February 15, 2013
Beyond Oasis, Kinuyo Yamashita, MAGFest, Mega Man X3, The Protomen, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games, Yuzo Koshiro
After a grueling night of playing challenges (check out the spoils above), I returned to my quarters only to wake up the next morning at 7am to go down and play some more. In fact, Brandon was able to make his way down to play, as well, and he had stayed up even later than I did the night before—it was great to have a buddy to share the pain with so early in the morning.
Call us crazy, but those laptops are almost always occupied, and it has long been proven that going to the game room in the wee hours of the morning is the best thing to do if you’re looking to play a specific, popular attraction. My first year, Jen and I woke up at 5am to go down and we were able to play whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. That’s a Pro Tip for you there for next year, dear readers.
At nine o’clock I went back to the room to wake up Jen and eat some breakfast, and together we wandered down to Kinuyo Yamashita’s panel. Unfortunately for you all, my notes are sparse—she really didn’t say much outside of what I already knew from my biographical post about her. However, one notable question asked was whether or not Yamashita ripped off a Guns and Roses song called “My Michelle” with her Mega Man X3 track “Neon Tiger.” After some sleuthing, the Guns and Roses number was recorded in 1987, while X3 was released in 1995 (start at :20 for “Neon Tiger” and :26 for “My Michelle”).
February 12, 2013
Life, Moving, Work
This weekend I took the first steps on my sabbatical—that is, I made the move to my new apartment in Arlington, VA! It’s been a pretty exciting last couple of weeks, from having one last ultra-busy hurrah at my now old job at the Virginia Arts Festival to getting approval to move into the apartment to preparing to leave to getting settled. If that sentence was exhausting to read, then good—in that case it well emulates how things have been going for me.
After a bittersweet last day in the office, I readied my things to go at home. Some of the work was already done, but the big things, like, oh, dismantling my computer desk and bed, weren’t. It’s a good thing I used my last “personal day” for work on Friday, else things would have been really dicey. Everything was packed and/or gathered, however, by Saturday morning, and my parents and I made the 200-mile trek north. More
January 2, 2013
ActRaiser, Beyond Oasis, Chiptunes, Etrian Odyssey, MAGFest, Streets of Rage, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games, Wangan Midnight, Ys, Yuzo Koshiro
Crowned “arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age” as recently as 2006 by the now-tragically deceased publication Nintendo Power, Yuzo Koshiro was born in the city of Hino in Tokyo, Japan, on December 12, 19671. At the age of three, Koshiro’s mother started teaching him piano, and he went on to study with Mamoru Fujisawa – better known as Joe Hisaishi, composer for many Hayao Miyazaki films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away – for three years when he was eight. A multi-instrumentalist, Koshiro picked up the violin when he was five and later learned to play cello and guitar as well2, 3.
As a schoolboy, Koshiro would cut his classes and head to the arcades, where he would spend his time feeding Namco, Konami, and Sega machines2. Although he really wanted to be a game programmer, he had a knack for creating music, and so he made mockups of the music that he heard in the games he played on a PC-8801 soundboard3. Having been influenced by the sounds of Gradius, Space Harrier, and Tower of Druaga, one of his goals was to bring the high quality of arcade game music to the PC since, to that point, there wasn’t much in the way of great, inspirational PC game music4. It was by sticking with that vision and producing high quality music on that soundboard that he caught the attention of those that worked at the game company Nihon Falcom.
During summer vacation, at the age of eighteen, Koshiro spotted a job listing for an opening within Falcom in a PC magazine2. Since the company was close by, he applied and scored the job. In fact, Falcom loved the music demos that he sent so much that they even used some of those demo tunes in his first game project, Xanadu Scenario II (1985). The rest of the soundtrack was pieced together similarly—instead of writing music off a visual, Koshiro wrote music that he liked and then applied that music to parts of the game that seemed a fit, giving the music an “unexpected quality” which, to him, “created the game’s unique worldview”3. On composing this music, he states in an interview with Square Enix Music Online:
“… I was a mere beginner, so I composed blindly, as if in a trance. I didn’t have a special approach; I just wanted to create PC game music with the kind of drive that I liked in arcade game music, and that was my main motivation.”
January 2, 2013
2013, Life, New Year's, VGM, Video Game Music, Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia International Tattoo, Work
Today I quit I my job. Well, really I just put in my leave notice [but the prior sentence is a lot more dramatic]. For those that haven’t read my AutoBio page, I have been working fulltime at the Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk, Virginia, for the past three years. February 8th will be my last day at work there and my last day living in Virginia Beach for the foreseeable future, as I will be moving up to the Northern Virginia/D.C. area (exact location TBD).
For my first few months in NoVA I will be jobless, taking a sabbatical to work on my musical endeavours. I will be treating each day as a workday, adhering to a strict schedule of composing, practicing, and interacting with the gaming community more via this blog, social media, and internet forums. For you that means lots more to listen to and read—[Score.] should be a thriving aural paradise by late February!
The goal is that I will have a complete demo of my best work ready to ship out to every game company ever by May at the latest. Best-case scenario: someone loves my work so much that they’ll pay me handsomely to write for them. Wishful-case scenario: I land a project or two that gets me going. Worst-case scenario: I will have learned a ton and developed my techniques, allowing me to continue to create more great music with which to try and dazzle game companies. In any case (besides the best case where I’m showered with money), I will be looking for a fulltime job again in May.
