Friday, August 17, 2012

Beginnings (Analysis): Rosalina in the Observatory

For my first blog entry, I want to pay tribute to one of my favorite game soundtracks.  In this YouTube video, you can hear The Comet Observatory Theme from Super Mario Galaxy.  This theme, also called "Rosalina in the Observatory" is one of the few tracks in the game composed by Koji Kondo, the original composer of many beloved Mario and Zelda themes.  Most other SMG tracks were composed by Mahito Yokota.  

One if the coolest things about this game that immediately jumped out at me when I first played SMG is this theme's development throughout the game.  That is to say, as you progress farther through the game, the instrumentation of the theme changes, building up when you're at your homebase.  To best explain this, give it a listen while you think about the form of the music: Intro-A-A-B-A.  All that repeats every 1:15.

The theme begins with solo flute and harp over a simple cello bass.  In the second version of the theme, strings play the theme in unison while the orchestra replies with offbeats, the melody is heard in octaves in the second "A," and a moving bass line fills in and the final dominant bass note drops at the end of the "B."   Basically everything expands outward-- lower and higher for the build.  In the third version, brass plays the intro and adds throughout, oboe takes the tune, and countermelodies and suspensions come into play.  Boy, that brass builds excitement!  I love this progression of variations-- it's such an incredible touch and at the same time such a subtle boost as the game progresses.  This video is just over 3:45, since it plays each version of the theme in succession.  Anyone know what game events unlock the different tracks?    


Here also is a link to an interview describing some of Kondo's inner workings for the game music composition process.  Particularly interesting is the discussion of characterization in the music.  

What games have some of your favorite music?  Leave me a note in the comment section and I'll try to feature them as I continue the blog.   

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