The Valkyria Chronicles Piano Pieces
have been out for over a month now and it's been received pretty well! There is a great review of it over at Original Sound Version
- and remember you can listen to some samples on the iTunes music page.
Also, don't torrent it please? I need to eat.
With that out of the way, I thought I'd share some info for those who have heard the CD - the booklet is in Japanese, but I wrote some liner notes for each track: I've copied the original english here and added some extra thoughts too.
1. VC3 Main Theme
– "The tone of this piece is very solemn, regal, and intense. I decided a baroque piano style would fit it best."
The VC3 pieces were interesting to arrange, since I hadn't played the game at all - usually the context of the game gives me some idea as to how the piece should sound. The original version of this gave me the gist of it though - it's a bit less militaristic, and more passionate, with latin guitar played throughout. I found that the 'baroque' style captured the same feeling, but in a different way.
2. Desperate Fight
– "This is an iconic battle theme from the VC series. With the arrangement, I wanted to keep the exciting pace and buoyant rhythms of the original."
Masashi Hamauzu's piano style was a big influence here! The FFX Piano Collections in particular - I listened to almost nothing else the year it came out :)
3. Theme of Valkyria
– "This theme represents the unstoppable power of the Valkyria. I rearranged into a tango style so that it would sound dramatic, but personal. In this way, the song focuses more on the burden of power, than the power itself."
4. Summer in Lanseal
– "Since the Military Academy of Lanseal was at the heart of the events of VC2, I chose to arrange one of the four seasonal themes. Summer seemed the best choice – it was very hot in Perth when I was writing it, and it perfectly captured the lively campus atmosphere of Lanseal."
This one doesn't stray too far from the original's feel. But that's fine - it's a simple, malleable and lovely theme that sounds best when it can breathe and dance. Usually when Sakimoto is mentioned, war and battle music is the first thing people think of - but he really knows how to write a sweet, catchy melody too.
5. Days With Classmates
– "This piece has a bright melody, which I arranged into a more relaxed and tender version. VC2 contained personal missions and scenes for everyone in Class G, so I wanted this song to be a reflection on all those varied stories."
There were a lot of creative ups and downs over the course of writing these arrangements - this was one of the ups. I wrote it pretty quickly, and it was a bit of a self-morale boost, since I still had so many more songs to arrange at the time.
6. Nameless Heroes
– "This is a recurring theme in the VC3 soundtrack. I wanted to write something more contemporary, and I experimented with this melody in many different ways. I settled on a country ballad style, since it was a nice change of pace from the intensity of the rest of the album."
Took me a while to work out what to do with this. Again, I had no context for it, except that it was probably an important melody, since it cropped up so much in the VC3 OST. The deadline was only a few weeks away and I needed to do something interesting with it. The answer I needed was actually in the chords - I was playing around with them and changed the meter to something more like this.
The melody then changed easily, into something pleasantly unexpected.
7. OPEN FIRE!
- "When arranging music for VC3, I had less context for what events the music represented in-game, so I was drawn to pieces that appealed to me musically. OPEN FIRE! was suggested to me, and the guitar accompaniment inspired me to write a latin jazz version of the song."
If you've seen my arrangement of "Powell" from Seiken Densetsu 3
you'll know, or soon know, that I love latin piano. As for game context, it seemed pretty obvious from the title. So I got busy writing a chart I could barely play (I tend to write above my actual skill level). I got there in the end, miraculously without any RSI.
8. VC2 Main Theme
– "When writing Main Themes, Sakimoto always creates a grand atmosphere, and an iconic melody. This piece is especially rich and bombastic, so I tried not to stray too much from the original feel."
This was the first one to be finished, and what kickstarted the project into a reality. Like OPEN FIRE! it's pretty challenging to play, but in a satisfying, bombastic kind of way.
9. VC1 Main Theme
– "This piece was the main inspiration for arranging Sakimoto's music, even before the project began. The arrangement explores the Main Theme through many different moods, which conveys the emotional ups and downs of the game's events. It also represents the journey of self-improvement that working on this project has afforded me."
The big one, the flagship theme for the series. It had to be very epic and varied - which is why it's the longest song on the CD. I wrote so many ideas for it, and ended up cutting very little of it out. The 'journey of self-improvement' refers to the experience of having to be consistently creative, for a major project, on a deadline. When a fire like that is lit under you, it's pretty effective.
10. Those Who Succeeded
– "A lot of time and thought went into this piece, since it features in a major plot point in the original Valkyria Chronicles. It also had to stand apart from the existing piano version. I reduced the piece to just the melody, then built around it with my own musical influences. The result was a piece that feels unique, and it has become my favourite piece on the album."
I figured that the best approach would be to understate the emotional impact of the song (in context of when it appears in the game) and leave a lot of space. Then, the first harmonic climax at 1:24 - 1:32 can really hit the listener hard. It's nicely placed on the album too, like an 'epilogue' section - this was my producer's idea.
So, I hope you enjoyed reading all of that. And if that still
isn't enough video game piano for you, here is a link to my new arrangement from Chrono Trigger:
"Guardia Millennial Fair" - Chrono Trigger