Monday, July 25, 2011

Analysis of Final Fantasy VI: Playable Character Themes Part 2

Picking up from where I left off last time, let's dive into character themes. If you want to actually hear these tracks you can go to youtube and seach "final fantasy vi soundtrack" plus whatever the title of the track is. 

I'll be using lots of music theory terms because I want to specifically show how Nobuo Uematsu created meaningful music that is intelligently composed, organized, and developed. I will eventually create a glossary of music theory terms that I use on this blog but for now if you are confused by a term, you can always use wikipedia or google.

Terra- essentially the main character of the game. Logically her theme is also the most prevalent character theme and gets the most thematic development.  At the beginning of the game Terra has lost the majority of her memory. As a result, the theme and it's variations often reflect the problems and confusion of memory loss as well as the desire to discover mysteries of the past and purpose in the present. Here is a list of tracks in which Terra's theme appears as well as a description of what's going on musically and how that version of the theme is used in the game.

  • Terra's Theme- It plays on the overworld screen which is the part of the game where you travel between towns and fight battles. This theme is a good example of how Uematsu uses ABA form with effective contrast to give the characters greater depth. The A section has a lonely, isolated, wandering quality to it. The melody is diatonic to the natural minor or aeolian scale (depending on how you want to look at it) and has lots of long notes giving the melody lots of space which evokes the qualities I described above. The Climax of the A section seems to evoke a resilience and a reluctance to give up but then cadences with the reminder of harsh reality that the journey won't be easy. The B section is more hopeful. It switches to the relative major. the B section's melody is also diatonic and is essentially just a sequence. 
  • Awakening- This is a version of the theme which is very important to Terra's growth as a character. It usually plays when Terra gains more of her memory back or comes to a realization that develops her as a character. The neat thing about this version is that it takes the A section and the B section of the original theme and has them both playing at the same time with the B section more in the background of the texture. The A section is in the piano and the B section is in the midi string sound.
  • Metamorphosis- During the game you eventually find out that Terra is half human and half Esper. Espers are mystical beings which are the source of magic. Terra can change to an Esper form but she doesn't know that she has this ability. The first time you hear the Metamorphosis theme is when she stumbles upon this ability. This theme shows the surprise and choas that would result in such a powerful discovery which she doesn't understand how to control. Terra's theme isn't heard at the begining but about 15 seconds in. Metamorphosis only barrows the A section of the original Terra's theme. Where the melody of Terra's original theme implies the harmony of a minor chord, this version of the theme has the implied harmony a diminished chord. In fact this version of the theme is a sequence of three diminished chords. Metamorphosis is very chromatic which is in stark contrast to the totally diatonic original version of the theme. The Metamorphosis version of the theme is in the Octatonic scale which is a scale that is made up of alternating whole and half steps. The reason for this use of chromaticism could perhaps be Uematsu barrowing an idea from the composer Rimsky Korsokav, who in his operas used diatonic melodies for humans and chromatic melodies (such as using octatonic or whole tone scales) for magical beings. It seems like the original theme focuses on her more human side of Terra where Metamorphosis focuses on her magical side. This could be reading into it but I'm just making an observation.
  • Protecting the Espers- this theme further signifies the relationship of Terra to the Espers. This is actually a very fun and exciting track with lots of rhythmic interest. Once again Uematsu uses only the A section of Terra's Theme is this version but you don't hear it until about 32 seconds into the piece. Terra's Theme is probably least prevelant in Protecting the Espers of all the three variations. after playing the first phrase of the theme in the regular manner, the rhythm is varied (and shortened) and then the idea sequenced.
Next time I will look at characters who have two versions of their theme.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Analysis of Final Fantasy VI: Playable Character Themes Part 1

My Favorite video game composer of all times is Nobuo Uematsu who is famous for doing the Final Fantasy games. This is one of my favorite games he did and so I decided to analyze it first. One of my goals for analyzing this game it to show how the music works as a unified whole. The music for this game was the strongest written for the franchise up to it's time due to it's compositional unity and memorable themes. one of the aspects that set this game so far above it's predecessors was that every single playable character their own theme. Not only that but many of these themes are developed and altered throughout the game to fit with different situations and emotions that a specific character was experiencing (though the amount of development varied depending on the importance of the character.) This is especially true about the track "Balance is Restored" which plays over the ending sequence of the game and is 21 minutes long. During this composition each of the playable character themes are stated in a new altered form. the alterations of the themes match the full extent of the changes that each character experiences by the end of the story. This is all an enormous musical undertaking considering that there are fourteen playable characters. I am going to start analyzing each characters theme along with any variations of the theme throughout the game play. I will also have a post specifically for the use and variation of each of the themes in "Balance is Restored." All these posts will be coming soon.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting started

Okay so hopefully this blog will be a place for me to analyze incidental music and express my opinions. I hope to look at music for films, video games, plays, opera, ballet ect. Any form of storytelling that is enhanced by music will be discussed on this blog.