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Looking for an Immersive Concert Experience? Game ON!

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Video Game Music & This Mind-Blowing Program
April 30, 2024

Game ON!

Fri, May 24–Sat, May 25, 2024
View Event

Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of classical music, chances are you’ve attended an orchestral performance of some sort before—maybe a school concert, a collaboration with one of your favourite singers, or a screening of a film with live accompaniment. And if you identify as a gamer (diehard or casual), then Game ON! — a mesmerizing celebration of symphonic game music — represents the perfect chance for you to make your return to the concert hall.

At the end of Todd Field’s film Tár (spoiler alert!), the formerly revered, now-disgraced conductor, Lydia Tár, takes the podium at a music venue in the Philippines, puts on a headset, and cues the local orchestra—which begins to play the score to the Monster Hunter video game for an audience surprisingly revealed to be in full cosplay. It is a darkly hilarious moment that, on the surface, seems to suggest that Tár’s career has hit rock-bottom, but on deeper reflection can be read as a hopeful response to the pretension that often comes to mind when people hear the term “classical music.” Tár ultimately serves her new audience of video game fans much the same way her idol, Leonard Bernstein, served his audiences through his TV broadcasts. This democratization of classical music is a vital part of the TSO’s second-century mission. We are committed to serving music lovers of all stripes through a wide variety of concert experiences crafted to suit their tastes and preferred ways of listening. Symphony Exploder is a recent example: our collaboration with the hit podcast and Netflix series, Song Exploder, and its host, Hrishikesh Hirway, brought Stravinsky’s scandalous The Rite of Spring to life in a fresh way for audience members both new and seasoned. Game ON! promises to do the same with video game music.

On May 24 and 25, conductor Andy Brick will lead your TSO in an epic and unforgettable concert that harnesses the excitement of your favourite video games, including The Witcher 3, World of Warcraft, Ori and the Blind Forest, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed 2, Guild Wars 2, BioShock, Portal 2, and others. Along with transcendent performances of the music from the games, this immersive event features exclusive HD scenes projected onto Roy Thomson Hall’s immense screen. To prepare you for the mind-blowing experience, here are five things you didn’t know about video game music and this incredible concert program:

1. Video game music is increasingly gaining the same level of respect and attention as classical music.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Jennifer Miller Hammel, the host of a video game music web stream on the Classical California network, described her programming philosophy: “There are no borders here: Good music is good music,” she said. Such borders are likewise being dismantled in the world of academia, as highly respected colleges and universities, like the Berklee College of Music, are offering diplomas and degrees in video game scoring. The field of video game music scholarship even has a name — “ludomusicology” — and the University of California Press publishes the Journal of Sound and Music in Games. Those are serious bona fides!

2. Composing music for video games presents different challenges than composing for other screen-based media.

One of the biggest challenges relates to the open-endedness of gameplay: unlike films and TV shows, which contain scenes of specific lengths in set sequences, video games put the action in the hands of the players, making the order and duration of gameplay variable. This requires the composers to write background music that can be looped for hours and hours without sounding repetitive. Among other methods, they can accomplish this by keeping the music fairly ambient so there aren’t any prominent themes that players will identify when they’re repeated, or by composing a large number of short pieces that are continuously shuffled, creating a sense of randomness.

3. The Game ON! concert program has received rave reviews. 

Not only did CBS TV call the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC’s performance of Game ON!, “A night [the audience] will never forget,” but popular website TheGamer also put the program at the top of its list of the “11 Best Touring Video Game Orchestras” (they meant “concerts”—but the praise is no fainter!). “Game ON! presents music from some of the world’s best games in its purest form,” says the site. “In reviews from concert-goers, attendees noted that people can be heard whispering in between numbers at just how epic everything sounds with a full orchestra.”

4. The conductor led the first-ever symphonic game music concert outside Japan.

Andy Brick’s eventful musical career hasn’t followed a common path: After completing two degrees in composition, he was hired as an arranger on Sesame Street and wrote music for independent films. Following a brief foray as a film composer in LA, he began to score and orchestrate music for video games. He also studied conducting, which is why, in 2003, he was invited to Leipzig’s famed Gewandhaus to lead the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in the first symphonic game music concert held outside Japan. Since then, Brick has conducted music from more than 70 game titles in concert halls across the globe.

5. There’s another opportunity this year to experience live symphonic game music performed by your TSO!

Nobuo Uematsu is often referred to as the Beethoven of video game music. His FINAL FANTASY scores helped to break down the high-brow/low-brow divide and have been performed in concert halls around the world for decades. Our home of Roy Thomson Hall is one such venue, and, on September 19 and 20, 2024, it proudly hosts the FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH Orchestra World Tour (not to be confused with the FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Orchestra World Tour, which we performed in March 2022—fans know the difference). Join conductors Arnie Roth and Eric Roth, the TSO, and a full chorus, for this spectacular multimedia event featuring new arrangements of Uematsu’s iconic scores.

But first—Game ON!