Video games are saving symphony orchestras

3 min read


How often do you notice the music in your games? That pluck of a violin string, the blast of a trumpet or the clang of a cymbal. A video game needs more than just tight gameplay and beautiful visuals to stand out. It needs a soundtrack in the background, a musical addition that you don’t immediately notice, yet it adds to the atmosphere.

And some of the best video game soundtracks, are classics in more than one way. I’m talking proper symphony orchestras, with dozens of musicians working in harmony to deliver a beat to go along with your kill-spree in your favourite shooter. And its thanks to gaming, that orchestras are even in business today.

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, as they revealed that video game performances were responsible for keeping orchestras afloat, especially ones that held live shows dedicated to the music of various iconic titles.

“You can no longer just sit there and play Beethoven,” music director of the Colorado Symphony and the New York City Ballet Orchestra Andrew Litton said to the WSJ.

Videogame performances offer a full orchestra—trumpets, harps and other classical instruments—plus choirs and jumbo video screens that synchronize gameplay footage to the music. Costumed attendees—dressed as dragons, wizards, princesses, fairies, knights and sorcerers—often engage in mock battles.

Marriage proposals mid-show aren’t unusual; some end with fireworks. The growing popularity has helped offset a decline in U.S. orchestra ticket sales.

Over the past decade, such sales have declined at an average annual rate of 2.8%, according to a soon-to-be-published report commissioned by the League of American Orchestras, an advocacy group.

Videogame shows have been instrumental in helping keep the Nashville Symphony afloat as it struggled with the recession and a flood in 2010, said Larry Tucker, vice president of artistic administration: “I would not want to go through a season without it.”

That’s actually some fantastic news. There’s nothing wrong with classical music when it takes the time to meld something new into that genre. I know it sounds like a paradox, but if a New York stop for “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” tour can draw in more than 5000 people with a  single show, you know that there might be something to all of this.

Read  Need For Speed Payback has five derelict cars waiting to be restored to glory

As usual, there’s at least one person who isn’t down with all of these damn kids ruining his classical musical experience, as the WSJ discovered:

Not every concertgoer is convinced. “From a business-strategy perspective, it completely devalues the brand,” said Roderick Branch, a 39-year-old lawyer in Chicago who attends symphony-orchestra performances about once a week. The very idea, he said, is “akin to Mouton Rothschild using its wine to make and sell sangria.”

I’m a fan of orchestras. They’re big, brassy and bold. Everything that I’m not, essentially. Now to see if I can organise a Skyrim orchestra locally.

Last Updated: October 14, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Orchestral soundtracks are often part of KS stretch goals.

    • Skoobaz

      Sshh. Chris Roberts may be listening…

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        You’re too late, that was one of the $6 mil stretch goals. ;P

  • (Umar) Must be Cipher

    Man would love to attend one of these…Really, I’m afraid that one day I’ll die without having attended the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds Concert….

  • Milesh Bhana

    >> Now to see if I can organise a Skyrim orchestra locally.

    i’d go to this.

  • oVg

    Tell me about it, that Skywalker Sound studio is so cool in Uncharted, especially the Arab soundtrack that goes with 3.

    • Mistake Not…

      I enjoyed Graves’s Dead Space scores and Tomb Raider. Too bad he isn’t back for the new TR. But my all time favourite I think is Beyond: Two Souls.

      • oVg

        I was surprised he was not doing the TR sequel. Maybe they wanted to totally divorce the music from the sounds of the Island.

        There is a rumor going around that Beyond Two Souls is getting a remaster. I hope so, I love narrative driven games. Even if Ellen Page stole her likeness from Ellie 😛

        • Mistake Not…

          Lol. But the new TR guy worked on Game of Thrones. I’m not a massive fan of the GoT music, but it can be good. So I’ll look forward to it.

          If the BTS Remaster comes with a physical music CD I may be tempted to pick it up, even though I’m not a fan of remasters.

  • Blizzard soundtracks always turn me on.

    • Hammersteyn


    • WitWolfy

      Same for me with Uncharted 2’s OST and MGS 2’s main theme… I can make babies to that music.

  • Brady miaau

    As someone that buy DVD’s and pays money to see classical (Opera sometimes as well) music and other symphony type shows, I certainly hope they can go from strength to strength.

    Star Wars music, for example, was awesome BECAUSE of the symphony score. Loved it, sent chills up. Not mechanical or synthesised.

    Morriccone, Mission Soundtrack as well. Great music, music you can FEEL in your soul. That is what a good symphony score can do.

  • WitWolfy

    ELO would be proud!

  • Hammersteyn

    Games also provides jobs, just ask Anita

    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]


  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    I love how there’s always some grumpy dude that leaves a comment, like someone covering AC-DC being told they didn’t cover it correctly…

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    This still sends shivers down my spine….

    • WitWolfy

      Eww a EA game.. GET IT AWAY!!!

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        Hahahaha!!! ok, true!!

  • ZA Ludomusicologist

    The reality: AAA-developers do not release the scores, so orchestra’s cannot play them without the threat of lawsuit. Several indie soundtracks are playable since the copyright are less tricky.

    In SA, there are several orchestras who has asked me for legal help with video games – as well as producing scores. Nothing came from this yet – and I blame AAA-developers.

  • The Sten

    “The very idea, he said, is akin to Mouton Rothschild using its wine to make and sell sangria.”

    OOOOOH SICK BURN BRAH!!!! Gonna need some burn heal fo dat

  • Grand Admiral Chief

    Child of Light soundtrack FTW!

  • Jac7

    I am fond of this…

    • Grand Admiral Chief

      I raise:

    • Grand Admiral Chief

      Or this

  • Skoobaz

  • Christopher Howard

    OS are great for Halloween mashups, too: Spielberg’s Veteran In A New Field

Check Also

Need For Speed Payback has five derelict cars waiting to be restored to glory

Need For Speed Payback looks like a fun excuse to collect cop-dodging cars. Not all cars w…