The series' musical celebration rolls on.
During E3 last week, we had the opportunity to take in a performance by the Zelda symphony, which is currently playing new material on its Symphony of the Goddesses tour after last year's 25th anniversary run. Afterward, we had the chance to speak with producer and creative director Jeron Moore.
Jonny: Jeron, could you tell us your title and your role in the Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses tour?
Jeron Moore: I'm the producer and the creative director. It's funny, I'm remembering back to when we actually came up with the name of Symphony of the Goddesses, and it was just so natural. Chad [Seiter, music director] and I were kicking back and just imagining what it would be like to do a show like this before we even brought it to Nintendo.
I sat down and started putting all my ideas on paper, and then, you know, the bulk of his work as the musical director and arranger didn't come until much later. And by that time, we took it to [Nintendo], and it transformed into what was… what everyone would know as the 25th Anniversary Symphony. Of course, Symphony of the Goddesses was this show that we had always… that we kinda brought to Nintendo first and foremost, and they wanted to do the 25th Anniversary Symphony first as a special commemorative engagement.
Jonny: So then how are the two different?
Well, there are a lot of arrangements on the 25th Anniversary Symphony that you're never gonna hear in concert again. It's really neat that some of those arrangements have been preserved on the CD that came with Skyward Sword, but there are a bunch of arrangements from that concert that aren't on the CD. Were either of you at—?
TYP: I was at the one in L.A.—
JM: Cool, so you know that the boss battle medley is a cool…
TYP: Yeah, I was curious as to how you decided what songs to leave, what songs to trim out. It seemed like this was a little more well-rounded, lean-and-mean package compared to the 25th. So what work was done after the fact, looking at it to say, 'how do we want to bring this for the masses?'
JM: To me, all these concerts are just a big celebration of, first and foremost, Zelda, but close behind, Koji Kondo's work, and those of his team. And so those 25th anniversary concerts… those were really Kondo-san's big celebration. And he had a very… he's very involved in structuring that, and contributing a lot of the arrangements. We had half of the arrangements for the show belong to us, that we had developed for this show, and then he brought in the other half, which were all those arrangements that, you know, if you were there, you got to hear them.
And that's how they wanted it, they wanted it to be, either you're in Tokyo, you're in Los Angeles, or you're in London, and you're lucky enough to be there, if you came all the way to see it, or happen to live in those cities. And it's going to be a special thing that people will never experience again. But, the catch there is that they… the response was so great, and I think they knew how… I mean, they knew how much the fans love the franchise, and they wanted to keep it going. And so that's where Symphony of the Goddesses sort of rolled in. And that allowed us to expand on our original vision, and tell the story that we wanted to tell. And as the huge Zelda nerds Chad and I are, we got to dig deep into the narrative and present it the way you heard it tonight.
TYP: Could you talk a little bit about the challenges in putting together a production like this, and going from city to city?
JM: The biggest challenge is kind of—and this is more of a creative challenge—is of meeting our own expectation, because of just being so into the music, and there's so much you can't fit into the show. Tonight we had about 90 minutes of music—that's a really full concert. Most of the concerts out there are not going to be quite that long. So it's a lot of music, you have to keep peoples' attention—we had a few surprises at the end, which are always fun—
TYP: Much appreciated. I'm also a big Majora's Mask fan.
JM: It sounded like we had a bunch of them out there. So that was fun to kind of save until the end.
Jonny: And that was a recent addition to the program?
JM: Yeah, we added it I think five shows ago. So that was really fun to do, and people really wanted it. Traveling from show to show, we get to work with a different orchestra in every city, which is a lot of fun because every orchestra has kind of a different personality in how the music actually… this music is burned into my brain, whether it's from growing up with it or now, having heard these particular arrangements so many times. But every time we go to a new city…
Jonny: So you can pick out the differences even from city to city in how the different musicians play?
JM: Yeah, there's a very subtle temperament to just how things are expressed, and that keeps it fresh. Of course, it's a new show to every city we go to, for that audience. And it's fun for this one, for the one coinciding with E3. I was walking around E3, and I was seeing our T-shirts, and people who were actually going to be coming to the show who had already seen it.
Jonny: That's where we were all day.
JM: Yeah, I made a brief appearance earlier today, and before I could even get into the convention center I was regretting trying to make it happen.
