The London Symphony Orchestra reveals its final fantasy

Apparently, the LSO is preferred orchestra for a media franchise known as Final Fantasy. The composer is Nobuo Uematsu. Here’s the latest instalment, Words Drowned by Fireworks from Final Fantasy VII, out next month.

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Criticism fails.

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    • Every professional orchestra in the UK takes on paid gigs, and there’s nothing remotely cynical or shameful about doing so. At least as long as professional musicians need to eat and pay mortgages. And this music sounds no better or worse than many soundtracks I’ve heard.

      Do you also feel that the LSO’s Star Wars sessions were a shameful blot on their recording career?

  • The music for Final Symphony is written by the Finnish composer Jonne Valtonen, based on themes from the game series Final Fantasy, which were composed by Uematsu.
    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Symphony
    The music is well worth hearing and was recorded and mastered here at Abbey Road Studios for a 5.1 release, as well as for stereo.

  • If UK orchestras – i.e. the serious, professional ones – would be funded sufficiently so that their existence would be safeguarded, these sell-out things would not be necessary. It gives-off the wrong message, playing in the hands of people who advocate populism and the debunking of what they think is ‘elitism’. It’s undermining the art form and thus, the orchestra’s justification of existence: if they can make money by these sort of projects, why support them at all? Why give them a privileged position in the wider context of culture?

      • Yes, maybe…. but a new audience for what? Watered-down film music for dumbed-down football hooligans? Classical music is not for everybody and accessibility is something different from lowering standards.

        • John B.,

          Earlier this week, I spent an afternoon reading your views on modern music and Boulez, which I very much enjoyed.

          But, in light of that reading, your views here surprise and perplex me. It seems to me that your critique of modern music (in the Boulez vain) is that it is a mere academic exercise, that it lacks a “musical” “expressive” dimension to distinguish it from “sonic art”–sounds for their own sake.

          The Final Fantasy piece posted here is certainly a schlocky–and seems to my untrained ears to suffer from a certain awkwardness of orchestration. It is not a masterpiece. But it seems to fulfill your criteria. And yet you complain.

          So I ask:

          1. Why is this music so bad? Isn’t it far better than PB on the Borstlap scale? Or are you a musical Goldilocks, rejecting Final Fantasy porridge on the one side and PB on the other, awaiting the perfect…what?

          2. Is this music that far afield from, say, James Horner’s new Pas De Deux? That piece could be criticized as too “filmic”–a criticism leveled at Alwyn and others too–but I found it to be enjoyable if not challenging. (Not everything needs to be challenging.)

          Another recent example might be Oliver Davis’s “Flight” concerto.

          What distinguishes Final Fantasy from both of these pieces that earns your disdain here?

          3. Does the fact that FF is a video game soundtrack influence your evaluation? (You seem also to disdain movie soundtracks like Star Wars, if I read your comment correctly. Disclosure: I think JW’s Star Wars–which introduced me to orchestral music 40 years ago–has genius in it, and a number of masterworks. Not challenging, but good music still.)

          4. Doesn’t the fact that someone is paying LSO to make this recording (and I note that they seem to have lost the Star Wars gig this time round) suggest that this music is more likely to appeal to…, well, someone, and does that count for anything in your evaluation, or does the marketplace not have a place in your conception of the value–merit may be a better word–of music? (Disclosure: I think that the orchestral tradition is dead if it cannot find a way to appeal to actual listeners, and not just government subsidizers and well-placed critics.)

          I’d be grateful for your thoughts and look forward to your reply.

          • See my reaction below at 10:44.

            All the questions in your comment reflect a confusion of aesthetic value… and an unawareness of something very big. It would be quite unhelpful to try to answer them point by point. What I meant, is that it is not the case that there are only two options: on one hand, sonic art parading as music (undigestible as music but OK as sonic art), and on the other film music and game music kitsch which at least are ‘musical’. These are two things at the very margins of music… In front of us is an extensive repertoire of excellent music, including a number of master works, all accessible and free to get to know and to experience. Aesthetic quality becomes visible / audible by comparison of the experiences. Listen to (if possible, expressive, effective) film music and then, to bits of Wagner’s Ring, and you hear that the film music has been derived from Wagner but that the original compares to its progeny as a wonderful meal to its final product, so to speak.

            So, between Boulez and Final Fantasy porridge there is a whole world of musical experience there for the taking. Classical music has never been so available as today through recordings, internet, public concerts. And it is stunning that there are so many people out there who don’t seem to be aware of that.

        • Disgusting elitism at show here. Basically nothing more than the typical “I think of myself more highly than the rest and take the music I listen to far too seriously and beneath the ‘peasants’. It should not be accessible to everyone because I like thinking that I’m one of the special few enlightened ones that ‘get it’ which must mean I am intellectually superior to the common folk who listen to ‘easier’ music. Because they’re dumb, obviously.”

