Covering a Tune: Arranging Music for Beta Test Presents: HEROES! Part 1

This is Part 1 of my blog posts on arranging the music for the new Beta Test Music concert, Beta Test Presents:  HEROES!  In this first entry, I am going to talk about “Super Mario Land Medley”.

First impressions:

The main concept of “Beta Test Presents: HEROES!” is to highlight our personal heroes from our youth, from today, from basically any time.  When we first started talking about it, I immediately felt that Mario had to be included in this concert, no matter what.  He represents a hero that, while flawed and ultimately stupid (as evidenced here), is beloved and recognized more than Mickey Mouse.  Naturally, since this is a game music blog and I do tend to steer toward… the less known when it comes to video games, I felt like we couldn’t just go in there and do this:

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

This, while a classic, has been played to death.  Heck, there’s even a tuba ensemble arrangement of this piece.  I couldn’t go with that.  While Mario has starred in a lot of new games (and there’s a couple with really amazing music), I wanted our performance to have a very nostalgic feel and a lot of the new music isn’t as well known.  I asked around a bit and then remembered playing a lot of Game Boy and Super Mario Land as a kid.  Now THERE’S a game that people don’t cover the music from very often AND many would recognize.  Pretty much everyone I knew growing up had a Game Boy and Super Mario Land and/or Tetris.  So, using that logic, there was a chance that just about everyone in the audience would have owned a Game Boy and then at least 50% of those people would know the music.  I liked those odds, somehow.

Music Selections:

Super Mario Land, composer: Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka:

I was hoping that this game would serve up some really great tracks as Hirokazu Tanaka always seems to provide soundtracks that get stuck in your head (he’s the composer for Dr. Mario).  However, Super Mario Land, proper, does have many tracks from which to pick.  I managed to get the entire soundtrack to the game and realized quickly that the music was very… simplistic.  For example, Mario goes to “Chai Kingdom” and it plays the following track:

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

Yes, it’s an “Asian” themed level.  And while it’s actually pretty cool, musically, it also fails the nostalgia test.  This is from World 4, the last “world” in Super Mario Land.  I really doubt that most people (especially the casual John Q. Gameboyowner) even remember getting to this stage.  So I figured we should play some of the simpler tracks from the game, maybe the World 1 theme, which is much more well known:

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

There we go, this is something that many people should recognize.  If you turned on a Game Boy and pressed “Start”, this is the track played.  I figured that would be a good way to start off.

I picked the Temple theme (Easton Kingdom) from the game as well because I felt like many people would remember it.  Then, I figured the best way to end it all would be to play the closing credits music knowing that the ending credits would probably fail the nostalgia test too but not caring as much because I felt like it fit:

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

Super Mario Land 2/3, composer:  Kazumi Totaka/Ryoji Yoshitomi

The major issue then became… uh… it was way too short.   I decided that I should probably look to some of the other Super Mario Land games.  The series has 3 games total on Game Boy (Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2:  The 6 Golden Coins, and Super Mario Land 3:  Wario Land).  Super Mario Land 2 and Super Mario Land 3 provided tons of new tracks from which to draw.

I started picking tracks from the two games when I suddenly realized that I could NOT include anything from Super Mario Land 3, as Super Mario Land 3 was technically a Wario based game and not a Mario based game.  This forced me to have to pick enough material from Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2 to make a 6~ minute long piece.

Kazumi Totaka.  This might be one of his most famous games for which he supplied the score.  His others include Mario Paint, Animal Crossing, Yoshi’s Story (blech), and something released in Japan only called Healthy Recipe Assistant 1000: DS Menu Anthology.  He’s also the voice actor for Yoshi in the Mario series.  Yes.  But most important to me, of course, is he composed this:

(credit:  SomeVideoGameMusic)

Naturally, Super Mario Land 2 had some really great tracks…

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

Unfortunately for me, they were all basically the same…

etc etc etc etc

(credit:  GilvaSunner)

I decided that playing “Athletic” was all we really needed to do ultimately.  It’s the same theme.  No need to continue using that over and over.  I also decided on this track too because it’s really silly and kind of perfect:

How does this all come together?  We’ll take a look at that tomorrow in Part 2!  Stay tuned!


About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

6 responses to “Covering a Tune: Arranging Music for Beta Test Presents: HEROES! Part 1

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