Gamers Rank Favorite Soundtracks Over Classic Compositions
Classic FM polled listeners for their favorite tunes.
CREDIT: Classic FM
Letting people vote is generally a good thing, but this right is not dependent on being an expert in a given topic. Classic FM, one of the UK's most popular classical music stations, recently invited its listeners to choose their favorite classical music for 2013. The results were telling: the soundtracks for the "Final Fantasy" and "Elder Scrolls" series placed in the Top 10, knocking famous compositions by Mozart, Handel, Brahms and all the rest of those second-stringers down a peg.
Classic FM's "Hall of Fame" is the "definitive guide to the 300 best-loved classical pieces," according to its website. Thousands of people voted for their favorite classical tunes, and all to their credit, they did pick some of the best music in history: Haydn's "Creation," Chopin's "Nocturne," Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Yeomen of the Guard" and Bach's "St Matthew Passion" all occupy fond places in listeners' hearts.
However, these composers and their timeless creations can't hold a candle (in terms of popularity) to relative newcomers Nobuo Uematsu of the "Final Fantasy" series and Jeremy Soule of "Elder Scrolls." The soundtracks for these two series placed third and fifth, respectively, beating out Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 5" and behind "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis," another Williams tune, came in fourth.
"Final Fantasy" and "The Elder Scrolls" are the most prominent popular music albums to show up in the Hall of Fame, but by no means the only ones. Howard Shore's music for "The Lord of the Rings" films comes in at 20 (poor Handel; "Messiah" stands at 22), while the score from "Harry Potter" by John Williams rests at 144 (take that, Rossini's "William Tell" at 150!). No other video game music made the cut.
There are a number of reasons why these two series placed so highly, but perhaps the most important factor is that Classic FM compressed a few dozen games' worth of music into two entries. Furthermore, it ascribes the totality of "Final Fantasy" music to Uematsu and all of "Elder Scrolls" to Soule, even though a number of composers have worked on both series. [See also: 10 Best Video Game Soundtracks]
Another major reason is a concerted online campaign by gamers to catapult video game music to the top of the list. Often maligned as simple accompaniment for children's entertainment, video game music struggles for the same respectability as classical compositions, or even film soundtracks. While video game music has become quite moving and evocative in the last 20 years or so, the public has still exhibited little interest in it for its own sake. Game music has almost no mainstream radio play, and performances dedicated to it are few and far between.
The comments sections are predictably split between enthusiastic gamers and classical music aficionados. They both have good points: Orchestral and choral video game music should not be relegated to the classical ghetto. Even so, as talented as Uematsu and Soule are (Soule's "Icewind Dale" soundtrack in particular is a thing of beauty), their medium has not yet matured to the same degree as Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky's, or even Stravinsky and Gershwin's.
Then again, the list is of the most popular classical pieces, not the "best" ones, if divining such a thing is even possible. If the end result is some much-needed cultural osmosis between gamers and classical music listeners, both parties stand to benefit from it.