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In giving my impressions of the Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy Returning Home concert performed at the Tokyo International Forum this past month, I can’t help but notice the irony in the title: the advent of the Distant Worlds concert was in Stockholm, Sweden, in December 2007. What seems like a simple subtitle for its Japanese audience is noteworthy because it begs the question, “Can the origin country of the Final Fantasy series express any ownership over its defining features?” – Especially the masterful and internationally beloved works of Nobuo Uematsu?

I wasn’t a newcomer to the Distant Worlds concerts – actually, of all places my first opportunity to experience Distant Worlds was in the backwater state of Minnesota, USA. Using the ‘local’ talent of the fantastic Philharmonic and Macalester College Concert Choir, it offered an exuberant night of both fantastic music and appreciative – bordering on fanatic – fans, dressed up in cosplay of obscure characters ( Final Fantasy VII’s Turks as well as Terra from Final Fantasy VI were personal faves). The charismatic, Grammy-winning conductor Arnie Roth seemed to relish the cheers and standing ovations. It was a celebration of the memories associated with each and every Final Fantasy – a borderless joy shared across the globe.

Having hushed the audience of over 3,000, “One-winged Angel” erupted from the orchestra. Talk about a bang. The sound was crisp and taut – a restrained intensity threatening to burst at the seams. Just one decibel louder and it seemed it would unravel. But each ‘Sephiroth!’ was punctuated by the immediate silence following. You’d expect such a fan-favorite would be conserved for later, but it was an unexpected yet fantastic starting choice. Here’s the set list from the evening:

While I hate to knock the Distant Worlds concerts, they aren’t necessarily known for diverging much from its source materials, but Final Fantasy IX onwards, they are more or less orchestral remakes faithful to a fault. gas in back and stomach Even with Final Fantasy VIII, “The Man with the Machine Gun” is performed note for note – yet, with its sense of humor, orchestrating sound effects as it followed a recording of a battle sequence played on the giant screen.

Likewise with Final Fantasy X’s “Zanarkand,” there was nothing to differentiate it from the original sound on the PS2 – except the electric energy in the room. The air was tense from what I felt was a longing finally realized – these songs finally shored onto Japanese soil. Particularly, “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” pulsated through the concert hall with foreboding and sorrow. Perhaps a testament to both the compositional strength of the original as well as the talent bringing it to life. The tracks from Final Fantasy XIII were also more or less game-to-concert ports — except “Frabula Nova Crystallis” sung by Frances Maya. This one gave me goosebumps; her voice was so clear as it swelled to fill the entire concert hall.

On the other hand, the pieces which really shone were the arrangements, and the talent backing them. electricity storage cost per kwh Of course, the Swing-style “Swing de Chocobo” is a favorite of those familiar with the concert, and exceeded my expectations. The “Final Fantasy Medley (I-III)” was originally performed in the late 1980s but nonetheless feels fresh; perhaps due to the contrast with newer material that is on par with film scores.

There was an addition of talent to the Distant Worlds concert I absolutely couldn’t miss: the amazing pianist Benyamin Nuss, whose first album, Benyamin Nuss Plays Uematsu, was – as the title declares – dedicated to the master himself and released under the incredibly prestigious Deutsche Gramophone label. In particular, his role in “Love Grows” from Final Fantasy VIII was an incredible performance I am honored to have experienced (sorry, don’t mean to brag). The best way I can describe his sound is as if the notes appear from thin air; with many pianists I “hear” their fingers, but never once did I hear his. Yet when the piece demanded strength, I seldom have heard such intensity. If you have the opportunity, by all means purchase his album – a sonic experience you will never regret hearing.

The last highlight I want to touch on is “Dancing Mad” from Final Fantasy VI. I almost have no words for the soaring epic this song is – which even includes Kefka’s battle, a prized number that is only occasionally included in recent Distant Worlds concerts. I was actually fortunate enough to have forgotten my glasses on the way to the concert. At first I was panicked at my inability to see clearly, but then my blurred view quickly turned to a robust visualization of the battle, filling in the pixels of the original with emotion, the characters’ frustration, the chorus’ operatic cries stirring the cacophonous melody. Seriously, over 9 minutes of amazement. I have to stop myself. electricity for beginners Simply that good of a song.

In finishing, the concert in a nutshell: Magnificent musicianship, lavish program, and a concert hall that kills. But the biggest difference I discovered was an audience relishing what it couldn’t have for so long, laughing at every humorous note, awaiting the next unexpected number – an audience ecstatic when Final Fantasy V’s “Clash on the Big Bridge” was played on encore. The excitement and reverence towards Uematsu’s music (suits and evening gowns next to punk rockers in the front seats) displays something more than a performance, what I like to think as an embracing of how Final Fantasy has crossed borders, and pride in how a once-MIDI-restricted composer has become an international figure.

You’ll hear vocalist Frances Maya ( Final Fantasy XIII) perform in the premiere of Fabula Nova Crystallis (“The Promise”), Susan Calloway ( Distant Worlds I, Distant Worlds II, and Final Fantasy XIV) make her Tokyo debut singing Nobuo Uematsu’s main theme from Final Fantasy XIV, “Answers,” guitar virtuoso Meng-Feng Su perform Final Fantasy V’s “Dear Friends” and “Vamo’ alla Flamenco” from Final Fantasy IX, and the spectacular young pianist Benyamin Nuss, as heard on the recent Symphonic Fantasies concert and recording and on his new Deutsche Gramophone solo CD, performing “March of the Dreadnoughts” from Final Fantasy XIII, “Those Who Fight” from Final Fantasy VII, and “Love Grows” from Final Fantasy VIII.

