All in the name of progress?

A question I’ve found myself thinking a few times over the last few weeks. A common argument I hear and in fact have used myself is that music will never be like the commodore 64 ever again. Why? Because times have changed, music has matured. That’s all fair and good but just because music has matured, does it really have to be like this? Bland, boring and unimaginative? All this for the sake of atmosphere and the attempt to involve the player more with the game.

Well realistically we’ll never have tunes like we once had on the c64, I think everyone will agree on that. Does this mean game music has to totally eradicate a strong melody because a strong melody means a lack of atmosphere? Nope I poo poo that idea quite strongly, and evidence is beginning to show that you can indeed make music interesting while also keeping it atmospheric.

Many of us once sat in front of our TV screens listening to the music within a c64 game. Most of us probably at some time or other sat there with a microphone in our hand recording tunes of Martin Galway or Rob Hubbard. I bet you don’t do that these days despite the technology providing far superior sound and complexity. Reason why that is of course is that for years now we’ve been bombarded with unimaginative drivel, all because we are lead to believe it’s progress.

The same goes with movies, Remember the Starwars theme? Indiana Jones theme? ET even? All very memorable. These days however a theme tune tends to lack any melody or at least one that actually is listenable for a period of time. Why is this? Is it indeed because the music in both Film and game has matured? Well that’s what we are told and so we believe it to be true, and so did I. Well I once did.

A series of games called Final Fantasy has not only pushed music forward with quality, but has always kept that most important ingredient: A Strong melody, and within many sections people are talking about the music as they once did all those years ago. People are now buying Final Fantasy Soundtrack CD’s just because the music is enjoyable as a stand-alone product. The music for final fantasy can be enjoyed even without the aid of a screen or a joypad, and I think companies are now standing up and taking note of this. Though process of change is proving slow, but there are signs that a return of the melody is on its way.

More and more games over 2003 and the start of 2004 are beginning to turn more melodic. A tremendous soundtrack from last year can be attributed to The Journey to the Centre of the Earth. A game, which is at best average, but has been made more enjoyable because of its superb orchestral soundtrack. Even though the game is only average the music adds something extra to the game and would be very enjoyable even without the game there, something that is very rare these days. So because this game has interesting music, it surely means it doesn’t create an atmosphere then? Nope, not true. As even though the entire soundtrack is based on one theme it constantly changes direction and style depicting what the scenario is. A tranquil scene and you get a delicate piece, where as a livelier scene dictates a more dynamic style, and boy does it work. It works because of that strong enjoyable melody.

So to sum up. If someone says, The music on the pc will never be like the c64, the answer is True. If someone follows that with Because its matured, then IMHO that’s false, its just that we perceive it to be so.