The Art of Interpolation: Exploring the Musical Inspirations Behind Video Game Music

Have you ever found yourself humming a tune from a video game long after you’ve stopped playing? It’s not just a coincidence; it could be a result of musical interpolation. Musical composers often draw inspiration from their favorite pieces of music to create something new and exciting. Interpolation, unlike direct sampling, involves borrowing melodies to craft original compositions. In the world of video games, this technique has been widely used, leading to some truly iconic soundtracks. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of musical inspirations behind video game music.

When it comes to borrowed melodies, Koji Kondo, the legendary composer behind many Nintendo classics, is no stranger. The iconic ‘Title Theme’ from The Legend of Zelda draws heavy inspiration from “April” by Deep Purple, a progressive rock band known for their expansive compositions. As you listen to the 12-minute track, you can hear hints of the Zelda theme, and if you pay close attention, you might even spot the elements that influenced the ‘Dungeon Theme’.

The catchy and infectious ‘Starman Theme’ from Super Mario owes its charm to the Japanese bop “Summer Breeze” by Piper. The ’80s synth-infused melody resonates with players, creating an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Koji Kondo’s ability to incorporate elements from different genres effortlessly is evident in how this track has become an integral part of the Super Mario series.

Super Mario: ‘Underground Theme’ – ‘Let’s Not Talk About It’ by Friendship

In a lighthearted nod to his penchant for borrowing melodies, Koji Kondo named this track “Let’s Not Talk About It.” The ‘Underground Theme’ from Super Mario is irresistibly catchy, and it draws inspiration from this Japanese piece by Friendship. Interpolation allows composers like Kondo to pay homage to their favorite songs while infusing them with their own creative touch. Music lovers can sit back and enjoy the familiar melodies blended harmoniously in a new composition.

Another example of Koji Kondo’s musical inspirations comes in the form of the ‘Overworld Theme’ from Super Mario. In a 2001 interview, Kondo revealed his admiration for the Japanese jazz band T-Square and their easy-to-follow rhythms. The influences of T-Square and jazz musician Satao Watanabe are apparent in the upbeat and lively tunes of the Super Mario series. Click here to listen to the Mario-like riff that reflects Kondo’s appreciation for T-Square’s style.

In the world of Animal Crossing, even the loveable K.K. Slider indulges in melodic piracy. K.K. Slider’s songs often draw from real-life music, with each track emulating a specific genre. For instance, ‘K.K. Adventure’ bears a striking resemblance to “He’s A Pirate” from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. This delightful interpolation adds depth and familiarity to the music of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, connecting players to both fictional and real-world experiences.

The enchanting ‘Fairy Fountain’ theme from The Legend of Zelda series has captivated players for decades. However, this beautiful composition did not emerge out of thin air. Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Morning Glory” serves as the inspiration behind this ethereal piece. Yamashita’s recognizable tune subtly weaves into the background of dreamy vocals, giving the ‘Fairy Fountain’ its mesmerizing quality. It’s fascinating to think that Yamashita may have been envisioning a world of adventure and magic while crafting this song.

The art of interpolation allows video game composers to breathe new life into their compositions. By drawing upon familiar melodies, they create a connection between the virtual worlds of video games and the real-world music that inspires them. From classic Nintendo titles to modern masterpieces, the influence of renowned musicians and their compositions can be heard and experienced in video game soundtracks. So next time you find yourself immersed in a captivating melody while playing a game, take a moment to appreciate the intricate blend of creativity, homage, and innovation that goes into crafting these unforgettable soundscapes.


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