Koji Kondo’s Ocarina of Time soundtrack is a hip-hop album
Hey! Listen is a bi-monthly column that unearths music and obscure video game trivia. Let’s start by diving into the composition and production secrets that make The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s music so unforgettable.
As I grew up developing a strange habit of making loud noises or singing very loudly when excited, something I thought was a little weird but now proudly possess, thanks to a recent ADHD diagnosis. When I’m out on a night out with friends or my very patient partner – and they can attest to this – I’m consumed by the overwhelming feeling of just releasing energy. This energy is usually released through sung (or shouted) melodies. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Timeaka, one of the greatest games to ever grace the Nintendo 64.
But the lasting legacy of the music of Koji Kondo, the composer responsible for the music of The Legend of Zelda and load more of your favorite Nintendo games, go far beyond me shouting Saria’s Song on the latest orders. BadBadNotGood Jazz Quartet, The Late Show Jon Batiste and Rejjie Snow are just a few of the big names the game has left its mark on, while YouTube is home to a plethora of covers and arrangements covering everything from solo violin performances by Lindsey Stirling and concept albums. from progressive rock to a dubstep of Lost Woods. remix cumulating forty million views. If that wasn’t enough, Kondo’s music has even inspired new genres, like the aptly named Zeldawave.
Basically, there are loads of people who can’t get enough of the music in Ocarina of time. There is no denying that Koji Kondo is a man of many talents. Most of the game’s main patterns are based on five notes or less, but his music becomes even more impressive when you discover the unconventional way he composed Ocarina of timethe soundtrack of together. He is not only a master of melodies. Kondo basically gave Ocarina of time the hip-hop treatment by cutting together samples from the most unlikely sources.
There are two parts to Ocarina of timeof: the catchy melodies and themes you hear in the main locations, and the atmospheric drones of its eerie dungeons, which fringe the territory of Nine Inch Nails or Burial, as opposed to the Casiopea or T-Square Jazz fusion that inspires its usual stuff. Hyrule Field’s theme is a happy walk in the park versus the existential terror of the Temple of Shadow.
Ocarina of timeSpectrasonics’ biggest secret is that most of the music in its dungeons is made by flipping sounds from sample CDs, namely Spectrasonics’ Distorted Reality 1 and Zero-G Ethnic Flavors, to name a few. some. In the late 90s, it was common for video game composers to use sample CDs or library sounds (royalty free music) in their soundtracks and for sound effects. If you are familiar with the controversy surrounding the use of an Islamic chant in Ocarina of time‘s Fire Temple, this is from a sample CD.
So does all this sampling do Ocarina of timeis the music less impressive? Absolutely not. On the contrary, it makes Kondo’s work even more impressive. He didn’t just rip a bunch of CD samples and put them into the game. Like any great producer, he spent a lot of time stretching, slicing, or merging them with other ideas for making them their own.
Just listen to how he puts together the music for the game’s first dungeon, Inside The Deku Tree, or how he moves a load of chorus samples for the opening music of Llegend of hyrule. My favorite is the forest temple theme.
There is a great story behind these sample CDs. In an interview at the time, Kondo mentioned that he found a local CD store that allowed him to listen to music before buying it. He also talks about his love for Indian music – Indian folk music in particular – which probably explains much of the unusual instrumentation, texture and rhythms that characterize the game. Potion Shop is one of the best examples with its tabla and sitar combo, and then there’s the Ganondorf Battle theme with the ridiculous time signature of 23/16.
Fast forward to today and you can hear the same sample CDs Kondo has used in other The Legend of Zelda games, including Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker and even Twilight Princess. While Ocarina of time was the last game in the series Kondo worked on in its entirety, it’s great to see his approach still being used years later.
Many people define creativity as the process of creating something new from two existing ideas. This process has helped create some of the greatest hip-hop bangers, and if we apply this definition of creativity to Kondo’s music, he’s not only one of the best songwriters in the video game industry, he is one of the best music producers too.
Mat Ombler is a freelance journalist and contributor to NME. If you want to learn more about the world of video game music, why not check out Rock The Spacebar?