"Video Games Live" is a labor of love for composers Jack Wall and Tommy Tallarico.
Both have been involved with creating music for video games. Both have a love for well-composed music and both feel the need to show how video game music is something more than background enhancements to computer-enhanced puzzles, shooters and role-playing games.
"Some of the most beautiful and exciting music was composed for these games," said Wall during an interview from his studio in Los Angeles, Calif. "And we wanted to expose people to the music because of what the music means to us."
"I wanted to prove to the world how significant video games are to the world," said Tallarico during a phone call from his Orange County home right after returning from a "Video Games Live" show in Baja, Mexico. "Video game music is the soundtrack to our lives. It's not just bloops and bleeps these days. And I need to say that the Utah Symphony have been wonderful to work with."
"When we first started thinking about doing this, we didn't have a plan," said Wall. "We knew we wanted to do it at the Hollywood Bowl. What did we know about marketing? We just knew we wanted to perform in that venue because it was the Hollywood Bowl."
The duo originally planned the show for 2003, but it didn't happen. But they didn't give up the dream.
"We got an appointment with Marc Geiger at the William Morris Agency," said Wall, whose favorite video games include "Halo," "Mass Effect" and a lot of the "Super Mario" games. "They are the company that manage Van Halen, Nine Inch Nails and the Spice Girls. Well, we pitched the idea and in 20 minutes, he stopped us and said, 'We have to do this.' So, we got busy and in 2005, we did three shows, one of which was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl."
The duo's choice of music came from their love of certain games, said Wall, who is known for composing music for "Myst III: Exile," "Myst IV" and "Jade Empire."
"We have our favorites that we wanted to perform like the 'Legend of Zelda, 'Medal of Honor' and 'Super Mario,' but we also wanted to perform music that people weren't familiar with such as 'Mass Effect' and 'Headhunter."'
"We can only play 20 segments a night," said Tallarico. "Each show has been 50 to 60 percent different, because of new games that have come out each year. But if we don't play anything from 'Mario' or 'Halo,' people would lynch us. But we can present 'Mario' and 'Zelda' in different ways, like through visuals or piano. But we also want to give people moments that they wouldn't have expected from other pieces of music. Also, we don't show any violent images from any game."
Each year, the show gets a little bigger. But the concept is the same, said Tallarico, whose compositions include "Earthworm Jim" and "Advent Rising," a locally-produced game and soundtrack which used some members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the original soundtrack.
"We have interactive segment where we choose a member of the audience and track them as they come to the stage," he said. "They, in essence, become a part of the video that is shown on the screen. And Jack will change the conducting and music arrangement on the fly. That's a challenge for Jack as well as the symphony musicians. And it's simply not done a lot because it's too difficult. But we do it. And it's all because we want to show how video games are culturally significant."
Abravanel Hall will be decked out in full, multi-media mode that includes a massive back-drop video screen that will feature moving projections of video game segments that will coincide with the music."As video-game composers we wanted to change the world's view on video game," said Tallarico. "Games are not a little toy. It is a cultural experience. By using all these effects and synchronized visuals, a person can walk into a show not even liking video games and enjoy yourself."
If you go ...
What: Video Games Live, Utah Symphony
Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 S. West Temple
When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $40-$82
Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787
Also: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Browning Center, Weber State University, Ogden, $18-$28 (801-399-9214 or www.symphonyballet.org)