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The Legend of Zelda is everywhere in modern music

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Whether it’s the sound effects of Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter in Charli XCX and Flying Lotus songs, or the flurry of samples from hip-hop producers donkey Kong And Chrono Trigger For Drake and Wiz Khalifa making beats, it’s hard to escape the influence of video games on modern music. But few series have had as profound an impact on a generation of musicians as The Legend of Zelda, thanks largely to the musical magic of series composer Koji Kondo.

In 2023, the Zeldathon is starting. Join us on our journey through The Legend of Zelda series, from the original 1986 game to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and beyond.

As Nintendo’s in-house composer since 1984, Kondo has been responsible for nearly all of the main tunes you’d associate with Nintendo, whether it’s the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme or the legendary prelude that accompanies Link’s adventures through Hyrule. If you grew up playing video games during the 80’s and 90’s, you probably spent more time listening to Koji Kondo than any other band or artist.

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“It’s hard for me to imagine how different my life as a musician would be were it not for Koji Kondo’s influence,” explains composer and orchestrator Eric Buchholz.

while Kondo’s tune serves primarily as background music. super mario bros., they serve a real purpose in The Legend of Zelda, where music is the answer to your biggest problems. need to change the time of day Ocarina of Time, Play “Song of the Sun”. Need to stop an ominous moon from crashing into Clock Town and destroying Termina Majora’s Mask, Play “The Song of Time”. i need to escape a nightmare Link’s Awakening, Collect the eight instruments and play “Ballad of the Wind Fish”.

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Interior of Kojo Kondo's Hero of Time vinyl, displayed with piano keys

Photo: Iam8bit

It is the connection between the music and the Legend of Zelda games that resonated with a generation of young players like Buchholz who went on to become musicians. Buchholz was introduced to the series when he was digging through carts at a local flea market and stumbled upon a copy. Link’s Awakening,

“At that age, I was also developing an interest in music, so you can imagine my great delight at finding a game where the primary objective was to place various musical instruments on top of a mountain to a world-ending tune.” Have to perform.” Buchholz says. “Of course, score for Link’s Awakening The music was not composed by Koji Kondo, but it took inspiration from the foundation of the music in which he a link to the Past — a legacy that has been drawn upon and built upon since the time it was written.”

Like many composers, Buchholz has played a role in the creation of Zelda’s musical legacy with his own arrangements, most notably his hero of time album. Buchholz describes it as his “love letter” to Kondo – an orchestrated retelling of the musical. Ocarina of Time, with 21 tracks performed by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. It spans the variety of musical themes in the game, and the series is large, from “Zelda’s Lullaby” to “Gerudo Valley”.

Buchholz says, “These themes can now be used to implement deeper lore ties to games in a franchise, or simply to evoke feelings of nostalgia for players of past games.”

Link uses the Wind Waker to change the winds atop the King of the Red Lions boat in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

Image: Nintendo via Play Gamez

Dan Reynolds, lead singer of pop-rock band Imagine Dragons, grew up playing Legend of Zelda games. He believes that it is the interactive and repetitive nature of video game music that makes music so powerful in the medium, especially when, as Link, you are actually playing it. So, it was a dream come true for him and the rest of the band when they were given the opportunity to join Koji Kondo on stage at The Game Awards in 2014 and perform a nostalgic tribute to The Games.

“Koji Kondo wrote the soundtrack to our childhood, so when Geoff Keighley suggested the idea of ​​collaboration, it was an immediate yes from all of us,” Reynolds said over email.

For many people, hearing someone play “The Song of Storms”, “Zelda’s Lullaby” or “Dragon Roost Island” can take them back to their childhood. This sense of nostalgia is incredibly powerful, and it’s the same spirit Dutch DJ Hardwell mines to draw people to electronic music festivals around the world.

Hardwell managed to get his hands on his favorite Zelda song after Nintendo asked him to remix a song of his choice for The Game Awards in 2015. Most of his fans play video games, he says, so he feels an instant connection with it. song when he plays it live.

Vinyl for Sweet Valley's Eternal Champ, with a record sticking half out of its sleeve

Image: Sweet Valley / Turntable Lab

It helps, of course, that there’s also a huge link between EDM and video game music. Some of the biggest names in the genre have created remixes of Zelda tunes, whether it’s Deadmau5’s “You Need a Ladder” or Zedd’s The Legend of Zelda mix, while others, such as Steve Aoki, have partnered with gaming companies to create trailers for Zelda songs. Partners to create music and perform virtual performances. Concert at Green Hill Zone.

