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Twilight Symphony Impressions (part 1?)

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Twilight Symphony Impressions (part 1?)

Post by Mr. Freeze on Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:11 am

Well, I found myself waking up this morning at around 2:30 and unable to go back to sleep. So, what else to do but sit through the entirety of the Zelda Reorchestrated project, Twilight Symphony? Since Joypad Records is unfortunately unable to publish it as intended on iTunes, the 3 and a half hours of music is now online to download (versus the fucking $50 or whatever they wanted me to pay for it way back when) and I decided to have a listen. How does it hold up at first glance?

This might be too massive to do in one post...so for now I'll only go up to the first dungeon.

1. Overture: A decent opening; the choir's quite impressive. A couple moments with headphones or the trumpet section will give away that they've used orchestral sampling vs. live recording, but that's forgivable given the insane costs. Horn player is real, and sticks out as the loudest member in a "large orchestral ensemble." Zelda main theme is portrayed somewhat strangely (particularly the end of the oboe phrase). All in all though, a really nice seven minutes.

2. Back from the Spring: Wait, what's with that transition? How...abrupt, considering the echoing of the gong. Anyway, instrumental lead in to the original theme. Zelda 1 flute/Ocarina Opening Title theme reference...for some reason. After that, original track comes in, and it's nice.

3. Ordon Village: Transition issues are noticeable at this point. Real ocarina is nice, though holy crap how does one ocarina overpower an orchestra? This must be the Ocarina of Time. Man....all these flutes and panflutes just remind me of how bitter I was they chose TP over underorchestrated games like Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks. Also.....why the fuck did this track take so many cues from Pokemon Reorchestrated's misaimed scoring? Piano + woodwinds + choir scoring does NOT make for a happy homely hometown.

4. Ordon Ranch: Real solo horn is lovely; you can hear all the specific articulations, and the track really deserves it. That is, until the piccolo abuse halfway through the track. Take a listen to John Williams' "Raptor Attack" or "T-Rex Rescue and Finale" from Jurassic Park to get an idea of how out of place those piccolo strikes are. Otherwise the track hits the right spots and leaves a smile on my face for the first half.

5. Into the Twilight: The samples here don't work nearly as well, and the scoring style of the TP MIDI overpowers the symphonic element. In all honesty....this isn't much of an improvement over the original for the first half. Second half serves better; authentic choir never hurts.

6. Midna: Listening to this track in headphones was a good choice for the drums and choir. I can't help but judge this next to Kondo's recent endeavor of scoring Twilight Princess in 12 minutes; Midna's theme transitioned better in that than here. Nonetheless, the piece has its moments, and the middle and closing sections are definitely worth a listen.

7. Hyrule Castle Overtaken: Hyrule Castle theme here, though sample brass are revealing their true colors here in full. I can't stress enough that if you don't have live recorded brass, they just sound like Twilight Princess' MIDI. Brass samples are nearly impossible to work with while sounding 100% real. It really hinders the execution on this one.

8. Light Spirit's Message: Ouch. Screeches are fun and all, but I don't know how well they work after a gorgeous and frightening choir build up. The melody ends up pissing me off though; Light Spirit's Message is ALWAYS straight pitch, with little to no vibrato. End of story. It seems only Kondo scores it this way, which is a shame because vibrato is unbecoming of it (see Jonne Valtonen's "Legend of Zelda Symphonic Poem" for an example where it becomes too Lord of the Rings). Fairy's Fountain theme is gorgeous and interestingly scored though. One can never emphasize enough what a real, recorded choir can do. These are the same choral singers who did fucking Skyrim, and it shows.

9. Faron Woods: An interesting rescoring for a larger ensemble than the original. It catches the darker feel of the forest that's portrayed while still clinging to the familiarity of Ordon (though much less so than the original). A nearly inaudible chanting barely reaches my ears in certain sections. Definitely one of the more interestingly scored tracks thus far in.

10. Ook and the Boomerang: .....No words.

11. Twilight Parasite Diababa: No matter how many tracks I hear, the brass will continue to bug me (ESPECIALLY next to that real horn!). Contrast feels forced by sound engineer here, and the more unique instruments (like the glockenspiel) feel much more real here than the orchestra itself. I actually had to check the original sound file of the boss fight to convince myself this version was better. For some reason, Ook's battle theme in this soundtrack sounds so much bigger and so much more creative than Diababa's interpretation. Makes me sad that more effort was put into the miniboss music.

I'd keep going in this post but man would it be really, really long. There's 51 tracks, and I've only covered 40 minutes so far. Perhaps I'll post the rest of my first impressions some other time, but for now this will do.

Realize that the main reason I'm overly critical is that the arrangers of this project had a hand in writing out scores for the Zelda 25th Anniversary CD under the direction of Kondo himself. The lack of his material and supervision here shows the team's true talent and potential. And hell, since they worked under Kondo for a short time, I'm even more particular in my scrutiny.
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Re: Twilight Symphony Impressions (part 1?)

Post by Trollestia on Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:57 pm

Sounds like they had the same problems Pokemon Reorchestrated had.
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Re: Twilight Symphony Impressions (part 1?)

Post by Mr. Freeze on Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:28 am

Not in as great of quantity, but there are key differences in both project's issues.

Twilight Symphony mostly suffers from shit samples and has some strange scoring choices every now and again. But hey, Skyrim's choir and three and a half hours of music for free.

Kanto Symphony has said scoring issues in spades while suffering from underplayed melodic lines (they get buried beneath rhythmic lines and chords), too much emphasis on real solo performers and some of the damn awesomest covers of Lavender Town ruined by above issues. On the other hand, the guy uses Kontakt (the only reason his horns sound good) and does attempt at thematic development, though only sometimes.

There was one single moment in both where I legitimately had goosebumps and was actually pumped up, but both occasions let me down. Twilight Symphony's "Dark Lord Ganondorf" reached its final minute and gave a choral promise that had so much balls and amazing power it was bound to fail. Kanto Symphony's "The Ghost of Pokemon Tower" probably hurt me more than almost all of Twilight Symphony I've heard combined; the second half of the piece is nearly fucking perfect (Stravinsky-esque section and onward is probably the best part of the whole album) while the ending is botched and the first half has the melody poorly voiced and buried volume-wise.

For some reason video game cover projects piss me off (the above two projects, Theopany's Majora's Mask album, Jonne Valtonen's Zelda Symphonic Poem, etc); insane amounts of potential is gathered and thousands of dollars are spent only for it to lose the magic of the original scores though various means. $24,000 went into Twilight Symphony and they blew it all on Skyrim's choir. I don't even know how much money Kanto Symphony's kickstarter made. I always just find myself paying $50+ dollars to go see an orchestra botch up Zelda tunes instead. Sure, the orchestra might suck, but at least the scoring is enjoyable to listen to since Kondo actually has a fucking degree in orchestral scoring.
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Re: Twilight Symphony Impressions (part 1?)

Post by Trollestia on Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:15 pm

Maybe these people should first get a masters in composition before they attempt this kind if stuff.
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