Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Videogame music is saving orchestra companies

Attendance at the Symphony has been declining for years and years, but some orchestras are figuring out a way to reverse that, getting more (and younger) butts in the seats:
Once considered a gimmick, performances featuring videogame music are now a regular part of pops orchestra programming. “You can no longer just sit there and play Beethoven,” said Andrew Litton, music director of the Colorado Symphony and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. 
Videogame performances offer a full orchestra—trumpets, harps and other classical instruments—plus choirs and jumbo video screens that synchronize gameplay footage to the music. Costumed attendees—dressed as dragons, wizards, princesses, fairies, knights and sorcerers—often engage in mock battles. Marriage proposals mid-show aren’t unusual; some end with fireworks.
In Philadelphia, the 80-year-old Mann Center has held videogame concerts since 2012. Representatives say the shows attract as many as many as 6,500 attendees, roughly double the average attendance at classical concerts.
Of course, this is no surprise to long time readers here:
In a comment to last week's Prokofiev post, reader Dave H pointed out the really excellent classic music being composed for games these days.  He's quite right.  Video games have passed Hollywood in sales; the Call Of Duty franchise of games has a much higher gross than the Star Wars franchise of motion pictures.  These are big budget products, with serious actors for the voice parts (Skyrim has Christopher Plummer) and music budgets to attract serious classical talent.

And since we're happy lacking in a landed aristocracy that would commission the talent of the day to produce music to glory their name, we at least have a market that supports quite interesting - if commercial - new classical music.  In fact, the commercial appeal is what makes the music accessible: since it's not funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, it has to appeal to a public much broader than the SWPL types who sit on NEA Grant Committees.

And so you get a barbarian overture hinting of Gorecki or Carl Orff, with a strong flavor of a rougher Wagner or Mahler.  Is this great music?  Beats me - I'm no music critic, nor am I a music historian (although I play one on my blog).  But this is listened to my literally hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise might be putting some rap on their iPod.
That last link has the music, and it's pretty interesting.  As someone who likes the odd symphony every now and then, this is a good turn of events.


ザイツェヴ said...

Why stop at video games? Render us some Aitakatta YES and Cruel Angel's Thesis!

.45ACP+P said...

"You cannot just play Beethoven" ! If only they did. I love the addition of popular genere types but it is the modern tuneless crap that symphonies insist on playing that has run off audiences. That and ticket prices. Our local symphony got us to come out for Video Game music and a James Bond movie music tribute.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer if they used classic music, as well. Look how great Eternal Sonata was! Chopin is legendary and video games could use more of his music! :)