The Legend of Zelda Symphony, a Spiritual Experience

Little did I know when I bought tickets to Zelda for my son for Christmas, that we would be at the world premier of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – Master Quest. When we walked into the Schermerhorn Concert Hall where the Nashville Symphony plays, I realized this was a different experience. First, there was a giant LCD Monitor hanging in the concert hall with images on the screen from the popular Zelda video game series created by Nintendo. Second, this was not your usual symphony crowd. It was made up of twenty-somethings and teenagers.  Many were wearing Zelda costumes. Third, the orchestra was not in tuxes, but dressed in black with open collars.

And then the concert started. As images from the Zelda video game series flashed on the screen the orchestra provided the live background music that greatly enhanced the experience. On top of that the Nashville Symphony Chorus added to the mix when they vocalized sounds that created a tapestry of moods from anger to love, from war to peace.

If the goal of Jason Michael Paul, the producer of the event was to capture the imagination, he was quite successful. My son and his fellow concertgoers were on the edges of their seats as scenarios from the 30-year history of the Zelda series unfolded through sight and sound. When we think of video games, we tend to focus on the visual elements, the puzzles that need to be solved, and the quests that need to be completed. What this concert brought to the forefront was the essential role music plays to create the atmosphere of the game.

This was most clearly seen in The Symphony: Movement IV – Time of the Falling Rain. The music was from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game released in 1992. The graphics were what you expect from a game created in the early nineties, nothing compared to the images we see in today’s games. But as the music played, it didn’t matter. On the original game the music is rendered on a synthesizer with limited musical intonation. But when played by a full orchestra with the accompanying voices of the chorus, it became an immersive experience that pulled you into the heroic efforts of Link to rescue Zelda who is imprisoned in Hyrule Castle. As Link moves between the Light World to the Dark World, the music matched its intensity. And when Link finally conquers his foes, he touches the Triforce to restore the world to what it was before evil tried to destroy it.

As I left the concert hall I was impressed by the quality of the event and how meshing the new with the old, the video game with the symphony, created a spiritual experience that captured the story that is as old as time. The hero who conquers evil in the name of good. The spiritual power that gives guidance and hope in the midst of adversity. The desire to be part of something that is bigger than oneself.

As we were riding home from the concert I could hear a lot of pinging sounds in the backseat. I asked my son what was going on. He had taken his Nintendo DS Game system with him and left it on during the concert. Silently it had connected with over 100 other gamers who had attended with their devices. He was capturing their avatars and replying to them.   In many ways he was taking the experience home with him and I was briefly connected with a world much different from my own, a world full of experience, meaning, and connection that goes beyond our physical limitations.

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