By Ted AYALA
“What is that music?” my father called out from the living room one weekend afternoon back in 1991.
“I’m playing a video game,” I answered. My father – a severe man who held a profound disdain for my obsession with video games – stepped into my room. Immediately I froze.
“The music is from this game?” he asked me, pointing at my Super NES. I meekly answered yes, expecting yet another tirade about the evils of video games on a vulnerable and impressionable 9-year-old, such as I was back then. But instead, he merely grunted his begrudging – and surprising – approval.
“I didn’t think video games had real music,” he told me. “But this reminds me of Ennio Morricone or John Williams.”
That game loaded in my Super NES was Final Fantasy IV. Though still unknown to all but a few pre-pubertal gaming cognoscenti in the United States, the game’s composer, Nobuo Uematsu, had already amassed a large following in his native Japan. CDs of his video game soundtracks were best-sellers in Japan. A few of his melodies had even become part of the music curriculum for Japanese school children.
Uematsu’s versatility as a composer – drawing upon numerous styles and fusing them into a very personal style from Celtic folklore and opera to J-pop and electronica – and his seemingly uncanny ability to compose immediately memorable and powerful melodies, has made him one of the most sought after composers for video games today.
Now in 2011, Uematsu is known to music fans around the world resulting in widespread critical acclaim, including being honored as an “innovator” in Time Magazine’s “Time 100: The Next Wave – Music” feature. His music has been performed in packed auditoriums and halls the world over, including Los Angeles’ Disney Hall.
Now the composer and his music return to Los Angeles for two nights on Sept. 9-10 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds presents some of the best known works from the video game series that cemented his fame arranged for symphony orchestra. The concerts will also feature the composer himself on organ. Arnie Roth, who has toured with Distant Worlds all over the globe, will be the conductor. Excerpts from the first to 13th installments of Final Fantasy will be spread across both concerts.
Tickets for Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds are from $58 to $185 for VIP tickets and can be purchased via Ticketmaster or by calling (800) 745-3000. More information can be found online at www.ffdistantworlds.com.