I’ve actually been looking for alternate work in NoVA since October and have struck out (you know, like in that game where it’s fifty strikes and you’re out). That’s wound up being a sort of blessing in disguise—even though I will be in a hole financially, I wouldn’t have the chance to be so focused and devote so much time to my craft had I gotten a gig that pays (funny how that works). Working 40 hours a week, I’ve found it difficult to get a lot done musically, and finding a job would have put me back into a scenario similar to the one I’m in now despite presumably having more cash to spend on new gear and what have you, which really does me no good if I don’t have the time to utilize those phantom new purchases. For those that are concerned that I will just strike out another fifty times, that’s okay because I have until July to find something before I’m really in trouble financially. That alone will likely extended my threshold to at least 300 strikes since I will have all day every day from May-July to find a paying gig. If I don’t find one by the end of July, well, tell all of your friends that there’s a saxophone teacher out there looking for some students (you can do that anyway as I’ll be looking to pick up a few starting in February, actually).
For anyone that’s dying to dig deeper and know the answers to questions such as “why now?” and “why there?” and “ARE YOU CRAZY!?”, feel free to contact me directly. Otherwise, just looking forward to a super exciting first half of 2013 on the blog!
Thanks especially to Mom, Dad, Jen, and Brandon – and to all of my other family and friends who already know what’s going on – for being so supportive and for believing in me and in this project. Thanks to all of my colleagues at the Virginia Arts Festival and the Virginia International Tattoo for all of the good times over the years.
And, of course, thanks also goes to you, the reader, for devouring my prose and musical undertakings post after post.
December 21, 2012
Castlevania, Kinuyo Yamashita, MAGFest, Mega Man X3, Music, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games
It’s December, which means that the gaming event of the calendar year, MAGFest XI, is swiftly approaching. If you are unaware of MAGFest, I highly recommend you check out my three posts covering the event here, here, and here. Not only do I think my posts will satiate your curiosity, I want you to know why it’s awesome so that you’ll be there this year with me and the thousands of others who crave the coming of the following year’s event every waking day that they’re not at MAGFest.
Alternatively, you can just skip reading those posts and take your chances with my recommendation by going straight to the MAGFest website to buy tickets and book a hotel room. Nothing wrong with that!
I’ll be doing a few posts between now and January 3rd covering some of the headliners. These crash courses will give you enough fodder to prepare some questions for the guests and/or just simply enjoy their presence more since you’ll know who they are and what they’ve done.
First up is VGM composer Kinuyo Yamashita, who is most well known for composing the soundtrack to the original Castlevania.
Yamashita was born on December 31, 1965, in Amagasaki, a city that is located in the Hyogo prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan1, 2, 3. Growing up, Yamashita studied piano as a child, but aside from that received no formal musical training4. It seems, however, that music had left its mark on her life, as, despite having graduated with a degree in Electronic Engineering from the Osaka Electro-Communication University, she had a desire to base her career in working on musical instrument hardware5. In turn, despite there being a limited job market for women in that line of work, upon graduating she scored her first job, which was with Konami, in 1986.
Inspiration struck early—Castlevania was Yamashita’s first video game soundtrack. When coming up with musical ideas for the game, she “aimed to create music suitable for the image,” citing both “the gothic images of the background” and – intriguingly – “the dynamicism with which the player moves” as influences6. Having absorbed those elements, a rock-tinged flavor usurped any influence that came from her musical idols – the likes of Nat King Cole, Chopin, and Beethoven. This direction “came naturally” and “gradually”—she had no specific plan as to what the vibe should be.
October 13, 2012
I just wanted to write a short note to you all, my dear readers and listeners. I’m not dead. I haven’t given up. My computer hard drive hasn’t melted again. In fact, things have been going pretty alright. But, I’ve been quite busy the last month or so traveling on the weekends, applying for jobs in Northern Virginia, and watching tons of pre-postseason and postseason baseball. As a result, I haven’t produced anything substantial to post here. That’ll change relatively soon, though… I’m approaching my 50th post and I’m going to make sure it’s a good one. Stay tuned! You’ll hear from me again soon.
Thanks, as always.
My brother, Bobby; me; and Jen at Nationals Park on 10/11/12 for the NLDS Game 4, STL@WSH
February 9, 2012
Indie Game Music Bundle, Music, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games
The Indie Game Music Bundle is exactly what it sounds like: a purchasable package of indie game music soundtracks.
You have less than eight days to get them! Pay what you want for 5, and if you pay $10+ you get a slew more.
The five initial game soundtracks include:
- Aquaria by Alec Holowka
- Sword and Sworcery: Ballad of the Space Babies by Jim Gunthrie
- To the Moon by Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara
- Jamestown by Francisco Cerda
- Mechanarium by Tomas Dvorak
And the $10+ ones feature:
- Shatter by Module
- 8-Bit Pimp (Chip-hop EP) by A_Rival
- Mighty Switch Force by Jake “virt” Kaufman
- Cat Astro Phi by Disasterpeace
- Passcode: Soul of the Traveler by Disasterpeace
- Mechanarium (Bonus EP) by Tomas Dvorak
- Tower of Heaven by Flashygoodness
- Eternal Daughter by David Saulesco
- Songs for the Cure 2010 by Various Artists
… plus three more unlockables if enough people buy!