"If you ask any young person to hum you the Mario Bros. theme, I bet nine times out of 10 they'll hum it in a second," Tommy Tallarico says. "It's just as known or noticeable as any film score like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark!"
True, but Tallarico—who has been composing music for videogames for two decades—is well aware that not everyone respects videogames and their music. That's one of the reasons why, four years ago, he and fellow composer Jack Wall created Video Games Live, an internationally touring concert of videogame music. Tallarico claims Video Games Live has helped videogames and their music garner respect commensurate with their popularity. "Non-gamers out there might think, 'Oh, videogame music these days, it's just a bunch of bleeps and bloops, isn't it?'" Tallarico says. "And then they hear Final Fantasy and Halo and Warcraft and Metal Gear Solid and God of War and Kingdom Hearts and all these great, amazing scores. That's where the respect comes in and they say, 'Wow, I never knew.'"
This weekend's concerts, performed by the Oregon Symphony, will cover everything from that chirpy Mario theme to the choral bombast of Halo and the haunting ambience of Mass Effect. Hosted by Tallarico (who has scored Advent Rising, Earthworm Jim 2, and, yes, Beavis and Butt-Head: Bunghole in One), and conducted by Wall (Mass Effect, Jade Empire), Video Games Live not only celebrates games' diverse music but also gaming culture as a whole: Videogame footage will backdrop the symphony, and Guitar Hero contests will precede the concert.
"Unfortunately, a lot of times the concert halls aren't sold out every week for Stravinsky," Tallarico says. "It's a shame, but we're a very visceral, visual, interactive generation. We grew up on MTV, using computers in our daily life, videogames—so I think the thought of going to a symphony [is], 'Oh, everyone's wearing tuxedos and they kind of golf-clap and everyone's got to be quiet.' I think younger people look at that and say, 'That's not for me.' What we're doing is taking all the things we grew up on—all the interactivity, and the flashing lights and the video and the fun and the excitement of it—and mixing it together."