The Legend of Zelda sent me on a musical quest •

The Legend of Zelda sent me on a musical quest •

Hello! Welcome to music week. Aamir Mehar explains how Zelda did for him what Chopin couldn’t.

I have come across so much great music in the video game industry. Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett have created beautiful, reflective work for Transistor, and while I haven’t played Chrono Cross yet, the tracks I’ve heard (by Yasunori Mitsuda) are dazzling. Nobuo Uematsu’s work for Square has stayed with me to this day: Roses of May is as charming a tune as the name suggests, while there is a threat to Succession of Witches and a subtle, disturbing feel to it. listen to the cries of the planet.

Although I loved music, I never really tried to play it myself; I had no real experience with instruments outside of music lessons at school, lessons that never caught my interest for even a quarter of the time. Maybe the only detail that stood out to me, when it came to the instruments, was my sister learning to play a simplistic part of the Aerith theme on her keyboard at home, then teaching me how to play it.

Strangely enough, I still remember the sequence of the notes now, several years later. There were twelve in total, starting at the far right of the table: CBAG / DD / DEFEDC. That was the breadth of what I could “ play ”, and it didn’t even start to change until just a few years ago, when I decided to finally try the 3DS port of one of the most famous games ever created – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

The game features an intriguing mechanic in which you have to play certain notes on an ocarina – a real instrument – using the buttons on the console. You just had to briefly press each of them, but if you choose to hold any of them, you could (if I remember correctly) make the note longer. Sometimes I would play the songs differently, stretching certain notes or using different timings, and I realized something that probably happened to most kids in their first instrument lessons – I could play the same song on the instrument. very different ways. There was creativity and self-expression even when you were working as part of a piece that had been composed by someone else. Shigeru Miyamoto, the game’s producer, actually spoke about his interest in combining music and video games, referring to the idea of ​​introducing people to the experience of playing music in a practical way. As he spoke about the Wii, it seems that same desire was already evident in Ocarina of Time.

For the first time in my life, I felt a strong desire to play music rather than just listen to it. I wanted to play the beautiful opening theme of Ocarina of Time (by Koji Kondo), a soothing and at the same time painful track. I wanted to play whatever I admired, whether it was Nobuo Uematsu or Yasunori Mitsuda, or even a composer outside of games, like Howard Shore. I had, and still have, a genuine respect for the classical music of Chopin, Beethoven, etc., but I had no personal connection with their music. When I thought about playing their work, I felt intimidated but interested. When I thought about playing my favorite music from video games, I felt real excitement.

Getting a music teacher was not a practical idea due to the costs, so I tried to learn on my own, starting with music theory. I still have a copy of the notes I took at the time; there are many basic references to points and links, notes and rests, semitones and clefs. Buying a good beginner digital piano (with the full 88 weighted keys) would have involved spending hundreds of pounds, which ruled out this option. I opted for a 61-key, unweighted keyboard instead. It wasn’t glamorous – the keys felt thin and coarse, but it was a working tool that I could use to try and learn to play pieces, using an instruction book and Youtube .

It took a while, but I was able to get a very basic understanding of some of the fundamentals. I even got to play a very simplistic version of When the Saints Go Marching In, one of the very few songs that I actually recognized in my instruction book. I learned what the book called “jumps,” where my fingers had to jump on another key, just as Link could bounce sideways to either side during the fight. But having to pick up and do all of this at the same time – reading the sheet music, memorizing where each key was, struggling to play with both hands, grabbing the melody – was more difficult than most things I usually tried. .

The truth is that I have always avoided entering fields that were foreign to me; when I was younger I even gave up on things I thought I had little talent at. I got a little more courageous about it as I got older, but it’s still a tough thing to face. I recently read a fascinating memoir by a violinist (Min Kym’s Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung), and it serves to reinforce how different the world of music is from what I have experienced. throughout my life. Min Kym writes about music and instruments with such a powerful investment and awareness, and notes how stopping to think while playing has never worked. Stopping while playing was basically all I could do. (Obviously I was a complete beginner, and Kym was most likely referring to the expert level player.)

But to get back to where I left off, I reached a point where learning was more and more taxing. Everything I tried would seem slow and awkward. I gave up my keyboard. Every two months, family members would shake their heads and remind me of how wasteful it had been, and I insisted that I start learning again. They didn’t believe it, and I can’t blame them, because those months have piled up and turned into years.

Now we are in 2021. Unlike Link, who returned to Hyrule after seven years, it’s only been four years in my case. The other day I took off the protective foam on the keyboard, turned the power back on and tried to play a few notes. The keys were dirty and dusty and I couldn’t even remember the correct positioning of my fingers. However, with the help of websites and videos, I am only getting back a little of what I originally had. (Which, of course, was very little in itself.) I learned a few notes from the opening theme of Ocarina of Time, and while it doesn’t sound as good as I would like, I can hear traces of the air in my game. There may still be time to complete this adventure.

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