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Music from video game 'Final Fantasy' takes centre stage

Kevin Kwong

 

THE TUNES MAY NOT be as well known as those from Walt Disney or Hayao Miyazaki animations, but for serious gamers, especially of the role-playing game (RPG) genre, music from Final Fantasy is something they grew up with.

Created in 1987 by game developer Square Enix in Japan, the franchise is now in its 15th instalment and has mustered a fan base worldwide for its richly detailed graphics and the compelling storylines that underscore the game's missions.

The music is spectacular on its own, but ... with film, lighting, solo voices and choir is going to be quite an event
Leanne Nicholls, oboist

Music from the franchise has been performed in live concerts across Japan since 2002. By 2007, these compositions, many penned by Nobuo Uematsu, were reaching a global audience through the "Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy" tour.

This concert is coming to Hong Kong's AsiaWorld-Expo on July 27 and 28, and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong will perform some of the most popular tunes - including Eyes on Me from Final Fantasy VIII - under the baton of conductor Arnie Roth.

Uematsu says the production revises and expands its playlist every year to keep the tour fresh. "I'd love to do a three-day concert in which all the themes of the video games series are performed."

The 54-year-old says video game soundtracks help add depth to the gaming experience, and he tries to portray the different characters through his compositions. "For instance, I wrote the themes in many different styles for 10 to 12 roles in Final Fantasy VI in order to highlight their personalities." The characters in that game range from a general, a womanising king and a ninja assassin to a noble treasure hunter and a half-human girl who doesn't know love. All the time, I did my best to compose a beautiful melodic piece for the main character of each series," says Uematsu.

Writing music for electronic games can be challenging and was especially so in the early days. The memory of game cartridges was very small in the 1980s and he could only write a few notes, says Uematsu.

"It was hard to use the [normal] musical structure that begins with an intro, followed by melody A and B, and ending in a stylish way.

"Starting from Final Fantasy VII, I preferred not to have BGM [background music] repeating the same short melody all the time when players wander in the world map.

"I wanted to express different emotions in the theme for the world map by using different melodies. So it ended up being seven minutes long."

Leanne Nicholls, artistic director and principal oboist of the City Chamber Orchestra, is looking forward to the concert.

"The music is spectacular on its own, but to experience it combined with film, lighting, solo voices and choir is going to be quite an event," she says.

"His music is exciting and full of emotion. The opening with the simple harp solo followed by choral voices and then the orchestra is an example of Uematsu's originality."

When asked if he was going to write more music for the series, Uematsu says: "You better ask Square Enix."

kevin.kwong@scmp.com Hall 10 AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, July 27-28, 7.30pm, HK$680-HK$1,680. Inquiries: 3128 8288 hkticketing.com

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