I’ve always been curious about why things are the way they are, and one of the things that I’ve been wondering about a lot the last few years is where my love of electronic music originated. Lately I’ve attributed it to my love of New Wave music, but today I realized that that may be a bit of revisionist history. Truth be told, we didn’t really listen to a lot of 80’s music in the 80’s. My dad was a classic rock guy through and through, and I grew up on a steady diet of Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Kinks, Skynard and the like. It actually wasn’t until the 90’s when we moved to Hoosick Falls and I heard the Sunday Rewind on EQX that I started really paying attention to 80’s music. I didn’t even start buying music on my own until the mid-90’s.
Somehow I came across a video today describing the history of the Metroid franchise, which got me feeling very nostalgic, especially when they got to Super Metroid, which is one of my favorite video games of all time. The music had stuck with me over the years, and somehow one thing led to another and I was listening to other various video game soundtracks on YouTube. It was at this point that I realized that old school video games, SNES games in particular, might have been the real origin of my love for electronic music, especially since I spent SO much time playing these games as a kid. These were my REAL first experiences with music.
Probably the first piece of video game music I remember REALLY liking was “The Oracle” from Secret of Mana. This song played as you fought the final boss of the game (or one of the final bosses), who was this giant floating scary skeletal man that was really intimidating, a feeling that was helped in no small part by this freaky, intense music. I remember when I first got to this boss I almost immediately paused the game just so I could listen to the music a little longer, it blew my mind so much.
(Fun side fact: To add to the “Oh shit!” feeling you got when seeing the final boss, I always thought it sounded like someone was repeatedly saying “shit” in the song. Hear it for yourself.)
Secret of Mana was filled with great music, much like my favorite game of all time, Chrono Trigger. My favorite song, “Schala’s Theme,” played after you discovered this mystical city in the clouds called Zeal. It has this cool shimmery chime sound that really gave you the feeling that you were on an adventure in some magical realm. This song was apparently so memorable that I was surprised to find it recently used as a beat on Wiz Khalifa’s Kush and Orange Juice mixtape.
Finally I’d like to share a few songs from the Donkey Kong Country series to show you how beautiful video game music could be for me as a kid. This first song called “Fear Factory” foreshadows a lot of the synth stuff from Australia that I listen to now, and even has a little bit of trance thrown in there for good measure (check it out at the 1:00 mark). Was trance even around in 1994?
Probably one of the songs people remember best from the first game was “Aquatic Ambiance”, which played during the water levels, making them easily one of your favorite parts of the game. This actually reminds me a bit of a lot of the more mellow Drum & Bass songs, just without the D&B part.
Finally I’ve got for you probably the best song in any of the Kong games, “Stickerbrush Symphony”. This is neo-retro synth music at its best. Is it any surprise that the first musical genre I went really crazy for in college was trance?
I’m not sure why, but I remember distinctly going to the store to pick out my birthday presents one year and asking for Donkey Kong Country and The Offspring’s Smash album, whose “Come Out And Play” was really popular on the radio that year. While The Offspring have become basically a non-entity in my brain, the music from Donkey Kong Country has stuck with me to this day. I guess it’s really no surprise that the 8-bit/16-bit midi music from those days would have such a significant impact on me, since even today a fabricated sound is more interesting to me than a natural one.
Anyone else have any fond video game memories?