Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

Thursday 23rd May, Hammersmith Apollo was the venue, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses was the reason everybody turned up, and what a show they gave! Symphony of the Goddesses is a tribute to the stunning work of Koji Kondo, who is behind the genius that is the music that accompanies the Zelda series of video games. It was directed by Irish composer Eímaar Noone, and performed by the one and only Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.

The way the concert was presented was beyond my wildest dreams. Instead of just having the orchestra playing the music, a large cinema style screen was set up behind them, so while you were listening to the music, you could watch scenes from Zelda that matched perfectly with the music, which I thought was an absolutely brilliant touch. With the videos playing in line with the music, it makes the experience so much more immersive, and makes you feel like you are once again playing the game, from the chilled, laid back feel of Kakariko Village, to epic boss battles against Ganondorf that have a slightly darker and more dramatic undertone.

The show opens up with a scene from Skyward Sword, where you are diving off a cliff and falling through the sky, which then changes into the first 2D games, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link, which both featured on the NES console, to the Legend of Zelda main theme.

The symphony contained four movements after the prelude, which featured the goddesses Nayru, Din and Farore bearing down on the planet from the heavens. The first movement highlighted Ocarina of Time, which even a casual Zelda fan will know some of the music from, as it is the most famous game. Multiple chants for Saria's Song from this game were echoed out from the crowd behind us. Ocarina of Time's music ebbs and flows a lot, it has tones that can be really jovial one second, before switching to the drums and horns, which indicates some of the darker moments in the game.

The second movement featured music from The Wind Waker, which came out on the GameCube, and was a little controversial, due to the cel shading animation of the game, which not many people liked, especially after games such as Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. The music from Wind Waker is generally upbeat. It starts off with some gentle harp and flute playing, before a violin chimes in, and then it moves onto the music you hear in places such as Outset Island and Windfall Island, happy tones, that indicate your carefree life before the untimely kidnapping of your sister by a giant bird. It also features music from the Great Sea, which made me feel like I was there in the boat, and the Forbidden Fortress, a dark, dangerous place where Ganondorf lives. The overall highlight for me from this section of the evening though was the fact that Noone pulled out another conductor, which was, yes, you've guessed it, The Wind Waker, which was a spectacular touch.

After an intermission, the third movement featured music from Twilight Princess. It starts off very slow and gentle, but soon erupts into a dark and twisted tale of the battle between the light world and the dark world, which Ganondorf ultimately wants to turn the light world into, with Hyrule Castle being his domain for evil, which is his end goal in every game, but this featured after Wind Waker, and in my opinion is easily one of the darker games in the series. This movement featured the choir a lot more than the others did, to great effect.

The fourth and final movement was A Link To The Past, which surprised a lot of people, including myself. A brilliant game, with brilliant music to boot, and the video packages they put together for this were fantastic, although there were spoilers for those who hadn't finished the game, showing the final battle, and the final cutscene too.

After the fourth movement ended, while some foolish members of the crowd started to head out, 99% stayed behind to give a standing ovation, which brought Noone back out to give an encore, which turned out to be the Ballad of the Windfish, from one of the lesser known Zelda games: Link's Awakening, which came out on the Game Boy. After yet another beautiful performance, which unfortunately didn't have a video package to go with it, a second standing ovation occurred, which brought Noone out a second time, this time conducting Gerudo Valley, one of the more dramatic segments from Ocarina of Time, but one nonetheless that has become a classic piece of gaming musical history. Gerudo Valley did have a video package that, as always, went perfectly with the music, with Link showing the women of the Gerudo Valley that Ganondorf was not the only one with almighty power, earning their respect by the end of his journey, and being allowed through their desert to further his quest. After this, the crowd hoped that they could get one last song out of the orchestra, and lone behold, they could! This time featuring music from Majora's Mask, which many believe to be the scariest, and darkest game of the Zelda series (The Moon is truly terrifying to a lot of people).

This was to be the final song of the night, to which the crowd gave a roar of applause, whistles and screaming. After a truly memorable night, most of the crowd headed down to leave, only to see a large group of people who had cosplayed for the event. Cosplaying is where people wear costumes to represent a character from a work of fiction, obviously most people here dressed up as Zelda characters, although I did see one guy in a Mario hat, and another dressed as Ash Ketchum from the Pokémon series. Some of the cosplay featured at Symphony of the Goddesses was Tingle, Tetra, Link, Sheikah, Zant, Midna, and even a poe!

Obviously this event was huge for the Zelda community in the UK, which, to say the least, is a passionate fan base, as it is all around the world. Symphony of the Goddesses is by far and away one of the best events I have been to all year, and while relatively inexpensive (tickets ranged from £30-£60), the experience was out of this world. One slight drawback is that no future events are planned in the UK for the foreseeable future, with only three more shows in 2013 alone, two in America and one in Australia. If this magical show does grace us with it's presence once again, I would definitely recommend going.

Overall rating - 10/10

By Dan Lloyd (@DRL1990)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Theory of Devolution

Man has come so far. 5 million years ago we broke off from our cousins the apes and showed no sign of turning back. Steadily we have evolved, discovering the temporary limits of knowledge and physical feats of the human imagination. From building the pyramids, to understanding relativity, to creating iPods, intelligence has allowed us to create a world which would be surreal to our ancestors.

