Play! A Video Game Symphony

Posted November 24, 2009 in
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Play! A Video Game Symphony
11.17.09
Abravanel Hall

Hark! A New Age Of Nerd Culture!
There’s nothing I like more than seeing my favorite pastime further legitimized in the eyes of modern artistic culture.  Play! is a concert series that combines the host city’s orchestra with a production company, music director and conductors who travel from venue to venue, performing music from popular video games.  The orchestra and choir are accompanied by three projection screens playing various footage from the video games during the performance.

The video turned out to be a less impressive aspect of the evening.  The montages were obviously not designed by anyone with nostalgia for these titles—I think if they had just asked the internet nicely, some nerd could’ve done way better, and probably would have for free.  There were also technical difficulties throughout.  It was like something from a high school assembly where the principle fuddles with powerpoint while a roomful of kids roll their eyes and wait.  At one particularly bad point, after we had been staring at someone’s computer desktop projected above the orchestra for a few minutes, they just gave up and skipped the Chrono Trigger video altogether.  Personally, I don’t mind a few technical hiccups and it certainly didn’t ruin the evening, but all I’m saying is you’re working with musicians from the Utah Symphony Orchestra here, mister video engineer guy, and you don’t see them making mistakes. 

The music, naturally, was brilliant.  The pieces were musical montages of each game, rather than single tracks reproduced.  I bought the CD, and I almost got the T-shirt but I crumbled under my nerd shame before managing to.  The music itself needs no qualification or description from me—If you don’t know how awe-inspiring the symphony is I’m not going to be able to describe it to you.  Suffice it to say the event was a real treat, video game fan or no. 

From the smiles and piqued eyebrows of some of the violinists up front I’d guess the Utah Symphony Orchestra is not entirely accustomed to an audience of the night’s . . . caliber, although they seemed to be enjoying the change of pace.  You might think a video game symphony would attract an even ratio of people who came because it’s a symphony to people who came because they, like me, have gamerscores higher than their yearly salary.  But the truth is there were almost no non-nerds at all – attested to  by the group-snort-laughs that issued from the audience at various nostalgic moments in the video montage.  A bit more than half of the basement dwellers who crawled up toward the cultural light for the evening decided to throw on a tie along the way, myself included.  The rest were in street clothes, save for three or so brave cosplay souls.  Abravanel filled to maybe two thirds capacity.  Because we were a room full of nerds, applause was triumphant for Mario, Zelda, and all the favorites, while announcements of music from lesser-known titles like Lost Odyssey and Shenmue met with almost no clapping at all (“But you’re not playing favorites, of course?” Chided the conductor). 

Hands down the most well-received song of the night was the encore, a Final Fantasy composition.  Watching the highly professional, middle-aged men and women of the choir belt out “aaaaaaaa-Sephiroth!” did my soul good and put a stupid smile on my face for hours.  If you ever have the opportunity, find a cute geek and take them to an event like this.  Best.  Nerd date.  Ever.  

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