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Sing, Sing, Pew, Pew

Adam Gauntlett | 23 Sep 2011 15:00
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Julia Seeholzer once woke up in the small hours of the morning to beat the Elite Four on her brother's Gameboy. She never saved, so he didn't find out, but Tetris and Pokemon hooked her for life. These days, raiding on Perenolde is her obsession; she doesn't believe you can have too many pets. Daniel Jimenez's favorite game moment is from Star Ocean 3; he thought the second disc was just bonus material, until a sudden plot reveal changed his expectations utterly.

Some game music is out of their reach; anything involving orchestral instruments is a translation nightmare when working with Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.

They, and the other members of Berklee's Video Game Music Choir (VGMC), spread the gospel of great game music, a capella style.

Boston's Berklee College of Music was founded by Lawrence Berk in 1945. He wanted to give working musicians practical instruction and believed strongly that the best way to learn was from practitioners, not academics, a policy that Berklee follows to this day. Julia and Daniel are Berklee students (Julia's in her final year), and as avid gamers they wanted to express their second great love, gaming, through the medium of their first, music.

"Music has been there my whole life," Daniel told me. "When the words are missing, music is there to speak."

The Choir is Julia's inspiration. She'd been a member of Berklee's Video Game Music Club in her freshman year, but she wanted to create something in the spirit of Video Games Live. Choral music had been part of her life since grade school, so forming a choir to sing compositions inspired by videogames was a natural next step. Daniel joined a year later, and has since been put in charge of Art Direction and Creative Design. Julia is Musical Director of the Choir.

The VGMC has twenty five members who perform in front of an audience at least twice each term. Julia would love to take the Choir on the road, especially to a game convention, if only they had the funding. Transport and accommodation for twenty five people is a logistical challenge they haven't been able to solve - yet! Their first album, /sing, was released on September 12th of this year and features tracks based on Portal, Civilization IV, and the Legend of Zelda, among others. Personally I have a soft spot for their World of Warcraft arrangement, but then I'm a recovering Warcraft addict.

Some game music is out of their reach; 8-bit tends towards the fast and chromatic, which is impossible to sing, and anything involving orchestral instruments is a translation nightmare when working with Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. That makes choosing the pieces the Choir then rearranges and performs the biggest challenge they face. Love is the key, according to Julia. "Each choir member who decides to arrange something usually picks the piece because it means something to them, or the game is one of their favorites." For Julia, Pokemon Medley was her personal challenge, and it's still being tweaked for another performance this fall. Daniel's Everest was his Kirby arrangement. "I had to think of a way to share the melody with all the vocal parts available, risking some of the smoothness between each of the gaps, making it less dynamic."

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