          • No, it is not elitism. To be able to enjoy classical music, one has to be open to it. It is useless and counterproductive to draw people into aural experiences they cannot appreciate, it turns them into opponents and politicians. Complex art forms should be accessible to everyone but it should not be expected to be enjoyed by everyone. The idea that art, or let us say: high art, should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, because we are all alike, have equal rights, and thus the right to experience the culture that formerly was only available to a dominating elite, is a product of an egalitarian view of the world. People are not alike, and this fact does in no way impinge upon the notion of equal rights. We are all alike in the eye of the law, but that does not mean that we are alike in every aspect of our personality.

            Only an egalitarian, populist world view sees culture as an instrument of elitist domination. But it is dangerous, self-destructive nonsense.

          • You say it’s not elitism but then basically explain your elitism again. I don’t know why you’re going on about equal rights – this is just about you assuming your taste is somehow superior and comparing people who enjoy this to “dumb hooligans”.
            You can not like this music for all I care, but this kind of attitude is douchebaggery.

          • Oh dear! Things are getting heated! Never understood ‘douchebags’, sounds rather American…and intimate. Much prefer good old Anglo-Saxon 4 letters. Just listening (yes, I do have another life) to Ms (popular!) Benedetti playing Korngold, who also wrote film music! Let’s call it a truce. Off to pub at 5 (that’s 17.00 for Continentals).

  • There is something to be said that these concerts have taken place all over Europe and Asia, performing to audiences sold-out months in advance to critical acclaim. This is better than what Beethoven pulls in. This is indeed symphonic music and if this opportunity allows for greater audience development, revenue, and general popularity, what is wrong about it?

    If the concerns are about the quality of the music, I encourage you all to take a listen on Spotify or elsewhere. The music does sound like today’s modern symphonic compositions while the longer works have much substance and depth. This is quality work.

    • Maybe we should reformulate the notion of ‘quality’…. always a tricky business. But seriously, you may be right. Only, ‘big draws’ say nothing about whatever quality. Hitler was also a big draw in his time, as was the Roman Empire in the 5th century for the Huns, Goths, Germans and Flatfoot Ural Tribes.

    • André Rieu, Jackie Evancho (remember her?), the opera singer Ms Jenkins, the Rolling Stones …..all attract huge crowds. So what?

  • There are people out there who only picked up an instrument in the first place because they were exposed to the Star Wars film scores and became hooked on the power and glory of the LSO in full flight. No harm in showing kids where the good sound is.

    • I’m impressed. Fred seems to be one such. Good money could be earned with a crystal ball.
      And Andrew, what exactly is ‘symphonic music’ (just in a few words)?

      • I was just using it as an umbrella term for orchestral music with some development. Just to address people who viewed this video-game music as being completely out of the LSO’s ballpark even thought it is stylistically similar.

    • Ha!

      I couldn’t agree more, and only wish I’d read this before posting above.

      I was introduced to orchestral music by Star Wars, Superman, and Indiana Jones. Eventually it would lead me to Dvorak, Holst, and (a little) Wagner, who would then lead me to Sibelius and Beethoven, and onward to all the corners I can reach.

      As we speak, my 8 year old and 6 year old are humming the Indy theme as they draw treasure maps at the table. I hope this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship with music.

      And I for one wish I hadn’t given up the clarinet in the 6th Grade!

      • Well, there’s your answer.

        The road to really good classical music may begin at a low level, but I’m sure that – for people who are led upwards – the driving force which gets them along the trajectory, is the wish to look if there is something better, something more interesting, something more compelling. To confuse the first steps with the rest of the road is keeping the traveller back.

        If you have to begin with game music kitsch, the road is infinitely longer…. but who cares, as long as one gets at something better in the end. An appropriate music syllabus at early education level may help the kids quicker to where they could want to be. It is ridiculous that normal, non-handicapped children have to ‘discover’ something like ‘classical music’ through the nonsense of commercial IT gadgets.

        NB This is not elitism, but practical sense… in former times there were no computer games and still people found their way to the concert hall.

  • My reaction to the above clip of Mr Uematsu’s work is similar to my response to Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’ – hollow, dull, uninteresting. One can’t listen to miracles such as the Ring and Mahler 9 for breakfast every day (I can’t anyway). But there is lighter music that to me has real integrity – ‘West Side Story’, ‘On the Town’, for example. Messiaen is as far as I’ve got in enjoying ‘modern’ music. Composers like Webern, Boulez, Stockhausen remain a closed book, although much more brilliant minds than mine find them intellectually and emotionally satisfying. In the end the marketplace will decide, I suppose. And if the LSO needs to ‘offer its services’ in the Borstlapian sense in order to survive, I’ll swallow hard and accept it as the price of being able to hear them live at the Barbican (for quite reasonable ticket prices).

  • Just listening to John Adams’ ‘Hallelujah Junction’ from the Edinburgh Festival – the musical equivalent of ‘water torture’. Steve Reich to come. I think I’ll watch the cricket.
    (Am I being elitist or non-elitist?)

  • I think this discussion perfectly demonstrates the value of classical music enthusiasts to society. Think about all that is accomplished by the zero sum game of them trying to convince each other who is right in regards to the LSO taking a pay check! Onward and upward!

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