April 2, 2007

Video Games Live

This past weekend we went up to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn. to see the spectacular, and brilliant concert, "Video Games Live"! 

"Video Games Live is an immersive concert event featuring music from the most popular video games of all time.   The Yale University Orchestra  & choir performed along with exclusive video footage and music arrangements, synchronized lighting, solo performers, electronic percussionists, live action and unique interactive segments to create an explosive entertainment experience!" 

It just so happens that Jack Wall, who is the orchestra conductor, Co-creator and Exec Producer of "Video Games Live", was also a classmate of ours from our High School graduating class of 1981!   His credits include the music from Myst III: Exile, Unreal II, and Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, among many, many more.   Here is Jack's site, http://www.jackwall.net/index.html
My wife is also from the same High School class, so we were able to have a mini reunion with Jack, which was very cool, and my kids got to meet one of the leading video game music composers in the country!   We also had a sneak peek of the rehearsals the night before the concert, which served to build excitement to seeing the real thing!

If you read this Jack, thanks a TON! It was an unforgetable night!
This is the stage before the perfomance. Behind the screen is the 104 year old, 3 story tall, Woolsey Hall Pipe Organ,
on which Martin Leung played the music from "Castlevania". Awesome!

Unlike most folks in the entertainment industry, Tommy Tallarico (game industry icon, and concert host), encourages guests to take video of the show and post it on YouTube, so if you want to see some of the concert from that night at Yale, check out these Youtube videos. Keep in mind that no photos or video can compare to seeing and hearing the REAL THING!

As the show begins, the giant video screen behind the orchestra lights up modestly with the classic 1975 game "PONG" (can it really be 32 years ago?!) .   The audience cheers!   As the game begins to play, the beeps and boops of the game are picked up by the orchestra and serve to establish a rhythm that builds to a grand crescendo of music and visuals from 1980's games.
Here is a fantastic clip of the "Mario Medley" opening at Yale showing a great shot of Jack and the orchestra playing along with the video!
I never realized that hearing an orchestra playing the music from Donkey Kong, Centipede, Frogger, Sonic, Mario , Legend of Zelda, and Space Invaders, could be as emotionally stirring as it was! It was like hearing a sentimental, old pop tune from my teen years!   It was like a visit from a old, dear friend!
By the time Jack gets to the music he composed, Myst:Exile, the full power o f the choir and orchestra sent shivers down my spine! 

In between the musical sets, people are chosen from the audience to actually play games on the big screen, while the LIVE orchestra follows the game play music in real time! Hearing 3000 people cheering a guy on stage, who is trying to get his Frogger across the gauntlet of cars, trucks and logs, was hilarious fun! 

Video games have always been marginalized as being unimportant or even downright subversive in American culture, but as you hear 30 years worth of music and memories, presented with the power of a full orchestra and with the heart of live choir, the results are completely surprising and delightful!   Video Games Live is a brilliant production, which proves that "video" games are a legitimate art form, which is here to stay!   
You have to see this show!