So you think video game music is just muzak for the basement? The Oregon Symphony's upcoming "rePlay: Symphony of Heroes" might make you think again.
On March 6, conductor Miriam Burns will lead the Symphony—accompanied by the Portland Youth Choir—in music from seminal video games like The Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls, and Halo. The stage full of 5- to 19-year olds, music beloved by gamers everywhere, and trippy gameplay-inspired visuals look likely to bring a whole new demographic through the doors of the Schnitz.
With video games increasingly seen as an artform, Portland’s art scene is rising to the challenge of engaging with an unorthodox medium. It’s fair to say that video game music may not have the prestige or gravitas of Berlioz or Beethoven, but it does appeal to the same emotional core: that place where good battles evil, heroes fall, emotions run high, and pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion brings a reward.
But if you thought that giving Beethoven hours of your attention in a symphony hall was a testament to the staying power of both audience member and composer, consider that the average child will have given 10,000 hours of rapt attention to video games by the time he turns 21. Suddenly, Mahler’s Third is a cinch.
The Oregon Symphony, which has been presenting video game music since at least 2010, appears to have recognized early that thinking outside the traditional repertoire might capture a new audience with ungodly amounts of attention to spend—and some pocket change, as well, if the $5.47 billion the American video game industry made last year is any indication.
It all fits in to the Symphony’s moves to reach beyond the traditional classical audience. The Portland Youth Choir was on stage with the symphony earlier this year performing music from Star Trek, and the 2015-2016 season will continue to mix things up with nods to pop culture and the younger generation. April will bring Prokofiev's children's classic Peter and The Wolf, and later in the season the symphony will present Glière’s Russian Sailor’s Dance and Leroy Anderson’s Sandpaper Ballet as part of their programming aimed at children and families.
"Our mission is really about fostering community, so I think that by definition means something broader than just the classical community,” says the Symphony’s Rebekah Phillips.
Classicists, be not alarmed: most of the season is dedicated to the kind of symphony stalwarts you’re used to, including Beethoven and Berlioz, albeit with a little Boyz II Men thrown in for good measure.
Oregon Symphony performs rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on March 6