How Videogames Are Saving the Symphony Orchestra

Sarah E. Needleman, The Wall Street Journal:

In Philadelphia, the 80-year-old Mann Center has held videogame concerts since 2012. Representatives say the shows attract as many as many as 6,500 attendees, roughly double the average attendance at classical concerts.

The growing popularity has helped offset a decline in U.S. orchestra ticket sales. Over the past decade, such sales have declined at an average annual rate of 2.8%, according to a soon-to-be-published report commissioned by the League of American Orchestras, an advocacy group.

While I had known of the popularity of these concerts with Video Games Live, whose album Kickstarters for Volumes 3 and 4 raised $285,081 and $187,646 respectively, et al., I had no idea of this level of success. Likewise, I was a bit surprised to see “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” perform on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”, but a bit less so now.

The piece continues:

Unlike classical-music performances, videogame shows feature arrangements that blend looping tracks of music designed to match various moments in a game, such as a slow, eerie medley of piano, percussion and string as the videogame character navigates a castle dungeon.

I think there’s something here. Two years back, in a post titled 1985: Burst and Bloom, I wrote the following:

The sounds, visuals, and interactivity provided a pool of imagination. The limitations of early consoles could not provide orchestral arrangements. Instead, repetitious patterns were drilled into our heads. They not only encapsulated the game we were playing, but they opened the world outside to a new soundtrack, creating a wealth of memories that could be tapped into from a few simple chirps. Hearing these primitive arrangements evolve felt like experiencing the birth of music. As hardware progressed, so did the complexity if the music. Repetitive pieces turned into grand and iconic themes, each game re-shaping the idea and importance of video game music.

Back to the WSJ piece, a quote from illustrator Mathew Grigsby:

I developed a taste for classical music through videogames.

I echo this sentiment.