This time, I’m not as sad as I am tired. I got my teeth fixed up the day before writing this, after over a year of problems that are (maybe) finally resolved, and I made myself a nice dinner of food I’d been avoiding because of the chewing involved. And promptly gave myself food poisoning. A saga fit for a sitcom, truly. It kept me up late into the night and I’ve spent the day as a largely useless lump doing his best to keep up with the world around him, so let’s talk about something I could almost literally write about in my sleep: the music of the Legend of Zelda franchise.
The first time I ever figured out how to play a song because I wanted to, rather than the usual method of being compelled to practice piano by my parents, was for Saria’s Song from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first time I ever comissioned an artist to perform and record a song for me, it was The Song of Healing from Majora’s Mask. The first song I picked to learn on the ukulele (and so far only song, since I haven’t had the time or energy to continue learning even this one song) was Milk Bar, also from Majora’s Mask (it’s also the song I use for magic item shops in most of my D&D games).
The franchise has had a significant impact on the place music has in my life, everything from songs I used when learning to meditate when I was trying to survive my teenage years, to the kind of things I find relaxing nowadays when I’m looking for a good ambient music mix on YouTube to play while I clean or do this thing called “containering” when I’m having one of my more difficult days.
I’ve written already about the way the quiet intermingling of specific songs from the franchise with the ambient music of Breath of the Wild makes for one of the best soundscapes I’ve ever experienced, and there’s plenty to say about the message and meaning wrapped up in each song because of the way that songs are purpose-oriented in all of the Legend of Zelda games that feature a playable instrument (which, in this case, includes a wolf howling in a musical way). To be honest, there’s so much to say about the latter that I’d probably need a sub-series about just the music and symbolism tied to it.
But a simple thing, one that can fit in a single blog post, is the way the music has been a part of not just my life, but my rare connections with larger culture as well. Though it might not mean much to any of he big bands or musicians out there, Theophany, a remix artist, has millions of views on Spotify. I remember when their first remix of Majora’s Mask songs came out and, through it, I connected to so many new friends. People I never met and would likely never talk to again came together, under this artist, on their bandcamp page, doing what we could to support and encourage someone who made something we all loved.
Out in the world, I can always detect when a song I’m hearing somewhere innocuous is tied to the Legend of Zelda. Maybe it’s because the series has been such a constant part of my life or maybe it’s because of my strong proclivity for sense memories, but I can recognize and place most Legend of Zelda songs. It is a largely useless talent, amusing only to myself when I instantly recognize bits of songs that have been stuck into other songs as references or homages, but it gives me an instant sense of connection to this piece of media, its other fans, and those who made it.
Unlike most music, where you have to feel out people who also recognize the song to see if they’re going to be overly negative and critical, completely indifferent, or if they share your love for it, finding people via video game music is pretty much excludes people who don’t like it. After all, if you don’t like a game, chances are good that you never listened to the music enough to fixate on it. Or find it independently and listen to the full version of the song. People who don’t like something don’t spend hours trying to find tablature or sheet music for it so they can learn how to play an instrument solely to perform this one song (which, of course, led to other songs in the example that comes to mind).
It is a nice cultural touchstone to have. All of the friends I’ve made as a result of bonding over video game music are friends I have never regretted making. Even one who I am not close with any more, who recorded me performances of two songs because he knew they were a comfort to me and he could tell I sorely needed it, I still think about. What a gift that was. One of them is still my alarm tone, and I wake up to it every day. There’s nothing I can do but marvel at what a gift those two recordings were and what a gift all of the music from The Legend of Zelda has been to me.