I'll travel for “Zelda.” I saw The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses tour while out in Los Angeles for E3, but getting a chance to see it again and talk with the people behind it when it came to Toronto in September was something I just couldn’t pass up.
After drooling through the dress rehearsal, I got to sit down and chat with producer for the symphony, and one of the leading creative forces behind making it happen, Jeron Moore. An edited transcript of the conservation follows.
CITY: How did the whole ball of wax get started?
Jeron: Well, I was six years old. Really, I started playing “Zelda” right when it came out, and I still have that gold cartridge. And I grew up just loving orchestral music, film music, and video game music. I mean I have a cassette tape that I begged my mom to buy me when I was like eight years old. And it's a two sided cassette tape and on one side it's “Castlevania Simon's Quest” and on the other side is “Contra.” It was an official Konami cassette tape soundtrack, I don't know how that made it...I don't know, I still have it.
And I'd listen to that thing, and I don't know why, but I loved listening to those tunes outside of the context of the game. But it just kind of transported me there when I wasn't playing and triggered my imagination. And the same is said for Zelda. And Zelda I kind of carried with me all throughout my life.
I had the opportunity to work with a lot of musicians, I went and studied film and television in Los Angeles, and then went to go work in the video game industry, which eventually led me to doing some producing work on a show that Jason Michael Paul also produces called “Play! A Video Game Symphony.”
That experience was a good experience, and of course we were dealing with a lot more franchise than just Zelda. We have a Zelda piece on there and whenever we performed Zelda the crowd would just go wild. I mean, they'd go wild for "Halo 2," but there was a different temperament to the outcry when Zelda would come on.
I'd just always thought that this was an obvious thing, like why isn't it happening? It's perfect, it needs to happen, and it just never did. And somehow, I felt like life was putting me in a position to pitch this, realistically get the idea to the people who would decide yes or no. And so I worked pretty tireless with Chad Seiter [musical director for the Symphony] and we put this together and Jason connected us to Nintendo and they were like, great! Let's do it. But first, we have this 25th anniversary thing, and so we started hatching plans with them on how to take our concept and adapt it for the 25th anniversary before we launched the Symphony of the Goddesses tour.
And that led to the orchestra on the hydraulic stage at E3. We then recorded the music for the audio CD that shipped with “Skyward Sword,” and then we had the concerts in Tokyo, Los Angles, and London, and then the cd came out with the game.
That's kind of the order that things went in, and all the while we're preparing for the whole tour to come in January. So the concert tour in August, the game came out in November, and a little more than a month to pull the rest of it together and launch the full thing. And we did that in my home town of Dallas which was a lot of fun.
We'll have had over 30 shows by the time we're done in December, with this year, and we're carrying it on into 2013.
Yeah. Haven't really announced anything specially yet, but the adventure will continue.
How did you pick the music? What games and what songs from the games? How did you decide what specifically your vision was for it?
It's a lot of music. Chad kind of put that in my court, because I guess between me Jason and Chad I'm the biggest Zelda nerd. When it came to like, all right, we need to look at all the music, I was like OK, done, I have it all. I'll put it all in Drop Box.
I didn't really need to listen to it, for Chad and I, it became more of how to organize the story. The information in Hyrule Historia hadn't been released yet revealing the timelines and stuff, but there had been a lot of conjecture on what it was. With a little bit of inside track information we were able to piece together what was what and put this, kind of order the show, in such a way that was respective of the overall timeline. But of course we have to be in a linear format. I make a joke about it, but we can't have three concert halls and be like OK, for timeline B go to this hall, for timeline A go to this hall.
So, you know, but you'll agree, there are tent pole titles of the franchise. You wouldn't put “Link's Awakening” as a tent pole title; you wouldn't put “Majora’s Mask” as a tent pole title.
You would put the original “Legend of Zelda.” “Zelda II” gets kind of lost in there, but you would put “A Link to the Past.” You would put “Ocarina of Time,” “Wind Waker,” and “Twilight Princess.” And now “Skyward Sword.” “Skyward Sword’s” too new so we're not doing anything really from that piece yet, but the four main titles that support the material in the symphony are “Link To The Past,” “Ocarina of Time, “ ‘Wind Waker,” and ‘Twilight Princess.” Not in that order. It's actually “Ocarina of Time,” “Wind Waker,” “Twilight Princess,” and then “Link to the Past.”
Yeah. So if you like to cram it all and make it liner, that's kind of the order it would be. And littered in there we kind of, and the original “Legend of Zelda” is actually after “A Link To The Past,” so we kind of do our big, there's a big finale of “A Link To The Past” that's really just a big treatment of the main theme. Which by the time you've gotten through the entire show you've heard other themes from the original game. We have a dungeon medley; we have the Fairy's Fountain, so we have all the components, all the key components that make up the musical genetic makeup of Zelda.
