Covering a Tune: Arranging Music for Beta Test Presents: HEROES! Part 4

This is Part 4 of my blog posts on arranging the music for the new Beta Test Music concert, Beta Test Presents:  HEROES!  In this entry, I talk background and musical selection from “The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past”.  In case you missed it, here’s links to Part 1 and Part 2 talking about “Super Mario Land 1/2” and here’s Part 3 talking about “Sonic the Hedgehog”.

First Impressions:

Mario, Sonic…. oh yes, Link.  I almost forgot about him.  I had originally thought that I was going to cover the Final Fantasy II Rebel Army Theme (and this version in particular) for an orchestral showpiece but I also realized that probably 90% of the audience would be like:  wait, what’s this one?  I don’t really think of things in terms of what the audience wants, trust me.  I have arrangements of selections from “Bubsy the Bobcat” in the works.  I’m not even sure I want that.

At any rate, it’s worth noting that behind Mario, Link has also produced large recognition and critical success.  Reading what Shigeru Miyamoto has to say about Link across many years of gaming magazines, interviews, etc makes Link a hero/character that is very important, biographically, to the Nintendo creator.

Link’s genesis lies in the childhood experiences of Miyamoto.  Miyamoto likens the stages/dungeons to when he remembers exploring the wilderness and caves as a child and the magic of the outdoors and nature.  If you’ve played ANY of the series, you know this is definitely true.

For me, the first couple games speak the most volume.  Oddly, as a kid, I did not own a copy of The Legend of Zelda for NES.  Well, actually I did but the battery back up was dead.  I remember borrowing a good copy of it from my friend Matt and basically spending weekends and weekends hammering away at dungeons with my Nintendo Power guide.  Yes, I used a guide.  But we all did, I think?  It had maps and was much cooler than anything on gamefaqs.com right now.

Anyhow, while the newer games enhance that experience greatly (Skyward Sword is… a fanboy’s dream), I prefer the simplicity of 2D flat vertical/horizontal adventure games than the loosely controlled Mario 64 clone that is Ocarina of Time.  Yes, I just knocked Ocarina of Time.  Send angry emails here.

Tangents aside, we also learn from the Miyamoto interviews that Link was developed as a kind of “every-man” (er well maybe like… an “every-boy-elf-Hylian-thing” I guess).  Link starts as someone with no powers or abilities.  By the end of each game, Link is capable  of saving the world.  Miyamoto has stated that he wanted everyone to feel like they could be like Link and overcome large degrees of adversity through hard work and perseverance.  The idea that Miyamoto himself has concept of his own characters and their place in a player’s life is very important to me.  The fact that he spent purposeful and meaningful time developing these concepts is why the nostalgia continues in games like Skyward Sword and why we have Koji Kondo out there conducting Nintendo-themed orchestral concerts.

Putting this all together, my heroic nomination of The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past is NOT because I’m highlighting Link.  It’s because I’m highlighting a true hero, a true visionary- Shigeru Miyamoto.  A Link to the Past happens to be my favorite in the series.  Well, I really liked Link’s Awakening as well but… too much Game Boy music on the program already!  Take a look at this interview with Miyamoto.

(credit:  GameSpot)

I like how they have a female translator.  Still, I like how he’s really into the system and he knows the system.  Anyhow, let’s talk about the music!

Musical Selections:

Okay, I admit it.  It was very tempting for me to just cut this theme out and do the whole thing on other tracks from the game:

(credit:  seanehawk)

This course of action was deemed too evil by my colleagues.  There’s so much great music in this game that is NEVER covered due to difficulty or obscurity.  If I was going to write 8 minutes of music from this game, I wanted it to be the tracks I thought had merit.  Unfortunately, I was kind of vetoed very early in the process and under much duress, this track was added.

Of special interest to me was this track:

(credit:  jumpropeman)

When I was doing my research into the game (by playing through it for the millionth time), I remembered how much anxiety this theme gave me.  This really reminded me of that whole “exploring” concept that Miyamoto was looking for in his initial creation of the characters.  I had to include it.

Next, I thought the game needed a good introduction.  While I could just come right out with the Overworld theme, maybe something with a little more style was in order.  One thing I remembered as a kid distinctly was turning on my SNES and for whatever reason, getting distracted or delayed and coming back to find the game playing the prologue movie.  The prologue movie plays a theme very similar to the very beginning of the where you’re running through the rain to find your uncle (a track titled, depending on where you get it, Time of Falling Rain):

(credit:  Renegade466isback)

The prologue theme, though, is different and provides an expansion of the ideas from Time of Falling Rain:

(credit:  TheRealBlueFlame)

We would be able to make some awesome music with this, I figured.  It’s wonderfully orchestral.  I also got to thinking- has anyone ever really covered this?  There’s a full cover of all the game’s music…

But it’s not really the style of the game…. Kakariko Village is really good though.  (And also, for good measure, this is HARDLY live so I don’t know where these guys get off saying that…..  Ugh… so much wrong with this.  Anyone with a studio… the… I’ll…  I’ll attack this in a later post.)  AT ANY RATE, a good PROPER cover seemed in order.

I then decided that we needed to make my fingers fall off:

(credit:  Renegade466isback)

The boss theme has always been a favorite of mine.  Still, there’s an issue (well, beside the fact that it is ridiculously hard to play on the tuba).  This theme is literally 20 seconds long.  That’s a whole lot of work for something that is going to just blow by.  I decided maybe I should illicit the help of the remake of this music for The Legend of Zelda:  Four Swords Adventures:

(credit:  KirbyY15)

I don’t NORMALLY borrow material from remakes of the tunes but I figured the changes in key toward the end would provide more material to work with.  Eventually, though, under time constraints and endurance issues, we cut MOST of the extra content from Four Swords Adventures for this theme.

This next one was a no brainer for me.  Heavy tuba, tight chords.  I thought this would really fit:

(credit:  Renegade466isback)

Still, I craved more content.  Four Swords, for Game Boy Advance, expanded the theme and I simply had to oblige to the new ideas:

(credit:  saladin4)

I liked this.  Later, I would figure out that they covered it yet again and in a way that fit the ensemble…. soooooo much better.  I will be sure to change my current cover to reflect this one in the future:

(credit:  ThunderBlueHero)

Man, there’s so GREAT harmonies I could have explored.  It will be done, for sure.

Okay, lastly, I had planned on using the Ending credit theme:

(credit:  Renegade466isback)

But uh… it’s 7 minutes long.  I tried to cut it down and it just ended up not doing any kind of justice to the music.  Sitting on the chopping floor, I have this entire theme arranged for a later date…

So, proposed order and final order:

Intro -> Prologue -> Light World Dungeon -> Boss Theme -> Death Mountain -> Fight vs. Ganon (another impossible to play on tuba kind of thing) -> Ending Credits….

That would have been about 10 minutes of Zelda music WITHOUT the main theme from the game.  So evil.  Anyhow, this is what I eventually settled on:

Intro -> Prologue -> Light World Dungeon -> Boss Theme -> Death Mountain -> Overworld (IE that famous tune)

At least you’ll have to wait until the very end to get your fix, haha.

Tomorrow!  The final installment AND our epic concert:  Beta Test Presents:  HEROES!  Have you bought your ticket yet?  You can do so online here.

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

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