The importance of cultivating intelligence is pretty clear, and therefore we have put into place a system which is meant to teach intelligence to the youngest members of society in hope that they will be able to carry on the torch of innovation and test the boundaries of life. Recently however, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the effectiveness or necessity of traditional schooling in producing innovative minds at the highest level. Everyone from Suli Breaks, the spoken word poet behind the “Why I Love Education but Hate School” YouTube hit, to the highly esteemed Jacque Fresco have questioned the viability of the current institutions as they stand today.

To some extent I can’t help but disagree with them, as most conventionally successful people have been through the traditional system as we know it and achieved great things. That statistics are overwhelming. Nevertheless, the one peripheral question which arose in my mind was this: has intelligence been the only thing in helping us get here?

Here’s the problem: where’s the room for innate animal instincts? After all, that’s all we are, glorified apes who broke away from the family. Bearing in mind this is simply an observational response to my own thoughts, I am inclined to wonder if there’s a fine and delicate balance between brutal animal instincts and evolutionary intelligence. Some of the greatest thought leaders of humanity have not only been intelligent thinkers, but have embodied certain qualities such as competitiveness, ambition, and unwavering and unshakeable commitment to their goals. They laughed in the face of fear and failure, and simply strived to make their unfathomable dreams something which have become social norms for us everyday. From Martin Luther King to Richard Branson, many men have risked everything which was normal for them, including their own lives in order to pursue a higher goal. Now how many of us can truly say we would stand by a goal even if it meant the death of us?

Accepting death for a goal which others may not understand, and being able to pursue that goal relentlessly, are both characteristics which are likened to the warrior instinct at the rawest level. We all know the tales of the Japanese Samurai and how they would rather die or commit seppuku than lose a battle. At first glance, to someone who believes themselves to be intelligent, this would seem extremely foolish and downright pointless. I mean, you live to fight another day, right?

In a recent article for Time magazine, Jeffery Kluger spoke about how many serial killers have an imbalance of genetics which causes them to act aggressively and embark upon paths of terror and destruction. Colloquially, this imbalance is known as the “Warrior Gene”. It’s this sort of terminology and connotation which we award to the word ‘warrior’, which has led us to shun these primal instincts as crude and uncivilised in the increasingly sanitised world we live in.

But what is warrior instinct? Is it not simply the ability to execute the task you’ve been trained to do at the right time without fearing for death or any other obstacle?  It’s the ability that you can still carry out your duty under pressure, something which is probably innate in all human beings, but has been steadily been weaned out of us under the veil of civilisation. If we take a look at our closest cousins, the chimpanzee-who share about 99% of our DNA- on average, they are stronger, faster and do better under stress than humans do, and often risk life and limb to prove a point however small it may be. Perhaps it’s a sign of evolution, or maybe it’s a sign of devolution.

Nowadays, this sort of stubborn courage is likened  mainly to fighters, or the modern day warriors. Many fighters will avidly state that they will risk their life to prove they are the best. Unfortunately, the way it’s portrayed in the media, is quite negative and typically cage fighters have a rep for being brutal animals and therefore inherently, the qualities they so avidly embody, are slapped with negative stigmatisms. But the focus here is that the fighter is already putting his body on the line in order to achieve an often very personal goal and therefore it seems absurd that this goal is worth risking life and limb for. But let’s take a second and view someone who is truly great in their own arena. Perhaps some of you thought of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or even Beyoncé. The first two already gave their lives for their causes. Granted, they had causes which were somewhat universal, but it does not take away from the fact that they were willing to put everything on the line to achieve the goal. Even if we took Beyoncé for example, there are countless stories of her simply disregarding her own health and well being in order to achieve a certain goal. I’m sure if we took a poll of the best athletes, academics, musicians and people, we would find that the vast majority would embody all these characteristics even insofar as death, in order to fulfil their goals. Will Smith once famously said, “I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. You will not outwork me, period!”

Now don't get me wrong, i'm not saying to be great you have to die, but its simply the clearest and crudest example which i can offer in this instance. 

To put it into perspective, don’t all people who achieve great things, work well under pressure and execute their knowledge when it’s necessary? Whether you are an academic or a professional fighter, the common factor is the drive to be better against all odds.

Therefore the question remains: by downplaying such instincts within our nature, are we limiting the process of evolution? In a world where everything is convenient and you pretty much have everything at the touch of a button, are we at risk of losing what brought us this far in the first place. Is there still a place for the struggle and strife of a human?

Intelligence is one thing which each and every human has been blessed with. It’s how you use it and apply it which has brought us this far. But in my opinion, we cannot ignore the raw instincts so many great people past and present embody which have aligned so perfectly with their intelligence and allowed them to make a dream a reality, or turn a simple thought into a tangible object.

In that respect I agree with Fresco and Suli Breaks that perhaps the school system does have an inherent problem insofar as the mechanisms it uses to educate children. Perhaps these same mechanisms have the ability to wean out certain characteristics gradually over time and teach you and I how to follow instructions instead of questioning and believing.  

This isn’t supposed to convince you that we are worse off than we were 100 years ago as that would obviously be foolhardy and ignorant, nor is it meant to slander the current school system in any way, it’s simply an attempt to get you to question what your own delicate balance is. Have the heart of a lion, and live your life as a champion. 

By Viren Samani (@VirenSamani1)