So, the Symphony is kind of designed as a repertoire, and then everything else is just the stuff you couldn't fit into the story. But we've figured out a way to make it entertaining and include it. And those are designed to evolve and change over time. So, should we go into a season 2 format, we can keep the repertoire, which is the symphony, possible expand on the symphony if we want to include “Skyward Sword,” but then take away the dungeon medley and do a new dungeon medley. Or take out Fairy’s Fountain, heaven forbid, and do something else. Gerudo Valley, heaven forbid, that's the problem, everyone is like: “Oh my God you can't have a concert without Kakariko Village or Ballad of the Wind Fish or Majora's Mask.” But there's a lot more to pull from. At some point, we don't want to keep playing the same thing; we want to give you a reason to come back.
What is it like taking a performance like this that has a world-wide audience, people know the music, and taking it to different local orchestra and having them play it? How many rehearsals do you get with each orchestra before a performance?
Generally an orchestra has had about 5 hours of rehearsal time with the music before we perform. That’s what accosts to two rehearsals, we'll have a rehearsal generally the day before and then we have a dress rehearsal the day of.
It's important to find musicians at the top of their game that can sight read really well and take direction and understand the flow and can work with the technology, we have a lot of technology making what happens on stage possible.
I noticed they all were listening to click tracks? Is that what's going through their earpieces?
It is. We all have a click track, and it's simply designed to keep them in perfect sync with the video. Basically what your witnessing on stage, and it's really never been done quite the way we do it, is a live scoring session. A lot of our team works in Hollywood, in the film scoring scene, Chad Seiter worked on “Lost,” and “Alias,” and “Star Trek” and a bunch of Pixar movies with Michael Giacchino, one of our guys who designed the click system is Michael Giacchino’s music editor. We have a lot of technology that's retrofitted from the film industry infused with what we're doing.
There's always talk, but that's really up to Nintendo. It's a little more complicated unfortunately than just saying “Hey, we want to do this.” And a lot of it has to do with licensing and Nintendo legal, and the ramifications of recording and what it means when you put something out, and what has been released before and what hasn't and what loopholes that opens up.
It's a whole big can of worms. That's a Nintendo can of worms, a thing they have to figure out and be comfortable with to do a CD.
But it was you guys that brought the idea for the concerts to Nintendo right?
It's good they said yes.
I think that they saw how passionate that we were and saw that we were capable of doing it, and they wanted it to happen, it was just a matter of finding the right fit and they had experience with us with our other show, but of course that wasn't fully dedicate to a Nintendo property, so this was a chance for them to get fully vested in something that they could brand, and it kind of keeps the “Zelda” love going during the dry season.
There's a lot of love for the stuff that's already out there, people want a reason to come out and bask in nostalgia. People are still playing all the old games, there's new Let's Play videos all the time, it's just not stopping.
Did you guys ever consider touring with an ocarina player to play the songs on an actual ocarina? I can't imagine many orchestras have an ocarina player on call.
You know we looked at that and it's something that we will continue to explore, but it's just a matter of finding...finding the right person and it's all got to be approved through Nintendo.
It's very complicated. That person would have to travel, with the team, and it's just a difficult thing to sort of figure out how to integrate properly.
One of my good friends, David Ramos, he's a YouTube ocarinist, he's someone that I'd love to have be on the show, but it's logistically hard to figure out how to do it.
As a last one, what is your favorite "Zelda" game?
I don't have just one; I can tell you my top three.
I'll take that.
“A Link to the Past,” because that was the first Zelda game I was smart enough to comprehend, though I did beat the first two, I don't know how, but I did.
I never beat two.
It's a nightmare. And then “The Wind Waker,” and then "Twilight Princess” is actually very near and dear to my heart.
No "Ocarina of Time?" Interesting.
You know, I got “Ocarina of Time,” and I have the Nintendo 64 cart, but there's something about it. I like it, but it didn't capture me like it seemed to capture a lot of other people. I would still play “A Link to the Past” when “Ocarina of Time” came out. I love the music, and I love so much about it, but to me “Twilight Princess” is kind of what I wanted “Ocarina of Time” to be.
I think a lot of people forget how good it is, it gets a bad rap, and I don't understand, because it's to me, and I really liked “Skyward Sword”, but for me personally “Twilight Princess” is still at the top, in terms of the contemporary Zelda tiles, of my list.
Well, I'm hoping, I think with the Wii U we may see “Wind Waker” in HD.
That would be cool, it's funny, because for the 25th anniversary I had to review a lot of video stuff in the audience, during the rehearsal I was sitting down with Bill Trinen and Koji Kondo and Eiji Aonuma and we were having to go over the video and at the end of that review I kind of joked with him and said we need to have an HD “Wind Waker.” And he just kind of laughed and was all like: “Hmmm, maybe we do.” And I think, I mean, I definitely don't think it would be hard for them to do.
Want to check out footage from the Symphony? We’ve got photos and video from the dress rehearsal right here.