TYP: It's logistically… it's real tough.
Jonny: Unfortunately, there aren't any Zelda games this year at E3.
JM: Well, there's Battle Quest. That looks kind of fun.
Jonny: I'm curious… you were talking about going from city to city and it sounds like you work pretty directly with the different orchestras. You must hear from the musicians a lot—I'm wondering what their feedback is on the music. Are they familiar with it? And if not, what do they think of it?
JM: The neat thing about Zelda is that… it's kind of cool, we'll have at least two or three players in there that are young enough to have actually played the games, so when we're in rehearsals and stuff, and even before we start performing in a rehearsal, they're looking through the music and kind of starting to jam with it. They're like, 'OK, I remember this. This is going to be fun.' And then we have older musicians as well, who, if they haven't played the game, they've heard of it. That seems to be the common denominator, is that everyone has at least heard of it, and it's either from their children or grandchildren, or they've played it themselves. But I don't think it is until they all come out on stage—and the curtains come back, and Eimear [Noone, the conductor] walks out and performs that first overture, and we get our first feedback form the audience—that it clicks, how special it is.
And I'm a big video game music guy, just period. I love music in games, but Zelda has always just held a special place in my heart. Doing this show and seeing all those colors come out of the orchestra—the whole goal is to make it bigger and better than you remember it, and really tap into the nostalgia. Not doing anything that changes the essence of what you remember, but… you can go listen to that music any time, but sitting in the audience and hearing it in a way that is almost… I think this might be the closest we'll get to a Zelda movie until one it made.
TYP: That'll be a long, long time.
JM: And that was sort of my… what was so fun about going through all the footage—and I edited a lot of it—was putting the visuals back to the music and creating these hybrid music videos / cinematic films that have these awesome, epic scores.
TYP: So you actually played through the games and snapped and…
JM: I worked with the video team at Nintendo, so what I'd do is I'd go online and download a bunch of… I'd go and watch all my favorite "Let's Play" guys […] and then I would concept the video out with what I wanted it to look like, and then I'd send that up. And all the basic beats and edits would be in there, and Nintendo would give me some feedback, and we'd tweak it. And then, once we established what all our shots would be, they would have someone go and capture it. And they would send the footage back to me, and I would slowly kind of plug it in.
Now, even the act of capturing is almost… there's some acting involved, because you can put someone down at a video game, but unless they're playing it with a certain personality… you almost have to be like, 'I'm not playing as Jeron, I'm actually… this is Link, and this is the most ideal playthrough. No freakin' … I'm not going to roll straight across Hyrule Field to get from point A to point B.' You gotta walk, or run. So I would toss notes back to them saying, 'OK, come on, can you make that jump a little bit more convincing? When you do this battle, will you actually pivot to the right, or to the left?' The Ganondorf battle from Ocarina, that was a tough one…
Jonny: I actually love the part where—from Link to the Past—where Link and Zelda are trying to escape the castle, and they go to the wrong side of the throne before they push it from the correct side. Because everyone does that, so it definitely looks natural, it looks like when we play it, not when some tester played it the most efficient way through.
JM: Yeah, and I had a version where the guy went straight up to it, and just did it naturally. And I plugged it in, and I was like, 'This just doesn't feel right.' So even the little mistakes kind of make it feel better.
Jonny: I thought the videos were put together really nicely, and it has a funny effect. I've been to a lot of orchestral concerts before; I've never seen one with that kind of video content. It was a pretty unusual experience. And I was thinking, you know, if we didn't have that, the arrangements of the music—and the fact that they're being done with this very large orchestra—might make it sound a little alien, and a little less familiar than it does.
And I think the video has a lot to do with that, because you have these moments and memories from the games that you associate the music with. Seeing that at the same time actually makes the music in this format feel more natural, and it almost makes it fit right into the memories that you already have, and makes it feel more… maybe it makes the audience feel more comfortable with the music in this format.
JM: Hey, mission accomplished. That's awesome.
Jonny: I did have one special request to ask you. At the end of this tour, will you release a new CD with all the new content that wasn't on the Skyward Sword disc?
JM: All I can say is… that's something that we're working on at this time. Because the disc with Skyward Sword has been so close to release, Nintendo doesn't want to move forward quite yet. But send them your request; I think they listen. So you bug them enough, maybe there will be something. I would love to do that.