Friday, November 23, 2012

Analysis: Final Fantasy VII: Evolution of the main theme.

Thinking about where this theme appears in the soundtrack.  How are our ears introduced to the theme?  How is it used through the game?  Where does it appear?  This is a chronological journey of the main theme through the game. 

First hearing of any part of the theme is in Underneath the Rotting Pizza.  You'll hear a minor version of the first few notes of the main them from :30-:55.  It starts the way the theme will start and then has a different melodic ending.  This might as well be considered the "overworld theme" of the slums-- it's the music you hear when you're exploring on your own and transitioning between Wall Street and Aeris house. 

The next appearance, a bit more subtle, is in Lurking in the Darkness.   This has the sustained chord articulation of the final part of the main theme :09-:15 (compare with main theme below, 3:47-4:15)

Holding My Thoughts in My Heart uses the motive of the main theme over harp like arpeggiation.  (:21-:45).  Remember, you're just leaving Midgar when this first plays.  Hearing this is literally preparing your ear to hear the main theme as significant in a moment when you step onto the overworld screen. 

Then we hear the main theme for the first time once we step outside of Midgar.

On That Day Five Years Ago...  This is heard for the first time when Cloud has a flashback in Nibelheim.  It opens with the main theme motive, but here, as in its first appearance in Underneath the Rotting Pizza, the theme is in minor here instead of major.

Steal the Tiny Bronco uses the main theme to underscore the gun fire moments.   :22-:35

When your party climbs up the crater for the first time, you hear  "The Great Northern Cave."  This will become both the airship theme when you're flying around and the overworld theme when you walk on the map.  I don't hear any similarities between this theme and the main theme. 

Who am I? Begins with the main theme over X-files-like arpeggiation.  This plays when Cloud is confront Sephiroth's lies. 

The Highwind Takes to the Skies also plays the main theme.  Interesting to use the main theme in the airship theme-- considering that the airship theme is probably much more common to be heard in late gameplay than the theme walking around the world.  Very easy to hear this theme from :14-:50. 

Also, the original main theme plays for a second in the final movie.  It plays as couterpoint with Tifa's theme.  1:54-2:24.  The second iteration here returns to E major with a timpani roll and very much feels like a musical homecoming after playing the game and hearing the music so many times. 

Did I miss any occurrences/evolutions of this theme?  


  1. I was wondering if you had any thoughts to the FF9 theme? It seems like the producers were very deliberate in their intentions to play that theme throughout that game, moreso than any other Final Fantasy game that I've come across. Is it a risky move? Or, does it try to create continuity and a feeling of camaraderie for your characters?

  2. I'm not quite sure which theme you mean from FF9, but I'm guessing you mean the main theme when you start up the game, A Place to Call Home. First off, beautiful folk like theme. Great melodic Uematsu. I'd say that each FF reuses a lot of music from FF IV onward, once the characters were given clear musical motifs. Have you played FF 6? The ending is basically a recap of all the characters musical motifs as they appear on the screen. It almost reminds me of the ending to a musical where all the themes are played in the orchestra one last time.

    FF9 reuses a lot of music, not just the main theme. Each character has his/her own theme and many of these get reworked at various times and situations. The world map theme, Eye to Eye, appears most of all in my memory. I definitely want to explore this idea more and could easily make an huge blog entry out of it.

    Briefly, the first thing that comes to my mind is how the A Place To Call Home appears as in other guises. For instance, Oeilvert is just a slightly rearranged version of the main theme, and Steiner's theme has the same musical motive of a rising minor 5 note scale pattern, albeit with a different rhythm. While repeating music builds aural familiarity, at some level it also adds unity to the game from an aural standpoint. Could it get boring to a listener? Sure. Probably not to a music nerd like me. As to exactly when and why these themes are reused certain places, I'll have to think more about it.

  3. You could also play the theme on the piano at Tifa´s home :)

  4. Absolutely a good call! I'd forgotten that you could play her piano. I used to love that and play all kinds of melodies on it, and not just from Final Fantasy. One of the most awesome parts of that game by far. I love in game instruments being playable! Zelda Ocarina of Time also comes to mind as a very successful game. I don't remember any music instruments in FF6, but FF5 also had a piano playing component to it...

  5. (Apologies if this is a double post, my internet broke just as I posted my original comment, and I'm not sure whether you withhold comments to view before they're published or something. If this isn't my second comment, hi there(: )

    I was listening to The Great Northern Cave theme just now and the part at 2:45ish sounds like the main theme/highwind theme is cleverly disguised underneath it. Has the same rhythm in being played and the notes are vaguely discernible, even under the minor key change or whatever it is! Thoughts?

    Great blog by the way!

  6. Hello! Thanks for reading and writing! You know, I definitely think this is one of those uses of the main theme I missed when I was studying through the game. In the YouTube video I made, I left out a few references to consider the length of the video, but there are also just things that I missed. Not only is this reference in minor, but it also has a different melodic ending to each phrase. I do hear the reference you mention, though. Glad to have this one added to the list here!

    Here's a link to a video where you can hear what Anonymous is talking about at 2:45: