Music is an important part of video games. No matter how much video games evolve graphically (yet still share the main objectives of “Don't die” and “Kill the other guy”), they'll still need quality video game music to establish the intended mood or bring up emotions that graphics alone simply cannot convey. Imagine playing “Super Mario Bros” without that jaunty tune. That adventurous run through each level would be a tedious march from the left side of the screen to the right.
Bay Area composer Dren McDonald has taken several classic & contemporary selections of video game music and turned them into classical sounding themes performed on string quartet in “The String Arcade;” available now on CD or digital download. Listening to the 15 tracks (17 tracks if you order the CD version) is a classical and melodious journey across video game music.
“The String Arcade” takes a pick & mix selection of video games ranging from retro hits like “Galaga” and “Tron Arcade” to nostalgic old school video games like “The Legend of Zelda” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” to today's casual and/or indie games like “Plants vs Zombies” and “Scurvy Scallywags.” Some games you will know off the top of your head due to its popularity or your nostalgia. Some will be completely new. In either case, this varied mix of video games gets you thinking about those old an new video games. For example: Upon seeing “Outlaws” on the track list, I wonder why the heck aren't game developers working on a first person Western shooter? It's a great setting for such a game genre.
As with the pick & mix selection of video games, “The String Arcade” music conveys a pick & mix variety of moods and emotions through its use of staccato, scherzo, and other classical music terminology. The string quartet produces a harmonious sound as each song takes you through each listed game. Starting with a springy tune of growth, tension, and eventual zombie rush in “Plants vs Zombies” Grasswalk, the quartet playing in “The String Arcade” plays music reflecting a world of mystery and exploration in Echos of Ecco from “Ecco the Dolphin.” The talented musicians with Dren McDonald's compositions are able to effectively capture and interpret the mood that the original video game music produced during their associated video games. Sonic 2 Scherzo feels like a speed run of the Oil Ocean Zone.
PROTIP: Do not listen to “The String Arcade” on your mobile device while the GPS voice navigation is active. Nothing kills the immersion of a classical interpretation of a nostalgic video game theme quicker than “TURN LEFT AT THE INTERSECTION!”
Some of the songs and video games from “The String Arcade” may sound completely new to some peoples ears. But if the music captures the listener's attention, it's enough for him or her to perhaps check out the game that produced such music.
“The String Arcade” is available through iTunes at $7.99 or on CD through BandCamp at $9.99. Proceeds from album sales will benefit the Alameda Music Project. If you like classical music, video games, or a bit of both, “The String Arcade” is a worthy addition to your music collection.
What is your favorite video game music to listen to and what emotion does it convey to you?
"The String Arcade" track list:
- Grasswalk (Plants vs Zombies)
- Echoes of Ecco (Ecco the Dolphin)
- Ferdinand Wanders Out for a Late Night Haircut (Pettington Park)
- Engii (FTL)
- Sonic 2 Scherzo (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
- Outlaws Title Theme (Outlaws)
- Medicated Cow Walks the Cobbled Streets with Disgruntled Goat (Ravenshire Castle)
- Scurvy Scallywags Theme (Scurvy Scallywags)
- Scabb Cemetery/International House of Mojo (The Secret of Monkey Island: LeChuck's Revenge)
- Altered Beast Title Theme (Altered Beast)*
- Optimism for an Improvement in the John Situation (original composition by Dren McDonald)
- Turret Suite (Portal 2)
- Minecraft Title Theme (Minecraft)
- Tron Arcade Medley (Tron Arcade)*
- Dance of the Space Bugs (Galaga)
- The Legend of Zelda Title Theme (The Legend of Zelda)
*CD Bonus Track