going over this and I remember it being pretty good.
posted by curious nu at 6:58 PM on May 21, 2017


It's not 8-bit, but the guy did an episode on one of the greatest soundtracks on the N64: Banjo-Kazooie. He mostly focuses on Click-Clock Wood, but it's a whole soundtrack to itself. I still laugh to myself when I hear those counterpoint bird noises in Spring!
posted by JHarris at 8:14 PM on May 21, 2017


These are interesting videos, but I'm not sure I can forgive him for doing this.
posted by Aleyn at 8:25 PM on May 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


Fun to kinda learn stuff by osmosis. I imagine a Breath of the Wild update to the Zelda analysis will be difficult, given the sound track's position somewhere between Natural Forest Soundscape and Brian Eno album.
posted by pwnguin at 12:49 AM on May 22, 2017


Love this, thanks! I can't get enough video game music nerdery.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:57 AM on May 22, 2017


I was really hopIng he would get into the Kakariko Night Theme from Breath of the Wild, which sounds to me like the court players from the day theme taking a break for a chill evening jam session.
posted by Doleful Creature at 5:49 AM on May 22, 2017


The whole concept of "non-functional harmony" seems strangely backward and reductive. Is that a recently popular term?
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:01 AM on May 22, 2017


No, it's from the 1800s.

It is reductive – it's from the lens of music that descends from western church music (baroque, classical, etc. all the way through pop music now) It is a useful way to view harmony, but certainly not the only way. "Functional" does imply "better", but in modern usage, I think people understand it to be "the way Bach would lead your expectations".

Certainly, this video is not claiming that it's better than non-functional harmony – in fact, it is showing you how it's great.
posted by ignignokt at 6:50 AM on May 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hey, here we go: Into the Score: iTunes podcast link, or listen on his website.
posted by curious nu at 7:15 AM on May 22, 2017


Sorry, my phrasing was off. I meant that I found the concept of functional / non-functional harmony to be reductive and backwards. Overly simplistic and not entirely useful to understanding music beyond the surface level. Akin to Newtonian physics. Etc.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2017


wish people still wrote essay essays instead of making everything a video essay regardless of whether video adds anything

Me too! This deconstruction of the dungeon music in Link's Awakening scratched that itch for me.
posted by speicus at 6:52 PM on May 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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