My new piece on Video Games Live appears in this week's WE.
‘Video Games Live’ brings the VSO into the 21st century
By Andrea Warner
To some people, society’s obsession with video games signals the end of civilization. Where’s the art in Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft? But Tommy Tallarico, CEO and founder of Video Games Live, has an answer: Just listen.
The most prolific video-game composer in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Tallarico has worked on 275 projects and counting. Three years ago, he was looking to showcase the increasing artistic merit of modern games, and Video Games Live was born.
A kinetic combination of video-game scores played by symphonies and then synchronized to massive video screens, with state-of-the-art lighting and special effects, Video Games Live has proved hugely popular. Its modest debut in 2005 included three performances (one of which was in Vancouver), and that number has since grown to 52 shows in 2008.
“I like to describe it as all the power and emotion of a symphony performance with the excitement of a rock concert,” says Tallarico (who, incidentally, is the cousin of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler). “Every couple months, we add new segments or special effects, so 70 per cent of the show we’re playing this time around is new from what we played three years ago.”
Even though video games have usurped almost every other form of entertainment in popularity, most games, and their enthusiasts, don’t get much respect.
“Some people might think that video games are just for nerds and kids, or video-game music is just a bunch of beeps or bloops,” Tallarico says, “but video games have become the radio of the 21st century — more people get their new music, or discover old music, through games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Over 23 per cent of all the money the music industry made this past year came from the video-game industry.”
And that’s just pop music. Think the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and video games seem like strange bedfellows? Not so, says VSO’s VP of Marketing & Sales, Alan Gove.
“A lot of really great music, really great orchestral, is being composed for video games, so [Video Games Live] will sound terrific,” Gove says. “[And] it’s cool, frankly. It fits right in, I think, to a big part of our mandate, which is to expand beyond your typical Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, or Shostakovich.”
For its part, partnering with individual orchestras in each city it visits is an important part of Video Games Live.
“Our main goal was to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games and their music had become,” says Tallarico. “[But also], we’re ushering in a whole new generation of people to come and see a symphony. There’s this magic that happens where people are reliving their childhood and hearing it all around them in a room with 3,000 other people, and it brings a level of prestige for people to see their local musicians playing with us.”