Neat impressions. I believe this was the first dedicated FF concert in Japan since 2006 (with ‘Voices’) and the only one I know of before that was the 2002 concert. I may have missed one or two between but the gaps are quite noticeable. As for ‘Returning Home’ you were probably a little less acerbic on that misnomer than I might have been.

As for the ‘port’, there’s virtually no deviation whatsoever from the source material, hence my view of it strictly paralleling the games. Referring to an earlier point of any difference between all oongs FF IX and onward was in the ‘weight’ given by an orchestra, which FFXIII struck me the same way. The synth sounds (unless I completely misheard) were played with the instruments the game seemed to intend.

In other words, violin for violin synth, etc. And there was electric guitar that happened to also be played during J-E-N-O-V-A as well. And strictly in terms of sound, to me there was no notable difference. What I’m saying is that it was a “Psycho”-like reproduction: as the Psycho remake was replicated shot-for-shot in color, the songs here were played note-for-note in the appropriate instrument.

As an anecdote, the ‘backwater performance’ in MN, USA, featured the opera scene for FFVI — I don’t know how many other locales get that song, but it was a mesmerizing performance. Maybe someone can find a recording online, but given the show rests on available musicians in the area, the fact that the organizers could find 2 opera singers really added an extra oomph to the already robust content.

Something I’ve been dwelling on is the fact that ‘Clash on the Big Bridge’ was the encore, not the traditional ‘One-Winged Angel.’ I’ve said before how predictable the latter has become, and I’m glad to see it’s been demoted from encore status — indeed, it wasn’t even the encore piece at Voices (other than as a repeat performance, which is more popular and acceptable in Japanese concerts than the West). gas ark I’d suggest that were this concert performed in the West, ‘Blinded By Light’ might have been an encore; ‘Clash on the Big Bridge’ has less impact with the fans there (lack of local release will do that), whereas in Japan, Final Fantasy V remains one of the most beloved entry to the series. Not even the extremely well-arranged ‘Symphonic Fantasies’ took that risk, instead incorporating ‘Clash’ into the FF medley.

On that note, I can move on, or rather move back. I think I see where our point of departure is regarding arrangements: the admittedly broad definition of the word itself. As a highly creative mash-up (none-too-graceful a word but bear with me) of four franchises into four pieces, the Symphonic Fantasies concert was, in my opinion, almost the paradigm of arrangement. In the case of Seiken Densetsu, this didn’t always convey the original feel of the games, but the usage of paper fluttering to simulate wind was very clever; with Chrono, the layering of three recognisable themes at once was sheer genius. Then we had chocobos undercutting Sephiroth in the FF medley. Very, very creative usage of arrangement.

At the very weakest, an arrangement in my eyes performs a known theme with some sort of deviation, for example: the instruments or the composition. I realise now I gave your usage of the word ‘port’ a little less attention than it deserved. I’ve seen it applied mostly to games between operating systems and platforms, but also to localisations. These are, however, two very different processes, as the differences between FFVI (Japan) and FFIII (US) can easily illustrate. A port in terms of platform tends to strive for zero deviation, lest the owners of one or the other find points of contention between versions; a port in terms of localisation must be far more flexible given language differences and cultural context. Which, I wonder, did you mean?

In my definition of the word, ‘Blinded By Light’ by a live orchestra must be an arrangement; similarly, ‘Man With The Machine Gun’ is a well-known arrangement — the original in-game version is pure rock synth, and the version performed at Distant Worlds is likely the same version performed at the 2002 concert and most live performances since — Hamaguchi’s arrangement, I believe it was, on the FFVIII orchestral arrangement album ‘Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec.’ Either way, I would contend that the versions of ‘Man With The Machine Gun’ and ‘Blinded By Light’ performed by a live orchestra are indeed arrangements, and not the weakest, least-creative form of.

Regarding the ‘Psycho’ comparison: fair enough, although I’d be willing to bet no live performance of a synth piece is ‘note-for-note’ if only due to the change in instruments. That said, we could also invoke the old ‘if it ain’t broke’ truism — although in ‘Psycho’s’ case it might end ‘don’t remake it’. But for live performances of well-known game themes from current-gen systems, I’d say there are greater crimes one can commit than a seemingly note-perfect rendition, substituting synth sounds for ‘real’…

Re: the Opera Scene. gas in babies home remedies They likely wouldn’t have performed it were they unable to find ‘local talent’ to fill the vocal roles. Certainly parts of the whole have been performed sans opera singers, but to my knowledge these setlists are not that flexible. I don’t know how backwaters Minnesota is or isn’t, but I’d be willing to bet it has its share of capable opera singers…so, not sure what that has to do with anything.

Speaking directly about the music itself, that original arrangement of ‘Aria di Mezzo Carattere’ has been performed quite a few times, starting with the Orchestral Game Concert version of 1994. Tour de Japon, Voices, More Friends and now Distant Worlds have all had a crack at it. It really is quite a doozie…although I prefer the Mages’ version ‘Darkness and Starlight’ for the duel scene. 🙂

P.S. Distant Worlds is due here in Australia in April next year, but since Roth uses local talent (much cheaper than shipping an orchestra, of course) and I was utterly dismayed at the lack of heart in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s version of ‘Play!’ (Dancing Mad was more like Cavorting Uncontrollably), I’d say my absence decisively closes my door on live Final Fantasy music.