“It’s like a perfect marriage,” explains Hardwell. “There is no doubt about it [The Legend of Zelda] Subtly influenced my early creative process, I didn’t even realize it at the time.

You Only Need to Hear the Opening Seconds of Electronic Music Duo Sweet Valley’s Album eternal winner to hear how much effect Ocarina of Time Member Joel Williams is lying on. The album begins just like the game, with Epona’s voice galloping to a hip-hop beat in the Hyrule field building using samples from the file selection theme.

“I played that game religiously as a kid, and every so often, I’ll watch it again as an adult; The opening horse galloping SFX and screeching strings transport me back to my childhood every single time,” says Williams.

maybe that’s right Ocarina of Time has been sampled and remixed so widely. It is largely a game about nostalgia, where Link uses music – most of which was introduced in earlier Zelda games, such as link to the past – Two worlds to navigate: the darkness of her adulthood and the innocent surroundings of her youth.

Link in Secret Forest Meadow in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Image: Nintendo via Play Gamez

If you’ve ever recognized a video game sample in a song before, you’ll appreciate how it can instantly create a sense of affinity and familiarity with an artist, even if you’ve never heard their music before. As Williams Says, There’s Something “Very Good” About Hearing The Skull Kid’s Menacing Laugh Majora’s Mask In the tunes of the burying and hasty rush, or the flapping of Navi’s wings incessantly Heyin Reggie Snow and Chance the Rapper tracks.

“It’s music transcending realities,” Tim Summers, lecturer in music at Royal Holloway University of London and author The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: A Game Music Companion, They say. “It’s adding another level of meaning to what you’re doing and a new way to experience music within games.”

Summers points to music creation Ocarina of Time (which allows you to improvise songs with the titular instrument) and Majora’s Mask (which does the same with a few different instruments) for example, explaining how not being restricted to specific notes within the game’s melodies provides players with the opportunity to experiment.

“The fact that you can bend down and reach a full chromatic set of notes—there’s no purpose to it,” Summers says. “Actually, it’s all the better because it has no purpose. It’s there for you to play along with.” There’s a lot of playing up to ocarina singing.

Outside the Game, Dr. Paez’s Epic-Like Arrangements Ocarina of Time Ro Panuganti’s Bollywood spin on the prog-rock concept album, “Gerudo Valley”, and August Burns Red’s metalcore medley of NES-infused blastbeats and breakdowns prove the adaptive and versatile nature of the music in The Legend of Zelda, which adds to its charm. Another big part of. ,

Koji Kondo's Hero of Time on the vinyl piano keys sticking out of his sleeve

Photo: Iam8bit

“It transcends so many different genres,” says Dustin Davidson, bass player for August Burns Red. “If you look at the evolution of music [Zelda] playing, you see it go through different instruments, and then you see how it’s written, whether it’s in the form of a metal song, acoustic guitar, or piano—all these different instruments are arranged. .

OverClocked ReMix is ​​a video game music fan community started in 1999 that remixes and arranges video game music. Its community manager, Larry Ozzie, says that arrangements for the Zelda series make up 7.6% of its total catalog, spanning 4,200 tracks. Some of the most popular include the interpretation of “Song of Storms” by Big Giant Circles and the Legend of Zelda Rabbit Joint cover, which everyone mistook for a System of a Down song. (Thanks, Napster and Limewire!)

“To date, the two most organized themes on the site are from Zelda – the original title theme, and then ‘Zelda’ [Lullaby]’ From Ocarina of Time,” says David Lloyd, founder of Overclocked Remix. “Both have been featured in several Zelda games, so it’s somewhat understandable that they would appear more often, but it also speaks to the enduring popularity of the musical.”

The infectious appeal and success of Koji Kondo’s music in The Legend of Zelda is impossible to pin down to a single factor. This music has meant so much to so many people, who have interpreted it and experienced it in so many different ways.

For some, like Davidson, the ongoing appeal of Zelda’s music is that it will always remind them of family. “It played such a big role in my upbringing because it was a way for me to bond with my mom and my brother. So I ended up getting the Zelda tattoo.

for others, such as hero of time Composer Buchholz, it laid the foundation for a successful career in music.

“It’s amazing to think of all the different directions my life could have gone had it not been for the influence of Kondo’s music when I was growing up.”

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