There's a saying when looking at old houses (or old faces, I suppose), that they have “good bones,” meaning that they are built with quality and character. While people may slather on their own misguided style over the top, the bones stay the same, waiting for just the right person to come along and allow them to shine.
Many of us are familiar with the excellent work done with Nobuo Uematsu's Final Fantasy lexicon, yet it may surprise you to know that there are, in fact, other great lo-bit producers out there who worked on systems other than (gasp!) the reverential Nintendo Entertainment System. Guys like Chris Hülsbeck and the Commodore 64.
While it is becoming more common to see video game music performed live with an orchestra, it's not often that the end result amounts to anything more than a passing curiosity. It's nice to pretend that all retro game music is somehow glorious and profound simply because it's retro and therefore oh-so cool, but the fact is that there's a massive pile of dreck covering up the few gems underneath. The fact that hvsc.c64.org alone has a collection of over 30,000 C64 SID songs is testament enough to that.
How does one manage to wade through this seemingly insurmountable ocean of material? Well, one good way is to follow whatever conductor Arnold “Arnie” Roth is involved with. He's the man behind the baton on two of the best orchestrated Final Fantasy performances released, both Distant Worlds and Dear Friends, as well as PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. Along with arrangers Jonne Valtonen, Yuzo Koshiro (Ys, ActRaiser, and Etrian Odyssey), Takenoubo Mitsuyoshi (Shenmue, Virtua Fighter, and Daytona) and Adam Klemens (Immortal 3), Roth and the WDR Radio Orchestra, FILMharmonic Choir Prague attempted to bring the magic to Hülsbeck's musical history (including Amiga, PC Engine, film scores and the aforementioned C64) with two performances in Cologne. Thus, Symphonic Shades was born.
With such good bones to work with and such talented musical architects involved, it would tough for anything to go wrong. Or would it? Hit that jump and find out.
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