VGM Wednesdays – “Staff Roll” From “LoZ: Wind Waker”

“Staff Roll” from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, composed by Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Toru Minegishi, Koji Kondo and released in 2003

It feels strange to use a game that I’ve never played for VGM Wednesdays, but I once did a St. Patrick’s Day interview with Radio Free Gamer and this game came up.  I’ve never forgotten its since.

It’s the second Koji Kondo game in two weeks, I know, but these two pieces are so different.  The staff roll plays at the end of the game and just feels so expansive and broad, like sailing on the open sea (which is a prominent feature of the game).  There’s this sense that all that matters is freedom and your own experience.

Live your own life and live it the way you want.

Even though obstacles get in the way, you’re surpassing of them only makes the victory that much sweeter.

The score to Wind Waker has a much less epic feel than other Zelda titles and I think that it has to do with its Irish influence.  Irish music is more local, but also more distant.  Orchestral music is mighty, royal and heard in castles.  As the audience, we get that connection, but Irish/Celtic music gives us a different image of the world and that’s the one that Wind Waker explores.

Primarily, the composers show us the Irish flavour with instrumentation: The bodhran and hammer dulcimer (or bad synth steel guitar) at the beginning, then the Irish whistle at 0:11, then Uileann pipes at 0:24 and the fiddle at 0:35.  But it can’t just be generic melody or harmony on these instruments because, as with most cultural music, the instrument and the performance practice are so interconnected.

For example, the Irish whistle doesn’t just play a smooth melody, it has cuts (slamming the left pointer finger over top of the open hole, creating a grace note).  An Irish whistle playing without that idiomatic cultural style would sound out of place to our ear because we’ve heard an Irish whistle before and that’s not what it does.  It’s that “Irish” sound.  The instrument and the performance practice are linked.

I have a soft spot in another element in the music: the ascending bass line over a static melody.  You can hear it at  1:20 as the strings move homophonically underneath the Irish whistle.  It just… it just makes me so happy 🙂

Stay tuned for more over the weekend!

Thanks for reading,

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