Indie Symphony Was The Kind Of Live Music Event Australia Needs More Of

Indie Symphony Was The Kind Of Live Music Event Australia Needs More Of

At no point during Orchestra Victoria’s Indie Symphony performance did the audience simply sit within Melbourne’s illustrious Hamer Hall. Rather, they traipsed across the deserts of Journey, the dulcet tones of a solo cello as their guide. They were thrust into the depths of Hades by Orpheus’ mournful, poetic song. They battled against the terrifying Hollow Knight, the entire orchestra urging them onward. And then silence as, for that little infinity contained within a second, the audience basked in the musical afterglow. Then, they were jolted back into their seats by rapturous applause that thundered in its wake.

Indie Symphony: Videogames in Concert was hosted in early September by Orchestra Victoria. The program featured a live orchestra playing musical selections from games made here in Australia, and abroad, for a sold-out audience at Hamer Hall. Among them: Celeste, Journey, Stray Gods, Hollow Knight, and more.

“It really exceeded my expectations,” Hollow Knight composer Christopher Larkin tells me. “[It] was very faithful to the videogame versions of the music but also added a bit of extra flair and brilliance to the original orchestrations that I really enjoyed.”

Many of the pieces played on the night were originally composed electronically. Few included live instruments in their original recordings. This proved to be a fun challenge for arranger, Jessica Wells, who was tasked with arranging this suite of synthesized music for a full live orchestra.

“That is where your creativity as an arranger comes in,” she said. “What I tend to do as an arranger is think of different ways of using the melodies and on which instrument the main melody is going to be played.”

For Summerfall Studios, the team behind the recently released Stray Gods: A Roleplaying Musical, this marked the first time that the music from the game was played by an orchestra in front of a live audience. Liam Esler, Managing Director of Summerfall Studios, said that he wasn’t nervous at all about how the audience would respond.

“We were super confident in the songs,” he said, “but it’s great to know that it went super well.” This sentiment was echoed by Stray Gods’ composer, Austin Wintory, who also arranged music for Indie Symphony.

“I guess there’s an undertone of anxiety in the idea of ‘I hope they like it’,” he said, “but I’ve written it, it’s done, there’s nothing I can do about it, so there’s no point in me losing sleep over it.”

He also said that he was quite assured that the music would be received well by the audience due to his close collaboration with Orchestra Victoria during the creation of Stray Gods as they recorded on every track of the game.

“They’re not going to want to put something on the show that’s going to be a total flop disaster,” he said, “but because we had this working relationship, they never even questioned performing the music live. They knew that the music was good and that the audience would love it.”

While a screen did show some of the gameplay that the music was set to, according to Ms. Wells, the concert was conceived without the gameplay in mind, meaning that the music would always be at the forefront.

“I knew that the audience would have the wonderful experience of watching the orchestra playing”, she said, “so I knew that they wouldn’t be watching the screen the whole time, they would also have a look at the orchestra thinking ‘who’s just played that thing there?’”

“The gameplay is there just to put you in the right mood, I think”, she said, “but for me, it was really all about the music.”

For Mr. Larkin, performances like Indie Symphony are a way to showcase the impressive music created for indie games, and he would like to see the concept expanded upon in the future.

“I’d actually like to see more of a shift with some game and score IPs where the music is taken to an even more conceptually interesting place, where the music played onstage is more of an extension on the soundtrack, not just solely representing it,” he said. “Sort of like a musical DLC experience.”

Indie Symphony was wonderful. A truly one-of-a-kind performance that helped those in attendence experience the magic of indie video game music in a new way. It highlighted the amazing talent that can be found within the indie game music scene, in Oz and abroad, and left those who witnessed it excited to see what the future of live video game music performances will bring.

Image: Orchestra Victoria

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