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If Music Be the Food of Love, Press Start

It's April 29th, 2006. You, and about 20 of your friends are organised in the corner of a room just off a student union food court. Dozens of your student brethren are chewing down their lunch and gossiping about how stupid Nintendo was to call its new games console "The Wii".

Each of you has a classical instrument in your hand, and the sheet music to "The Legend of Zelda". You are about to start your first public performance. Your first private performance was only the day before, in front of 20 of your fraternal peers.

The butterflies kick in as you begin with the slow opener. A few curious faces peer over their copy of "The Diamondback". It builds to a rousing crescendo, then the chorus kicks in, and you have the attention of the room.

This was the beginning of The University of Maryland Gamer Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra and chorus, added in 2007, filled the Clarice Smith Center�s Kay Theatre at the Spring 2008 concert. The GSO proved so popular that secondary seating in the theater�s upper level had to be opened at the last minute to accommodate the crowd.

Everyone who's grown up playing video games knows how important they are, so it's been relatively easy to get that demographic on board with the orchestral game music concerts. The trick has been making the case to people who don't have much experience with video games, and I think we still have a long way to go in that regard.

Tommy Tallarico mentions at most VGL shows that some people still think video game music is just "bloops and bleeps," and I've had first-hand experience with those sorts of folks, too. But once you get them into a concert hall and you get them to hear how rich and evocative these game soundtracks are, they realize what the gamers already know.

My 91-year-old grandfather hasn't touched a video game in his life, but he absolutely loves the music at our concerts. A few semesters ago, I got an e-mail from an audience member: "My wife and I are in our 60s/70s and neither of us has ever played a video game. We came as an experiment. ... [We] were hooked from the first song."

"VGL", "Dear Friends", "GSO" ; we're all winning over the skeptics, one show at a time.

Hans Zimmer famously collaborated on the score for "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", his first foray in composing for a video game. Why do you think it has taken so long for a movie composer of his calibre to work on a videogame?

I'd say timing has a lot to do with it. A movie may be two hours long, or so. But think about how much music goes into a modern video game. Even rushing through "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" at full speed could take you several hours, and you can easily spend several more exploring all the secrets. Scoring for all that takes a huge chunk of time, so fitting a videogame in between other projects can be tricky.

Johnathan Coulton will be reprising his role as songwriter for Portal 2. Is there any chance he could recapture the cult success of "Still Alive"?

We're all hoping! The bar is pretty high, but Coulton's magnificent. I'm confident whatever he has come up with will be great.

Finally, what are you playing right now?

In terms of games, my girlfriend and I are revisiting "Twilight Princess", and she's introduced me to "Tomb Raider", which I missed out on as a kid. I've recently gotten through "Donkey Kong Country Returns", and have been noodling around on "Crash Bandicoot" and "Super Mario RPG" here and there.

In terms of music, GSO's spring concert (our fifth anniversary) will feature some "Final Fantasy" (of course), as well as pieces from "Xenosaga", "Warcraft II" and others.

There'll be a few surprises, too. In terms of what I'm arranging, I'm trying to come up with something good for a "Pok�mon" piece, and I'm making an attempt on "Mario Paint".

GSO's next big event is their fifth anniversary concert on May 7 at the Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland. The event is free. Tickets are not required, but early arrival is encouraged. For more details visit the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center website.
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About Sean Daisyone of us since 11:13 AM on 07.16.2009

Formerly CaptainBus.

Commentoider and MassDebate founder/contendor. Has heard a lot of jokes about helmets.


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