Nobuo Uematsu has composed hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of music for the 14 editions of the video game Final Fantasy.
There’s no way Arnie Roth will ever hear it all.
“I’m not really what you’d call a gamer,” Roth, who conducts and serves as music director for the program “Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy,” told The Beat. “As you play the game to different and higher levels, the music changes. Some of it never appears in play until such high levels, people might never hear it. The sheer volume of music is astounding.”
“It’s certainly an inefficient use of my time to try to play the game until then,” he joked.
Of course, throughout the selection, arrangement and scoring process, Roth has listened to countless hours of Uematsu’s work and watched the game sequences with which the various themes are associated. In fact, it is this use of leitmotifs – particular melodies, themes or progressions associated with a character, place or action – that make Uematsu’s Final Fantasy compositions particularly “classical.”
“There are a lot of composers adept at scoring to action, but Uematsu has an innate talent for creating a compelling melody,” Roth said, “and these themes are developed in a very classical method through theme and variation.”
In this regard, Roth compared Uematsu to John Williams and added the Final Fantasy concerts are not unlike “a compelling concert of cinematic scores.”
The producers of “Distant Worlds” have thus purposefully treated these concerts as primarily a concert of orchestral music performed by an orchestra. Roth said there is a large video screen that plays footage from game play, and there typically are some audience members who take the role-playing aspect of Final Fantasy to its fullest, but “we are not really stretching the notion of an orchestra concert.”
“This is not a rock concert,” Roth said, where an orchestra may be present only to provide underlying textures to other music.
“For most of our audience, it is their first experience of a live orchestra concert,” Roth said, “but we are attracting a small core of some symphony faithful to see what this is all about.”
However, he said, it’s not about changing the nature of a concert, but rather bringing in a new audience for orchestral music.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the original Final Fantasy game, so Roth worked overtime to involve the composer in an even greater way to mark the occasion.
“I searched high and low for something I felt I could convince him to play,” Roth said, adding Uematsu has thus far been hesitant to join the orchestra, whose musicians, Roth said, the composer “considers professional.”
Roth selected the Dark World theme from Final Fantasy VI and finally was able to persuade Uematsu to play by offering to join in himself on violin – meaning Columbus audiences are in for a treat.
NOTE: This concert is being held in conjunction with Matsuricon 2012, an annual Japanese pop-culture event that focuses primarily on Japanese animation, manga and video games. Matsuricon 2012 takes place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 24-26, at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. Visit matsuricon.org for details.