By Ted Ayala
In 1945, the great American composer Bernard Herrmann–whose compositions graced the films of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Brian de Palma, and Martin Scorsese, among others–wrote an impassioned defense of film music’s stature as an art form in the New York Times in response to a scathing critique by conductor Erich Leinsdorf published the week before.
“[T]he best film music […] identifies itself with the action and becomes a living part of the whole”, declared Herrmann. “Moreover the film gives [a composer] the largest audience in the world–an audience whose interest and appreciation should not be underestimated. A good film score receives thousands of ‘fan letters’ from intelligent music lovers everywhere.”
“I absolutely agree with Herrmann’s sentiment”, answered composer Tommy Tallarico during a phone interview earlier this week with the CV Weekly. Tallarico, whose own compositions for video games have earned him the admiration and respect of gamers world-wide–and a Guinness Book World Record–continued: “Just like film music has emerged as an art, so has video game music. Nowhere else can a composer today find a bigger and more receptive audience. In fact, I‘d say that music for video games–especially today–has, in some ways, surpassed film music in its power and scope.”
Tallarico’s enthusiasm for the craft of his colleagues is borne out through his creation, Video Games Live (VGL): a celebration of video game scores arranged for full symphony orchestra and choir, which arrives at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre (777 Chick Hearn Ct.) on Wednesday, June 8th. Going into its 6th year, VGL has been playing to sold-out crowds around the globe.
“It’s the interactivity of video games”, he noted. “That’s what gets people hooked into this music. They get emotionally attached. They bond with the characters they play. But through this music their childhoods, their memories are also bound up. This is music that resonates with millions of people. I’ve even seen people cry when we play a favorite score of theirs. It’s a powerful experience.”
Elaborating on his point that video game music has surpassed film music to a degree, Tallarico explained, “I don’t mean to put down film music. But film music is often relegated to the background. Video game music is what I like to call ‘foreground music’. The composers for these games have to help push the player forward; drive the action. Also, because of the nature of the medium, these scores have to loop. So it’s like taking your favorite album and playing it on repeat for hours a day. How many times do you think a person gets to hear a new concert work or even a new film score?”
“But this is a concert for everyone, not just for the hardcore gamers”, he added. “The reason I created VGL is to demonstrate to the world the cultural significance of video games and their music. It’s a part of the development of musical history; a kind of modern opera.”
Tallarico then reflected, “With their dramatic flair, you can bet that if Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, or anyone of the greats were alive today, they’d be writing scores for video games too.”
Video Games Live will perform at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, June 8th beginning at 8:00 p.m. Tickets and more information on the event can be found by calling the Nokia Theatre at (213)763-6020 or by visiting VGL’s website at www.videogameslive.com.