VGM Wednesday – “Forever Rachel” Transcription for Live Instruments

by Kenley

“Forever Rachel” from Final Fantasy VI, by Nobuo Uematsu
Transcribed for live instruments by Eiko Ishiwata.

I’ve really been trying to limit my posting of Final Fantasy music since starting this blog.  Even though I have so much history with the franchise and I know this music better than any other VGM game or series, there is so much great game music out there and I want to explore as much of it as I can – both old and new.

There are so many Final Fantasy remixes and arrangements out there.  That being said, there are very few transcriptions.

What’s the difference?

An arrangement is the setting of pre-existing musical material and changing it to fit a new style, form, or ensemble.  Any remix that you’ve heard is, almost certainly, an arrangement of some kind.  A transcription uses the precise source material (with no edits or changes) and presents it as is.

That sounds like it’s just the song, though.  Well, it is, but not always in the way that you expect.

Eiko Ishiwata has transcribed “Forever Rachel” and had it performed, note for note, by the same instruments that Uematsu used in his score.  The difference lies in the character of the sound, not the notes on the page.

I have to digress for a moment here, because if you didn’t grow up in the 8- and 16-bit era of video games, you and I may interpret synthesized instruments differently (or maybe not, right?).  When I hear music from the SNES or Genesis/Megadrive, there’s a part in my head that’s already converting the flute synth to real flute, or the string synth to a real orchestral string section.  But, there’s another simultaneous part that’s appreciating the tone colour for what it is and just welcoming the 90s SNES sound into my head.  The two parts of the brain are working in tandem.  It’s a very strange sensation, but I’d be interested to see how others listen to VGM from that era.  Feel free to tell me in the comments section 🙂

Anyway! This transcription is what I’ve been hearing in my head since I was ten years old, so I’m happy that someone made it happen.

If you’re unsure of what the theme means (especially to the arrogant treasure hunter, Locke), the Final Fantasy Wikia article describes the tale and is dripping in spoilers.

The player is introduced to Rachel as Locke’s girlfriend from Kohlingen. One day, Locke took Rachel to Mt. Kolts, supposedly looking for what would become her engagement ring. Upon crossing a rickety bridge, it began to collapse with Locke on it, before Rachel pushed him out of the way just in time. In doing so Rachel took the fall for him. Locke saved her and brought her back to Kohlingen, but due to the fall, she had lost her memory. Her father blamed it on Locke, and he kicked him out of their house.

Rachel agreed to her father’s decision because she had no memory of Locke, and only saw him as someone who was upsetting her parents. The residents of Kohlingen were also angry at him, leading him to leave the town. Rachel was killed one year later in a raid by the Empire, but her memory was also restored right before her death. Her last words were: “If a man called Locke should ever return, please tell him that I love him”.

Locke eventually heard about the attack, and came back to Kohlingen only to find he was too late. Determined to do something for her, he took her to an herbologist living in Kohlingen, who preserved her body in its youthful state using herbs. After that, Locke searched for a way to bring her back to life. His feelings of guilt continued to haunt him, causing him to try to protect every woman he came across in need. He searched far and wide for a way, but he does not find it until the world is destroyed. He hears of the legendary esper, Phoenix, that can revive the dead.

He immediately goes searching for it, and finds it right when the player party shows up. When he gets to Kohlingen, he uses the Phoenix esper on Rachel, but the cracked magicite shard could only revive her for a few moments. She helps Locke overcome his guilt, tells him to “give his love to the one who now dwells in his heart” and dies again but not before her spirit merges with the Phoenix magicite and restores the magicite to it’s original splendor. Thus allowing Locke to finally make peace with his torrid past.

Ah, young love.

Have a great week!
Kenley

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