Distant Worlds: The Music from Final Fantasy

I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan since the 90s and while my adoration for the games has waned of late, the scores composed by maestro Nobuo Uematsu have never lost their charm or virtuosity.

Distant Worlds is a symphonic or mixed-piece performance series that has been touring for years and when my RevPub partner and I found out it was coming to our town we knew it was a must-see.  It just so happens my friend Mike and his fiancee found out about it at the same time and went as well.  We all pretty much had the same opinion: it was fantastic.

Several of the pieces were from the “Final Fantasy 2002-0220” performances from over a decade ago and haven’t needed to change a bit.  Surprisingly a few of the pieces were VERY new, including one from the latest Lightning Returns, which made conductor Arnie Roth’s statement about short rehearsal times REALLY have impact.  The music was synched to a video screen showing clips from the games, re-cut to go with music.  It was definitely a nice touch, especially for those not accustomed to seeing an orchestra live.

My Final Fantasy CD collection.
My Final Fantasy CD collection.

There is something unique about seeing symphonic music live.  The sound of a symphony orchestra fills and surrounds a venue like no other kind of music, and with pieces as well-loved and recognizable as Uematsu’s scores it made for a terrific atmosphere. Most of the time orchestras play classical/romantic music, or music composed just to be music.  Uematsu composed his music as a score for a story or capture the personality of a character.  Even more impactful than film scores, Uematsu’s scores provide the ambiance for a story YOU help tell.  So when you hear them it puts you back in the narrative; recreates the mood and the emotion of events and characters we know so well.  Not one that is an hour or two, but maybe one that was 16, 28, or 65 hours or more…  That’s a lot of time to spend with characters.  A lot of time to get attached to their personalities and motives; Uematsu’s music always masterfully captures the essence of each.

From the jaunty and upbeat “Chocobo Theme,” to the intense strains of “Don’t be Afraid;” and from the profound passion of “Eyes on Me” to the mournful and delicate tone of “Aerith’s Theme,” every piece allows you to re-live that story again, put you back in that “distant world” and relate hours and storytelling magnificently in less than four minutes.

The performance was topped off by a surprise encore (that doesn’t happen much in symphonic music, even though it’s where the term originated!) where Roth asked the audience to sing the choral lyrics to “One-Winged Angel” while the symphony played the music.  We were asked only to sing the “SE-PHI-ROTH” portion but in an audience full of fans, many of us sang the rest of the lyrics in Latin.  Short of a surprise performance of Koichi Sugiyama’s Dragon Quest title music or Uematsu himself coming out to play the Advent Children version of Sephiroth’s inimical theme with The Black Mages, it was an performance that couldn’t have been improved upon.

Uematsu composed his first Final Fantasy music for 8-bit video games.  As the technology progressed he composed for 16-bit cartridges, CD-ROM midis, and later full orchestral scores for Final Fantasy games on DVD and even for films.  But the purity and beauty of his music is it works in ALL forms.  There is as much heart in “Dear Friends” whether you heard it on a Super Famicom, PS1, or in a symphony hall.  There is true beauty to be found in the simplicity of it and it is worth traveling to Distant Worlds to find it for yourself.

Uematsu (on the big Korg keyboard) performing One-Winged Angel with an symphony orchestra, full chorus, and his band The Black Mages.

Writing for Web: Style

Beethoven had style. He was one of the most famous composers and pianists in the world, and I quote a dear friend who said Beethoven was, “the heavy metal of classical music.” This week I attended Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and was inspired to tie in the experience into this week’s topic.

Style is different from grammar. It’s not about comma rules and parts of speech, it’s about consistency and professionalism. Felder advises Web writers to create a style guide or use a well-known one. Which style you use depends on your audience, but I recommend the following:

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (for articles and reviews)

The Chicago Manual of Style (for articles and reviews)

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (for scholarly writing or research-based projects)

The Elements of Style (creative writing or any of the writing types above)

This may seem like a hefty list of sources, but pick one and stick with it. However, proofreaders should be fluent in all of the above to make themselves more marketable and knowledgeable.

So why is style important?

Imagine sitting in the symphony hall. The musicians and chorus members are wearing whatever they could find. Some are in sweatpants, others in gowns, some are wearing bright neon shorts, and others have flashy jewelry. The audience is so distracted by the performers’ attire they are not able to focus on or appreciate the music.

This is what readers experience when reading content with inconsistent style. In one sentence you may see website, in another Web site, somewhere else 7, then seven. If you are inconsistent, your readers will think you are indecisive and unprofessional. Where there are inconsistencies, there is chaos.

Now imagine the symphony hall where the female musicians are in white tops and black bottoms, and the men are in tuxedos. The chorus above them is dressed all in black, and everyone is performing in perfect harmony. You not only have organic flow, but the main focus is the music not the wardrobe.

Most companies need and have a style guide to keep readers focused on the content and product. This also shows you care about the content, therefore, you care about your audience’s ability to understand it.

Another topic Felder discusses is personal style. This is important because you want your readers to connect with you. So, before you start writing, answer these questions first:

1. Will you use text lingo? Will everyone know what the emoticons and acronyms mean?

2. Are clichés okay? What age group are you targeting? Will they understand the meaning if you use them?

3. Is profanity acceptable? Many writers agree this is only okay in creative writing and projects.

4. How will you address your audience? Will you write to them or about them? For example: one must write well in order to succeed OR you must write well in order to succeed.

Once you address the questions and start to create a style guide, you are ready for the world to see your personal style. It doesn’t matter how cool, trendy, or professional you are; if your readers have to work to understand you, they won’t come back. Remember to keep it simple, and make your content the best it can be. We can’t all be Beethoven, but we can show our audiences we care what they think.