The classic Nintendo series The Legend of Zelda has captured the imagination of thousands of gamers for over 25 years, thanks in no small part to the musical score of Koji Kando. In fact, now that I mention it, there is a 50/50 chance the theme song from the title screen of the original NES cartridge is now stuck in your head.
Kando’s music also got stuck in the head of Devin Fanslow, a musician studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Fanslow adapted and arranged a medley of music from Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask for performance by a brass quintet. Unwinnable caught up with Fanslow and trombonist Patrick Horton to discuss the project.
Unwinnable: Tell me a little bit about the project. How long have you been playing together? Who else is in the quintet?
Patrick Horton: The group consisted of musicians studying at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. We knew each other from time spent in the BSU Wind Ensemble and began playing as a quintet in the fall of 2010.
Andrew Hicks approached me about putting together a brass quintet and we worked together to fill in the remaining members of the group. We didn’t really have any specific goals when we began playing other than to have fun and make good music. During one of the first rehearsals, Devin Fanslow, a music composition major and one of our trumpet players, brought his arrangement of Zelda to one of our rehearsals. Prior to playing through Devin’s arrangement, I had not been very familiar with the music of Koji Kondo (other than the Mario themes), but I liked what I heard. The arrangement was much more exciting to the other members of the quintet because they had played the games to a greater extent and followed the Zelda storyline.
Putting together the arrangement involved a pretty good amount of rehearsal time because of its complexity and length. Every part played an important role in the piece – this was due largely to Devin’s fantastic writing. On top of that each musician in the group really worked hard to play his part with great sensitivity and musicianship. It was a great pleasure to work with all the members of the group as we put this piece together.
Unwinnable: What made you guys choose Zelda?
Devin Fanslow: I have been making little arrangements of videogame music since I was in high school. I actually first made an arrangement of the main theme from Mortal Kombat for string orchestra, synth and drums. It never got a performance, but it was a good ear training tool since I figured out the melody and chords completely by listening to recordings of the originals. I took an electronic music class as a senior in high school and made a brass quintet arrangement of music from Super Mario Bros. and about a year later a version of a couple of themes from the Pokémon games.
I grew up playing the Zelda games and the themes from them will never be erased from my mind. They are just too brilliant.
I always loved the music that videogames have to offer. The orchestral scores of many modern videogames compared to 8-bit chiptune stuff that you find in the older games is a direct reflection of the sophistication that gaming has taken on over the years. Following the trend of the music I feel that my ear grew and developed over the years along with the types of games I had played.
Which leads me to Koji Kando, the composer for every theme in every Zelda game since its inception. I have deep respect for the man. He has displayed time and