Kenley Kristofferson

Composer.

Tag: final fantasy 6

VGM Wednesday – “Forever Rachel” Transcription for Live Instruments

“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

VGM Wednesday – Ending Theme (Orchestrated) from Final Fantasy VI

“Ending Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, by Nobuo Uematsu and released in 1994.

I know that I’ve posted this before, but this version is different and it celebrates the completion of a project that I’ve been working on for quuuuuuuuite some time.  But first the music…

I’ve heard just about every FF6 live performance/arrangement/orchestration on the web and I was SO happy to finally find this.  I’ve listened to the Ending Theme more times than I can count and I never ever thought that I’d find a live recording of it.  This comes from the “Final Fantasy VI: Littlejack Orchestra” concert at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall in August 2009, according to the video uploader.

I found this version after months of research on the Japanese web. I had previouslyheard of a concert devoted exclusively to FINAL FANTASY VI: “LittlejackOrchestra” at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall in August 2009. Being unable to attend,I had to find a single record, and my efforts were rewarded by putting the hand (or click …) on the video repeatedly. Far from perfect despite my edits, I grant you!

I think that he did an okay job editing but, to be honest, the recording isn’t the only thing far from perfect.  The performance is okay, but a lot of sections are out of balance and out of tune (especially in the upper woodwinds).  It’s still very impressive, don’t get me wrong, but if we’re going to do it, let’s really do it.  Symphonic Odysseys and Symphonic Fantasies come to mind… now those are performances!

To be fair, they are an amateur orchestra and they really played their heart out.  Their set was also incredibly long, which may have been to their detriment.  A solid article at “Original Sound Version” was written by someone who attended the show and is really worth the read.

Now, for the project.

Earlier this month, one of my students was talking about how much she loves the Harry Potter series.  She’s read all of the books a jillion times, had movie marathons, owns all of the wands, and more.  I must say, I was a bit jealous that she loved a universe that much and I wish that I did too.  Granted, I did at one point: The Final Fantasy VI universe.  I decided that it was time to revisit this place where my heart once belonged and see if there was still a place for it inside.

Thankfully, there was  🙂

This one in particular pays tribute to a game that was such a huge part of my musical (and gaming) upbringing.  I decided to make the cast of the game in perler beads (beads on grid, iron them down into a pattern) and it really enabled me to rediscover what I love about the game.

My fiancee would ask about the dog, for example, I could explain that the dog was the companion of the detached and dark ninja, Shadow and the canine’s name was Interceptor.  He was the village dog in Thamasa, but had a particular affinity for Shadow back when he was a robber named Clyde.  You know, Thamasa is a pretty interesting village… (and then go on from there).

Another time, she asked about the man in the life jacket (Cid) and I recounted the Solitary Island part to her, especially with Celes and her complicated personal struggle.

Even now, the real beauty of the game is the complexity of story and backstory in each character.  I mean, the plot is interesting, but it really just enables the characters to deal with their struggles and overcome their own personal demons.  The game has a loose story, but the best narrative is the 16 parallel stories going on inside the characters.

I still love it and still think it’s beautiful 🙂

Kenley

VGM Wednesdays – “Ending Theme” from Final Fantasy VI

“Ending Theme” from Square’s “Final Fantasy VI,”  released in 1994.

So, Final Fantasy VI was released on the PSN Store yesterday and the big question remains: Will I buy it for a fourth time?

Well, I have it for SNES, PS1 and GBA, so probably not… but few games have moved me as much as this one.  I owe so much of my youth and musical development to this game.  My understanding of leitmotifs, my passion for melody, the inklings of my understanding of orchestration… it all stems from MIDI files ripped from SPCs (the sound format of the SNES) and imported into MIDISoft Recording Studio, my awful early-90s sequencing software.

To me, this score (and game) is really the pinnacle of storytelling in video games.  Granted, I’m very nostalgic toward this 17-year old game, but maybe that’s okay.  When I first started this write-up, I wanted to start with “it’s a story about a young woman who is trying to find herself,” but that’s not really true: It’s a story about sixteen interconnected individuals who are all trying to conquer their own individual demons…

… And isn’t that all of our stories?

I mean, the woman down the street hasn’t had her memory erased by a sadistic dictator (like the game’s protagonist, Terra), but there may be those who are gambling their life away because they harbour guilt about hurting another human being (Setzer), working through sibling rivalry about the family business (Edgar and Sabin) or trying to build a relationship with their father (Gau).  The older I get, the more that I realize this game is really like the human condition, like how Battlestar Galactica isn’t really about space, but more about survival and what makes us human.  Like BSG, this game is a story of fighting all odds, but also realizing that the battle within ourselves is just as important as the one in the world around us and how critical it is that we find out what keeps us going in the world and how we can create something to live for.

I picked the “Ending Theme” because it goes through EVERY protagonistic character theme in the game.  At an amazing 21-abd-a-half minutes, this surpasses even what the cutting edge of VGM was doing at the time.  Also, there is something profoundly beautiful about a piece of VGM that doesn’t loop; but rather, has a fixed structure that moves from beginning to end.  I did a podcast episode about this and there is some solid analysis of the game and its score in the post.

Now that I’m writing this, maybe I should buy it again… Or at least, maybe you may want to thinking about it, reader!
Kenley

PS:

Two links that I love:

Perhaps the most in-depth article on the game that I’ve seen in a while…

Also, I want this in a picture frame SOOOOOO badly 🙂